I Love Books Like 'Carrots Love Tomatoes'

The legendary gardening classic has maintained its' popularity for a reason.
Loooong weekend! This is it - it's time for all of the planning to come to fruition as we bust out of the house and into the soil with gusto. Planting mindfully is important, though, as tough as it can be.

This past winter, I spent a significant amount of time reading. And planning. And reading. And scheming. And reading and dreaming and sketching and reading and gettingsoveryantsy!!  In anticipation of my first 'big girl garden' with a new home and new lot in sight, I wanted to make good decisions that were well-informed, and plan my gardens with the best organic practices possible.  While my friends will argue this, the fact is that I am NOT an "expert" when it comes to gardening.  Frankly, I kinda loathe the term.  I know plants, and I love plants, but what drew me to horticulture as a career path in the first place is that it's built for lifelong learning.  I've been gardening for almost 15 years, working in the industry for 12, and I learn new things every single day.  I hope I'm never an expert.

Something I'm fairly new in discovering is the concept of companion planting.  This is certainly not because it's new... it's a practice that's been used by growers for at least a thousand years (according to wikipedia, anyway) that gained renewed popularity in the 70s as the organic movement began gaining serious momentum.  It's a concept formed by the principle that some plants are mutually beneficial, while others are incompatible.  

Sometimes the relationship works because of physical characteristics of the plants, like the Native Americans 'Three Sisters' - corn providing structure for beans to climb upon, the beans fix nitrogen into the soil for the heavy-feeding corn, and they're grown with squash at the base, which deters animals from eating the corn or knocking it over as well as shading the roots.  Sometimes one plant will help to deter common pests of another, as happens with marigolds, which tend to deter aphids and attract predatory insects.  Sometimes, plants will actually help to improve the flavour of others, as with mint and basil planted with tomatoes.  Incredible, no?  This information was, and is, fascinating to me, and quite honestly, a little intimidating.  Enter the legendary Louise Riotte!

'Carrots Love Tomatoes' became instrumental in the planning of my veggie beds for this season, as well as all of the surrounding areas.  I read the book from front to back, and then kept it at hand throughout the winter and spring as my vision of my gardens began to become clearer.  Once I decided to start modestly and work with a four-small-bed system this season, sketching became easier.  I worked through the spaces, mindful of companion plants and 'uh oh' combinations, and ended up with a pretty little schematic.  Will I stick to it religiously? Not a chance!  But it's a PLAN, and something to go by.

Little beds with BIG plans.
By using smaller beds this summer, I'll plant my gardens more intensively, paying close attention to the soil.  This is always paramount in organic gardening... the soil is everything and by starting with smaller spaces in my first season at this house, I'm ensuring that the soil quality will meet my needs.  It will also make it much easier to plan next year's gardens with crop rotation in mind.

It's really hard to reign in big dreams.  If I had an unlimited budget, and no full-time job, there would be no lawn left and a bounty beyond anything I could imagine.  But hey... there's nothing wrong with humble beginnings, you've just got to give it a go, have some patience and let things happen.  Happy planting this weekend, friends!  

And the offer still stands - if you'd like to head out to Linda's Tomato Days sale at Tree & Twig this Sunday, you can ride with me! 


  1. Sounds exciting! One day I want a 'big girl garden' too! Leanne Torrance

  2. Kris, Your plans are very admirable. I too have trying to push the unexplored edge. Well, unexplored for me anyway. I'm even contemplating mulilayered raised beds. There would be three layers of growing material about 8 to 10 inches deep. One on ground level, one three or four feet above that, and another three or four feet above that. It would only work for low growing plants. It just being rolled about in my mind as of now. Lot's of things have to be worked out yet but it's a way out there plan.

    Have a great gardening day.

  3. @Leanne - Thanks for reading!

    @David - Your multilayered bed plans sound pretty amazing. I can picture it in my mind, and I think it would be stunning to look at and very productive. If you decide to bring the dream into fruition, make sure to post photos! Thanks for reading, as always!