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Helen Chesnut's Garden Notes: Tomato foliage helps repel pests

Advice: Use “suckers” removed from tomato plants to repel the cabbage butterfly — by laying the suckers on the cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower plants.

Dear Helen: A friend visiting my garden recently expressed alarm at my setting up stakes for the tomatoes next to a planting of cabbage and cauliflower, which she said would severely hamper growth and productivity in the tomatoes. Is this true?


None of my references on companion planting caution against planting tomatoes and cabbage family vegetables near each other. Most indicate they could be good companions because tomato foliage repels cabbage butterflies.

I’ve only ever heard once of tomatoes not doing well, in greenhouse beds and raised, boxed outdoor beds when cabbages were growing right up against the tomato stems. That tomato stunting was most likely the result of cabbages being extra greedy feeders, able to out-compete the tomatoes for nutrients

Personally, I never grow heavy feeders like cabbage family vegetables next to tomatoes, but I do use the tomato “suckers” removed from my staked tomatoes to repel the cabbage butterfly — simply by laying the suckers on the cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower plants. A veteran gardener from Holland gave me that useful tip.

The only plants I grow next to the bases of my staked tomatoes are very light feeders. Lettuce transplants are my usual choices. In the heat of summer, lettuce does especially well close to and on the shaded side of the staked tomatoes.

Dear Helen: Would you please comment on gardening, or attempting to garden, amidst a scourge of horsetails?


Horsetail and perennial morning glory are very difficult to control. Some people find that keeping the tops cut down helps to deplete the energies of horsetail’s deep root system over time.

Where horsetail emerges in amongst garden plantings, an asparagus type forked weeder can be used to ease some of it out. This is most easily done when the soil is thoroughly dampened and soft.

Where horsetail is pushing up shoots in areas surrounding garden plants, dig out as much of the roots as possible.

Thick black plastic laid for a year or more over areas growing only horsetail will weaken it. Wood shavings or bark mulch over the plastic improves the appearance of covered sites.

Horsetail (Equisetum arvense) is an ancient, primitive plant that travels a dual pathway to survival. It spreads not only by creeping rootstocks, but also by spores. In common horsetail the fertile, spore-bearing branches appear first, in early spring, and are followed by growth bearing whorls of slender green stems radiating from joints on the hollow main stem. It is important not to let the fertile first growth remain to mature and release spores.

Weekend column. I’ll be frolicking in my garden instead of writing a column for the coming holiday weekend. May you all revel in your garden spaces to celebrate Victoria Day. Next column: Wednesday, May 24.


Plant sales. The Friends of Government House Gardens Society have opened the Plant Nursery, across from the Tea Room at Government House, 1401 Rockland Ave. in Victoria, from Tuesday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Most of the plants will be sold for $8, payable by debit or credit cards only.

Tomato Day. It’s Tomato Day at the Horticulture Centre of the Pacific, 505 Quayle Rd. in Saanich, on Saturday, May 20, 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Come early for the best selection of tomato, vegetable, and herb transplants. Admission is free. The gift shop is fully stocked, and the centre is now selling Vancouver Island wool pellets.

View Royal meeting. The View Royal Garden Club will meet on Wednesday, May 24, at 7:30 p.m. in Wheeley Hall, behind Esquimalt United Church, 500 Admirals Rd. Entrance off Lyall St. Joshua Clae Wagler of Edible Landscape Design will describe how home landscapes can be transformed into foodscapes. Joshua’s background in urban studies has involved work in food forestry, pemaculture, homesteading and more. Non-member drop-in fee $5.

Soil workshop. The Compost Education Centre, 1216 North Park St. in Victoria, is offering a free workshop on Soil: Really Important Tiny Lives on Saturday, May 27, 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. Learn about soil as an ecosystem that supports plant life and is vital to all life on earth. Discover the most effective ways to steward this living medium. For information and registration, call 250-386-9676, email, or go online at

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