By Corinne Garcia
Companion planting can be a recipe for success for gardeners. Planting some herbs and vegetables with or near others can help fend off some common garden diseases and insects, in effect working as a natural and organic insecticide. Tomatoes and strawberries do not complement each other in this way; they can actually be more harmful than beneficial when planted together. However, companion planting is also a useful space-saving tool for those with smaller gardening plots, and if that’s the case, there are a few techniques for attempting to make the relationship work.
Buy the heartiest strawberry varieties you can find, asking the garden store in your area which ones are resistant to Verticillium, a root-rotting disease spread by tomatoes.
Choose a good location to plant the strawberries first in the early spring, and if at all possible, wait a whole year or more before planting tomatoes in the same area. This allows the strawberry plants time to thrive on their own. Plant the strawberries where tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, or peppers have not grown within the past four years. These other vegetables sometimes carry Verticillium, which is harmful to strawberry plants.
Mix compost into soil to create a nutrient-rich texture that drains easily, using measurements recommended on compost instructions. If using fertilizer, mix into the soil before planting the strawberries.
Plant tomatoes when all danger of frost has passed in your zone. Before putting them in the ground, mix in compost and fertilizer (if using). If possible, plant the tomatoes within two feet of each other and the strawberry plants.
Use tomato cages to support the tomato plants upward as they grow. Strawberries tend to grow close to the ground, and the cages will allow them to receive sunlight and not get crowded out.
After tomatoes have been harvested for the season, remove the plants from the soil and add nutrient-rich compost and fertilizer (if using) to keep the strawberries strong for years to come.