Every vegetarian gal or guy that has any space at all should try to grow some of her/his own vegetables either in containers on a porch or in the yard. How have I gone so long without such a must-have, classic book? This rare treasure among a sea of gardening guides? Written originally in 1975 and updated in 1998, Carrots Love Tomatoes: Secrets of Companion Planting for Successful Gardening , published by the well-respected Storey Publishing, should be the bible which we all refer to when deciding where to thoughtfully place each plant in our garden. Who knew that beans and onions would hinder the growth of one another? And how did Louise Riotte know that planting celery near cauliflower would deter the white cabbage butterfly? There are no flashy photographs in this book nor dreamy prose. Yet there is such a wealth of information here dispersed among simple and informative drawings. If only I had known last year that dill may affect carrot growth in a negative way, I may have ended up with carrots that weren’t the size of cocktail weenies.
The past few years, I’ve basically walked outside with my seed packets and seedlings and simply made it up as I went. My friends and family would likely say this is representative of my life! I’ve ended up with an unorganized layout with sub-par production. From wilting peppers and tiny carrots to corn seeds that never grew taller than an inch. Then I’d look in garden magazines and wonder how on earth other gardens looked so lush, with giant red tomatoes screaming to be picked, sunflowers taller than I am, and more green beans than one family could ever even think of eating in a year? Carrots Love Tomatoes brought it all together for me. I have learned two things that can only help me this year. First, things don’t need quite as much space as I’ve always given them. Second, it truly does matter which veggies end up being neighbors. If you don’t plant the right guys next to each other, you’ll end up with HBO-worthy fighting over nutrients that will prevent one or both of them from flourishing.
This year, I took the time to plan my garden out–plant by plant–with Carrots Love Tomatoes as my reference. First, I started to draw a plain old grid and couldn’t get into it. Since I’m a visual person, I decided to literally grab some plain old colored pencils and draw it out. The way I see it, this will prevent overspending (buying too many plants and not having room for them) and it will also ensure that each plant is placed thoughtfully somewhere. How many times have I purchased a lovely new perennial and then had absolutely no idea where to plan it in my small, urban yard?
Planning is so liberating! For example, I didn’t think to plant anything right next to my birdbath, but my mother suggested planting something in a half moon around it to make the birds feel safe and protected while providing partial shade. I didn’t have any idea where to give my corn a try again, so voila–I’ll plan corn around the back side of the bath. If I hadn’t planned this out, I would end up wandering around my yard with corn seed before likely giving up and going without this year.
Here are my plans for 2011.
I have other beds that currently house perennials like roses and butterfly bushes and I haven’t yet planned out all of the containers on our back deck, but I feel so much more confident going into planting season with these three main beds nicely planned.
Here are just a few great tips I learned from my new favorite book:
* basil helps keep tomatoes healthy from disease while improving growth and flavor
* beets and kohlrabi grow well together because they take soil nourishment at different levels
* broccoli is hindered by tomatoes
Also, you’ll see that I have nasturtium planted everywhere because it repels aphids, squash bugs, striped pumpkin beetles, and wooly aphids. I don’t know what a wooly aphid is, but I don’t want it!
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