Pole beans and tomatoes together - uhoh!

urban_novice(z7 VA)April 25, 2010

I am getting ready to transplant my tomato seedlings and just to be sure I wasn't making any mistakes I double-checked my gardening book's list of good and bad companion plants. Wouldn't you know it, I made a mistake. I'd planned to plant my tomatoes and pole beans in the same 4x8 bed, but according to my book the beans are not friendly with the tomatoes.

My little garden is fairly filled up at this point, but if beans + tomatoes = disaster I'd rather find some way to reorganize than have a really bad outcome for the tomatoes. It would take some serious doing to reorg and I'd probably need to sacrifice some of my other warm/sun loving plants (eggplants and peppers that haven't been transplanted yet) but it could be done.

So what I'm trying to find out (hopefully from you sage gardenwebbers) is just how bad of a bad companion are pole beans for tomatoes? Has anyone tried to grow them together before and had decent results? Disastrous experiences? What kind of risk am I looking at here?

Thanks for your help!

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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

First, I have to say that I am honestly not a big fan of the so-called rules of companion planting. No offense, but I find most of them to be hogwash, to put it politely. And many other gardeners share that point of view - one reason why Companion Planting has its own forum here. ;)

That said, any problems with planting beans and tomatoes together in the same bed will depend on the flexibility of the bed and the gardener. That is true of any two crops planted together - they have to have the same needs or adjustments are required.

But beans and tomatoes have very different nutrient needs as well as different watering needs. So if you can control those concerns then there is no reason why they can't be planted together.

Tomatoes need much more nitrogen than beans as beans don't tolerate high levels of soil nitrogen, they produce their own from the air as do all legumes. The levels of N required by the tomatoes would give you giant bean plants with very few beans. Go low nitrogen to keep the beans happy and the tomatoes stunt and suffer.

As to water, tomatoes require consistent soil moisture levels and watering at specific times during their cycle while beans roots prefer to almost dry out between waterings and need deep infrequent watering.

So if your bed/plan will allow you to adjust for the needs of both and you plant so that neither shades the other out, you will be fine.


    Bookmark   April 25, 2010 at 2:58PM
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urban_novice(z7 VA)

Thanks very much, Dave! I didn't realize there was a companion planting forum. And honestly, as a beginner at all of this I often have a hard time sorting out the hogwash from the tried-and-true, so I just try to do as I'm told and hope for the best. :) As I'm building my own (as yet very tiny) garden knowledge and experience it's great to be able to lean on others to sort out what's what, so thank you!

I should be able to control both the watering needs and the nutrients in the bed between the plants, so maybe I can go ahead as planned.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2010 at 3:07PM
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I have posted this before I don't know where people are getting this info. Last year I had pole beans and tomatoes within 18 inches of each other IN a square foot garden and the only problem I had was when the beans tried to take over the tomatoes and I had to trim them back. beans will try to out grow every thing. (Jack And The Beanstalk) In the other square foot garden I had the same type tomato (Better Boy) with Straight Eight Cucumbers I could not tell any difference in the production or timing of any plantings. Now! Not a test, but a real world usage of the garden


    Bookmark   April 25, 2010 at 3:14PM
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anney(Georgia 8)

Yes, I've concluded, too, that pole beans and tomatoes don't grow well together because the beans can strangle the tomatoes if they are planted too close, not that they are dangerous to each other otherwise. :-) So I try to keep mine separated by a few flowers planted between them as a visual barrier that I can use to keep the beans under control. Other vining crops don't need such a stranglehold on a trellis, even though they might produce much larger plants in the end, such as melons or cukes.

And FWIW, the mavens on the bean forum tell us that some pole beans should be spaced farther apart than the seed packets advise for the best growth and production, sometimes REALLY farther apart, such as with pole limas.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2010 at 3:53PM
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Last year I grew tomatoes and beans right next to each other, and it worked fine. i did have 1 fortex vine that tried to tale over one of the tomato cages, and that was the only problem I had. They both did great!

    Bookmark   April 26, 2010 at 12:23AM
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I don't know who made up those "rules", but I have not seen much research on whether they really work or not. The main problem with planting beans and tomatoes together is their aggressive spreading.

As long as you can keep them from strangling each other, it will be OK.

Yes, planting flowers near your vegetable garden will help, but that's mostly because hover-fly adults eat pollen and nectar, while their larvae eat aphids ... feed the adults and you get babies.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2010 at 10:58AM
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