52 Weeks Fresh: Plants Need Friends Too

By: Michael Blakeney

Tomatoes like company in the garden, so keep things easy and organized by clustering the stalks with basil and any other ingredients you'll need for salsa or tomato sauce. Not only will this save space, it will also discourage pests. 

Borage — a scrumptious and underappreciated green leaf that tastes like cucumber and has pretty, edible flowers (pictured above) — can repel tomato worms as well as improve tomato flavor. Onions grow down as the other plants grow up, leaving less competition for light; as a bonus, many pests dislike them. The same goes for oregano, too. Basil is an overall flavor-improver and mosquitoes hate it. (Pro tip: Plant some basil right by your front door to easily have on hand for garnishes. It will keep mosquitos at bay and impress your guests.)

To maximize your garden row, shape it like Mayan architecture to fit the most plants, keeping it flat on top and angled on the sides.

Start with tomatoes down the middle in a zig-zag, then intersperse them with basil plants. Place onions in a line along the edge with borage at the beginning and end of the row with cilantro along the lower angle. Oregano can grow around the onions. Some lettuce for a side salad is nice. And it doesn’t hurt to have a jalapeno pepper plant or two mixed in.

Come harvest time in a few months, you'll have one-stop shopping for your pizza sauce, salsa or gazpacho, all in a row.

PRODUCE REPORT: With tomatoes and basil in the ground this week, plant a new row of lettuce while the weather is still cool. It’ll come in handy for salad.

EAT WITH THE SEASON: Young kale is gorgeous right now. Blanch it quickly, and then cool it in a salty ice water bath (salt pulls the heat out of the kale). Drain and dry. Chop the kale and mix it with some nuts and early lettuces for a salad that is satisfying as well as beautiful.

Self-taught gardener Michael Blakeney enjoys his Bedford, N.Y., garden all year: working in it, watching it grow and eating it through every season.  A visual artist and arts educator, Mike has been gardening for 25 years. You can find him at mikegrowgarden.com.

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