Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Carrots and tomatoes: A vegetable love story. Part 1.

Aw, shucks. I'm a sucker for a good love story. Even if it's just about vegetables.

In my efforts to prepare for spring, I've been reading a lot about companion gardening. If this concept is new to you, it's basically just the planting of particular plants together (or away from each other) based on their ability to assist each other to grow (or not) or to repel insects. It's fascinating stuff, especially for geeky science types like meself.

Over the weekend I saw my friend, Ann. She's an avid gardener and can get anything to grow anywhere. You know the type: your tomatoes are 3 feet tall, and her tomatoes are 10 feet tall and eat small children for breakfast. Anyway, she lent me the book, "Carrots Love Tomatoes: Secrets of Companion Planting for Successful Gardening" by Louise Riotte, and I read the whole thing cover to cover during our 8-hour drive home from NM yesterday. I read the good and juicy parts aloud to my husband as he drove. Sometimes I read to myself and said, "huh" and "wow" a lot.

And of course now I am totally obsessed with planning my garden. It's the first year I'll have a real garden at this house, and I'm pretty much starting with a blank slate. Today I ventured out to the nursery to buy my first packets of seeds, and I have an online order for more seeds and plants that I'm ready to submit tonight (pending approval of the outrageous final cost by my husband...).

My first vegetable love fest will need to involve tomatoes. I love growing tomatoes. Today I bought seeds for Brandywine and Roma VFN tomatoes. My online order will be for Sweet Million (a cherry tomato) and three more tomatoes for making sauces/paste/salsa: Oroma, Viva Italia, and Saucey Tomato.

Brandywine is an heirloom tomato that dates back to 1885. The fruits have a very large beefsteak shape, grow on unusually upright plants, and develop an incredible fine, sweet flavor. Fruits average 1 pound each.

Roma VFN produces heavy yields of 3" long plum-shaped tomatoes that have very few seeds. It's one of the most popular varieties for paste, sauce, ketchup, and canning. The Oroma peels easily to make thick tomato sauce and paste. The 1 1/4 inch wide by 5 inch long fruit average about 4 ounces and have a thick, meaty wall. Viva Italia is another sauce tomato that has great fresh flavor and abundant mid-season yields. The Saucey Tomato is early producing and out-yields other varieties in its class. It has great tomato sauce flavor and will hold well on the plant, allowing for one large harvest for intense sauce or salsa making.

Sweet Million Tomatoes are "two-bite" size cherry tomatoes that grow in grape-like clusters and have a great sweet flavor.

So, what do tomatoes love? Well, carrots, for one. But they'll share the love with asparagus, and when planted nearby will protect it from the asparagus beetle. Tomatoes also play well with chives, onion, parsley, marigold, and nasturtium. Planting garlic bulbs between tomato plants helps repel red spider mites.

Interestingly, tomatoes protect roses against black spot, and if you can't plant the two in close proximity, you can make a solution of tomato leaves in a vegetable juicer, add 4 or 5 pints of water and 1 tablespoon of cornstarch. Mix, strain, and spray on roses. Any unused spray can be refrigerated.

But tomatoes don't love everyone. They dislike potatoes, fennel, and members of the cabbage family, so they shouldn't be planted near each other. And the tomato fruitworm is identical to the corn earworm, so don't plant your tomatoes near your corn.


  1. I LOVE this post! It makes me want to start on my garden. And yet I can't. I will be moving this year. I am hoping to find someone that has property that is willing to rent it. Or something :)
    I did put the book in my Shopping Cart for later...I don't trust my brain cells :)
    Thank you Melissa for all of the descriptions & uses of tomatoes. I am still a beginner as I planted my first garden last year. But ah...not enough sun at this house as the year progresses...which is one of the reasons I know I have to move....along w/ needing a larger place to foster teens.
    Maybe I will find a place right away & I can plant a garden.............

  2. We're having some unseasonably warm days here in NW New Mexico so I'm thinking about ordering some of my plants. You've inspired me to start planning, for sure!
    Great blog. And you live near Grand Junction where I lived and visited every summer as a child. I love it up there! My best friend here is from that area, also.
    I'll be visiting your blog often, you're very inspirational!
    Marilyn in NM

  3. Fascinating...I KNEW there must be a key!

    We, apparently grow our tomatoes to beefen up our squirrels. Yep. Squirrels REALLY like tomatoes planted near them!!

    Good luck to you and your seedlings...sounds like a BIG project!


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