You probably get the whole organic tomatoes and basil connection, but are wondering where the lettuce comes in. Fair enough. It only plays a part in this article because I adore lettuce. I don’t think a day goes by that I don’t have a salad, or put some in my burrito, or add it to my sandwich. If you’ve spent any time eating around me, you a lso know that those same basic applications also apply to tomatoes, except that I really, truly, deeply love tomatoes. I love how the plant smells (you can catch me with my nose in a tomato plant just like it was rose), I love the little yellow flowers and I really can’t go a day without eating the fruit.

So now you get the tomato and lettuce connection, and are probably feeling concerned about poor lonely basil. Well, you should be, because compared to lettuce and tomatoes, I only really like basil. Poor basil. But, it’s a nice accessory to the tomatoes, both in the planter and on the plate. Let me explain:

If you decide (which you really should) to plant some tomatoes this spring (and plant them soon, like this weekend) they like to be planted with basil: “Plant with tomatoes to improve growth and flavor. Basil also does well with peppers, oregano, asparagus and petunias. Basil can be helpful in repelling thrips. It is said to repel flies and mosquitoes. Do not plant near rue or sage.” –

That quote sounds really professional and makes me a little overwhelmed, so in plain English, the basil helps keep the tomato healthy. And who doesn’t want a whiff of basil and tomato combined when they walk past and brush up against the leaves (okay, or stick their whole head in the planter)?

Organic plants can be purchased just about anywhere these days, and I’ve seen basil at my local Whole Foods and every nursery should have it in stock – check for organic, it’s always labeled, but you have to look pretty closely at the tag. All three plants are hearty and easy to grow (like weeds, really). I was going to send you to another site that gave you all the good details on planting and growing tomatoes, but they scared me off with all the details. So here’s how I do it:

  • Buy a small plant (I am way too lazy and impatient for seeds.)
  • Buy or find a large pot (several gallons – a half wine cask works and looks great!) as it will keep bugs and pests and mold away from your tomatoes.
  • Tear off the bottom two leaves and plant deeply, close to the leaves that are left. If you have compost, use it, otherwise don’t worry about it, but do use organic potting soil.
  • Plant in the full sun.
  • Water new plants just after planting, and every day for the first week or so. But tomatoes don’t like to be nag watered (a term I learned from NPR’s Dean of Green), so water only when they look wilty or droopy after the first several days.
  • Fertilize with an organic spray fertilizer that you spray onto all the leaves, once a week.
  • Eat tomatoes.

Basil is even easier, just plant it on the outer edges of the planter with the tomato. Lettuce also wants sun, but as summer nears, you’ll want to give it partial shade. Buy small plants in flats of six, and plant them the opposite way you did the tomato, in that its little neck, below all the leaves, wants to be sticking out of the dirt about a quarter of an inch.

Happy planting and eating!

– Jocelyn Broyles

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