Can You Grow Tomatoes With Corn?
Are you thinking about planting corn and tomatoes in the garden this season? Have you wondered whether these two plants make good neighbors, or are better off with some space between them? Here, gardening expert Melissa Strauss explores the relationship between corn and tomatoes to determine whether they make good companions or not.
If you search for recipes containing tomatoes and corn, you will find no shortage of delicious summertime dishes that pair these two together. From tomato and corn salsa and salad to soups, pasta dishes, and chili recipes, there is no question that these two make great companions in the culinary world.
If you’re thinking about planting these two tasty vegetables in the garden, you might wonder whether it is ok to plant them together in the same space.
To determine whether these plants make good neighbors in the garden, we need to look at some factors surrounding their growth, care, and environmental needs. Let’s decide whether it’s a good idea to plant corn and tomatoes together in the garden or whether they are better off sticking to other companions.
The Quick Answer
No, corn and tomatoes don’t make very good companions in the garden. These two plants can both attract the same destructive pest, the cotton bollworm. They are also both susceptible to fungal infection. These plants will be better off keeping their distance in the garden.
The Detailed Answer
Companion planting is the term we use when talking about planting two crops, or plants, together in the garden. It’s an ancient agricultural practice that can serve many purposes, but ultimately, the objective is an increased harvest of one or all plants involved.
Determining whether plants make good companions requires looking at how they grow and their environmental needs. Sometimes, plants that wouldn’t seem to go together can benefit from companionship, even helping one have a longer growing season. Some of the ways that companion planting can be beneficial include:
Some plants are very attractive to pollinators. By planting these close to others, you can improve the pollinator activity on those plants and increase the yield. Flowering plants like borage and anise hyssop are great examples of plants that draw in tons of pollinating insects.
Plants like legumes and clover are considered nitrogen-fixing plants. They collect nitrogen and draw it into the soil around their roots, making it available to other plants.
Some plants can help others by acting as a support or by sheltering them from hot sun or strong winds. Corn makes a great support structure for bean plants, which enrich their soil for corn’s benefit, making this a mutually beneficial companionship.
Basil is reputed to improve the flavor of tomatoes when planted together, making these a great pair in the garden and the kitchen.
Certain plants are very good at masking the scent of other plants that are more vulnerable to pests. By planting these, such as marigolds, around your vegetables, your more vulnerable plants will benefit from this protection.
The most obvious benefit of companion planting is that it saves space in the garden for other crops!
For as many plants that make good neighbors in the garden, others definitely do not work together for the benefit of one another. When the wrong plants are put together in the garden, some of the less desirable effects they can have include:
Not all plants have the same nutritional needs or the same uptake of those nutrients. The amount of fertilizer that one plant needs could burn out another that needs less. Heavy-feeding plants can also deprive other plants of nutrients, resulting in a reduced yield from one or both.
Plants with different environmental needs, such as sun exposure or soil acidity, are typically incompatible. Seasonality is important as well. Most cool-weather vegetables don’t make good companions for warm-weather crops.
Plants that suffer from the same diseases or are vulnerable to the same pests do not make good companions. If insects are drawn to one, they will quickly find their way to the other, and you risk losing both crops.
Let’s consider the needs and habits of our two plants: corn and tomatoes. Keep reading as we help determine their compatibility together in the garden.
Corn and tomatoes are both warm-weather crops. Tomatoes can be planted about four weeks after the last frost date. They typically begin to ripen in early summer, continuing into the early fall. Corn is best planted in April/May and is usually ready to harvest by late summer. They are compatible in this way, as both are summer vegetables.
Both tomatoes and corn like to be grown in full sun. This is potential compatibility. However, corn grows quite tall and can block tomato plants from receiving adequate light.
Tomatoes adore the sun and produce the most blossoms and fruit when given the right exposure. This is a negative factor in their compatibility that would require leaving extra space between rows to ensure tomatoes don’t spend all day in the shade.
Tomatoes need 1”-2” of water weekly and like to receive it in daily doses. Their soil should stay continuously moist, particularly while the fruit is ripening. Corn likes about the same amount of water around the same time. The two are compatible in this way.
Corn needs deeply loosened soil with a slightly acidic pH and plenty of organic matter. The ideal soil type for corn is loamy soil with good drainage but with enough organic matter to retain some moisture for consistent water access. Tomatoes have similar requirements, except that they prefer even better drainage. Mixing some coarse sand into loamy soil will make these plants happiest.
Both corn and tomatoes are heavy feeders but with one particular difference. Corn loves nitrogen, which is why it has a great relationship with beans. On the other hand, tomatoes need a lower nitrogen fertilizer if you want to maximize fruit production.
Too much nitrogen will encourage excessive green growth in tomatoes, which pulls energy away from fruit production. This area of incompatibility between the two could result in a reduced yield from your tomato plants.
Both plants can take up a decent amount of space above the ground. However, they are both vertical growers. This is not a particularly pressing issue in this relationship, except where sun exposure is concerned. If planted too close together, corn can cast a shadow on tomatoes, reducing the production of the tomatoes.
Pollinators and Pests
Here is where the greatest incompatibility lies between these two plants. Corn and tomatoes share a very destructive pest, the cotton bollworm, also known as the tomato hornworm or the corn earworm. This pesky larval pest can cause serious damage to both plants; the closer they are, the less ground it needs to cover.
In addition to the cotton bollworm, these two plants are susceptible to the same fungal diseases and several other insects. Because of these factors, the two plants can have a disastrous companionship in the garden. There are better companion plants for corn and for tomatoes.
Planting corn and tomatoes as neighbors in the garden is not worth the risk. While they have some areas of compatibility, such as season, soil, and moisture requirements, planting them together can have negative results. Core plants can cast a shadow on tomato plants, and the nitrogen that corn needs for maximum growth can reduce the production of your tomato plants.
The greatest incompatibility, though, lies in their vulnerability to the same pests and diseases. The cotton bollworm is a particularly voracious consumer of both plants. I think it is better to keep these two separate in the garden and plant a good pest deterrent in between. Tomatoes have better companion plants to consider, as does corn.