Thursday, September 24, 2009

Carrot Companions

If you remember from way back in the spring, one of my goals this year was to try to do more companion planting. The hope was for a bigger yield in my garden. The Three Sisters Garden didn't work due to the bad weather. The corn just didn't grow and I had to rig up other supports for the beans. One bed however worked out better than my wildest expectations.

Twelve feet of one of my four foot wide beds was taken up by a combination of tomatoes, peppers, carrots, marigolds, and basil. Only the peppers and carrots are left. The rest were taken down when the tomatoes came down.

In the front of the bed were 12 hot pepper plants. They were given a total of one square foot each. The tomatoes were grown in the back of the bed and were given a 2'x2' area for six tomato plants. In between each tomato plant at the back edge of the bed, I alternated marigolds (my Ground Control Marigolds, for nematode control) and basil. Between the tomatoes and peppers were three rows of carrots each 4" apart. They were planted two weeks after the peppers and tomatoes went in.

All of the basil except for the one on the end of the row quickly died when the tomatoes got tall enough to shade them. Note to self: don't plant basil in the shade on the north side of the beds. Really I should know better anyway. The marigolds probably would have grown better in the sun, but they put up with the nasty treatment and did a great job of nematode control.

The tomatoes grew better than I've ever had tomatoes grow even with our cold wet June and less space than I've given them in the past. Usually I give them a 3'x2' spot. This year they had 50% less space to grow and grew twice as big. My peppers usually get to about 12-18". This year they are over 2' tall. So they are happy with the arrangement too.

I was worried how the carrots would turn out. They were quickly shaded by the peppers and tomatoes. The peppers and tomatoes quickly grew toward each other and entangled in spots. I kept cutting them back to try to keep a little light down there, but I wasn't very successful. So they grew slowly in the shade all summer long.

They were planted on May 14th and have had over four months to grow. They grew very slowly and are just becoming big enough to harvest now. They seem to taste fine. They aren't any more bitter than the spring carrots (Danvers tends to a bit of bitterness, but the Atomic Red, Big Top and Sugar Snax are all quite sweet).

Now that the fall carrots are big enough to harvest I had to deal with the spring carrots that were still in the fridge. Yup, I haven't eaten them all. I was going to. There weren't too many, but the issue was too many other things that were more perishable had to be eaten first. So they sat there all forlorn. They seemed as sweet and as crisp as they were when they were harvested two months ago. I decided to blanch them and tray freeze them. I tray freeze most of the veggies that I freeze: celery (store bought), peppers, carrots, corn (from the farmers' market) and beans. I spread them on a cookie sheet and let them freeze quickly in my chest freezer. Then I put them in ziplocks. I should use a straw to suck the air out, but I don't. I just squeeze as much as I can out.

I'm really quite escatic over how the bed did. I know that part of the increase in growth was the double digging and compost in the lower levels of my heavy clay soil, but I think the companion planting added to the mix in a very good way too. Next year I'll repeat the process, but I'll find a better place to put my basil.


  1. So great to read about your companionable plants. My winter reading this year is going to focus on just this topic, and I'm so happy to hear from you what worked.

    My Three Sisters kicked in at the very end of the season, but the rain definitely set everything back. I'm definitely going for it again next year -- and hoping for a kinder weather pattern.

  2. How satisfying to have things come out better than expected! It balances out the mistakes and problems.

  3. So glad to hear of your successes, due in large part to your hard work (double digging!) and companion planting. The carrots look yummy.

  4. I'm working on a better planting plan for next season too. Looks like your ideas worked out great for you this year. :)

  5. Your bed looks amazing, Daphne! We have a hot pepper that suddenly turned into a 3-foot shrub in our tomato bed, too. (The others were better behaved.) Guess that one won't be coming into the greenhouse for the winter! I love the shots of your carrots on the cookie sheet, too. Looking at them made me so hungry for curried carrots! Are the dark ones the Atomic Reds? They're really gorgeous.

  6. I've never tried companion planting before, might be a good read this winter.

    To answer your question about my frost date, it usually happens some time in the middle of Oct. I am by the southern tip of Ontario, surrounded by great lakes so it is a much more moderate climate then the northern part of Ontario by Maine, Vermont etc. I am basically parallel with Massachusetts. Oct 1st is forcasted to have a low of 37f, it is getting close :-(

  7. Double digging in clay deserves some kind of medal. Good news about your harvests.

  8. Nice job on the carrots! I've been sowing them all summer and just made the last sowing 2 weeks ago - that's a bit of a gamble. But we have such mild winters...

  9. I am a big advocate of double dug raised beds. They are proven to greatly increase productivity for the food production garden. My own experience confirms this.

    That is great that your bed layout worked out so well - I love it when things do as well or better than you hoped!

  10. I would love to do some companion planting next year. The European potagers with their mix flowers and vegetables have always appealed to me. Yet another topic to research this winter.

  11. June, I'm glad your three sisters worked out for you. I think I just need more sun here.

    Michelle, oh yes. I think the good and the bad really balance out in the garden. Sometimes my husband things I talk about things that are going wrong too much, but that is what happens in the garden, both good and bad.

    Mary Delle, thanks.

    perennialgardener, every year I change things trying to make it better than the year before. I've come the to conclusion that I would do great if only I knew the weather in advance.

    our friend Ben, it is too bad the really big one is the one that won't make it into the greenhouse. I know it just wouldn't fit, but it seems like it earned its spot. Yes the red ones are atomic red. I like the color. I like the taste, but won't grow it again next year. It just didn't grow well here. The germination issues might have been in just that batch, but the other growing issues like damping off and slow growth I'm sure are normal to the carrot variety. I do like them though. I might change my mind.

    Dan, so you are probably very, very similar to me in climate. I usually get my first frost at the end of October, but on rare occasions it isn't until the beginning of November.

    Stefaneener, lol it was really slow hard work. I've got some more to do this fall.

    Jackie, my last sowing of carrots didn't germinate well. I'll get a few from it but not much at all.

    kitsapFG, yup double digging is worth it. I have two issues with SFGs. One is that they don't provide for weird spacing (like if something should really be 9" apart and not 12 or 6). Two is that you are hauling in dirt from somewhere else and that is a very unsustainable option. It is better to use the soil you have and fix it (except with things like contaminated soil). The third is that he claims 6" is deep enough. It isn't. You can grow things just fine in 6", but things grow extremely well with a deeper soil. The productivity is so much higher.

  12. Daphne, found your blog through the Blotanical nominations and have enjoyed reading it. Congratulations on getting a successful tomato harvest when so many in your part of the U.S. struggled!

  13. Thomas, I still haven't figured out if I'm going to research anything this winter. Last year it was seed saving. I need a new topic.

  14. Jean, thanks. Hopefully next year will have better tomato conditions - and no late blight until September.