The sun is shining, the birds are singing, the weather is warming; it’s time to plant a garden! If you’re anything like I am, you have more seeds and plants than you have space for, so you don’t have enough room to devote an entire row (or multiple rows!) to everything you want to plant in your garden. You may be wondering which plants grow well together and which plants may actually benefit each other when grown close together.
Tomatoes are one of the most popular and easy-to-grow garden plants. There are hundreds of tasty varieties of this warm-season annual. They grow best during the hottest months of the year and die back completely after a frost. Once you’ve eaten your own homegrown tomato, you will never want to eat a store-bought tomato again!
Carrots are a cool-season crop. You can plant carrots for a spring harvest or a fall harvest. If allowed to complete its entire life cycle, a carrot is a biennial, producing abundant vegetation in its first year, then flowering and dying back in its second year. When grown as a garden vegetable, carrots are treated as a short-lived annual.
Tomatoes and carrots are delicious garden crops easily accessible to most gardeners. Both can be grown in small places and even in containers. But can they be grown close together, or if not, what would be better options? In this article, we will look at tomatoes and carrots and check out their compatibility to be grown as neighbors.
The Quick Answer
Tomatoes and carrots grow well together and make good companion plants. They may thrive during different growing seasons, but when they overlap in the garden, each can benefit the other.
Tomatoes benefit carrots by providing shade during the hotter summer months. Carrots benefit tomatoes by helping aerate the soil and allowing the tomato roots to expand throughout their growing space. You can harvest tomatoes without bothering the carrots, and harvesting carrots helps to aerate the soil further!
The Detailed Answer
Carrots and tomatoes make good companion plants. Despite their differences in season and growth patterns, tomatoes and carrots can actually benefit each other. Companion planting has been used with many different types of plants.
Companion plants can benefit each other by improving growing conditions. This includes attracting beneficial insects or repelling pests. Companion plants can include any combination of plants, from fruits and vegetables to flowers and herbs.
Tomatoes can offer some benefits to carrots. Carrots are cool-season plants. Tomatoes grow tall quickly and can offer some shade protection for the more heat-sensitive carrots. Tomatoes also contain chemicals that can act as a pest deterrent against some carrot-munching insects.
Carrots can benefit tomatoes by helping aerate the soil. As the roots grow (and are harvested), the soil shifts around, allowing the tomato plant roots to maximize their colonization of the surrounding soil space. Some people also claim that growing carrots near tomatoes actually helps the tomatoes taste better!
Carrots and tomatoes each have plenty of other companion plants. You will have plenty of options for plants to grow in close proximity, along with these two garden favorites. Some suggested companion plantings are listed below.
|Tomato Companion Plants||Carrot Companion Plants|
Tomatoes are readily available and easy to grow. There are compact container-friendly varieties and sprawling indeterminate varieties that will produce an abundance of fruits throughout the entire summer. There are tasty tomatoes in shades of red, orange, yellow, green, and purple, as well as stripes and speckles.
To have access to the most varieties of tomatoes, you can start them from seed at home. If you want to avoid the hassle of seeds, you can also buy young transplants in the springtime from your local garden center.
Either way, you will start your plants in the spring, harvest the fruits in the summer, and then plants will die off at the first frost.
Carrots are a bit more challenging to grow and require a lot of patience. They are best started from seed, directly sown in the garden. While waiting up to 2 weeks for the seeds to germinate, you will need to keep the soil moist.
But once your carrots sprout and start to grow, you will be well along your way to tasty, crunchy, garden-sweet carrots.
You can find different and colorful carrot seed varieties, ranging from very compact, almost round carrots to long thin carrots of many bright hues. If you’re willing to try something new, you can grow many different carrots at home that aren’t available at your local grocery store!
Timing of Planting
Because carrots and tomatoes grow best during different seasons, you must time your plantings to make the most of these companions. Tomato seeds can be easily started indoors in early spring. Young tomato plants need to be transplanted outside in the spring or early summer.
Carrots do not like being transplanted and are best sown directly in the garden. The seeds can be started outside in early spring or mid to late summer.
If you are growing a spring carrot crop, the carrots will need to be sown before the tomatoes. As you arrange your carrot seeds, leave enough space for the tomato plants to grow in between them.
If you are growing a fall carrot crop, the tomatoes will be in a phase of rapid vegetative growth when you sow the carrot seeds. You will need to be especially careful to keep the carrot seeds moist during these hot summer days while waiting for them to germinate.
If you want to try container gardening, you probably won’t have enough space to grow both carrots and tomatoes in a single tub, but you could grow them both in a very large container.
You can also easily grow them as neighbors in a raised bed or in traditional garden rows. Basically, anywhere you can grow tomatoes or carrots, as long as you have enough space, you can grow tomatoes and carrots together.
Both carrots and tomatoes grow well in raised beds, so this is often one of the best ways to grow these two crops together.
Ideal Growing Conditions
While tomatoes and carrots appreciate many of the same things, like abundant sunlight, they also differ. The primary difference is the season where they grow and mature most, but they can still overlap as friendly neighbors.
|Light||Full sun, at least 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight each day||Full sun, at least 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight each day|
|Water||Regular, consistent moisture||Regular, consistent moisture|
|Temperature||Warm season, ideally 65°F to 85°F||Cool season, ideally 60°F to 75°F|
|Soil||Rich, moist, well-drained soil. Ideal soil pH 6.2 to 6.8||Rich, moist, well-drained soil. Cultivate soil to at least 12 inches deep. Soil should be free of rocks, sticks, and clay. Ideal soil pH 6.0 to 7.0|
|Nutrients||Add organic compost to the soil at planting time. Fertilize again when they start to set fruit||Fertilize 5 to 6 weeks after sowing with a low-nitrogen fertilizer|
|Mulch||Mulch around plants to help maintain soil moisture||Add a light mulch around plants to help maintain even soil moisture|
|Space||Tomatoes need plenty of space, between 1 and 3 feet between tomato plants, depending on the variety and type of support used||Carrots can be grown just 2 to 3 inches apart. But allow at least 12 inches between your carrots and your tomato plants|
|Support||Most tomatoes benefit from a cage for support or train your plants to a stake to keep them growing upright||Carrots are low-growing and non-vining and do not need any type of support|
|Season||Plant in the spring, harvest throughout summer||Sow seeds in spring for summer harvest. Sow seeds in summer for fall harvest. In Mediterranean climates, sow seeds in fall for a winter harvest.|
|Harvest||Begin to harvest 50 to 80 days after planting, depending on plant variety and growing conditions. Harvest individual tomatoes as they ripen.||Carrots should be ready anywhere from 55 to 100 days after sowing seed, depending on variety and growing conditions. Harvest when tops are visible at the soil surface and appear full size. Loosen the soil and remove entire root.|
Carrots and tomatoes typically will not suffer from the same pests and diseases. In fact, they can help protect each other from certain problems, but you should still keep a close watch on any potential issues and treat them promptly.
Some common pests and diseases of tomatoes include:
- Hornworms – Large caterpillars that eat the leaves.
- Flea beetles – Small black beetles that eat the leaves.
- Cutworms – Soil-dwelling caterpillars that attack young plants.
- Blossom end rot – Causes tomatoes to blacken and rot, starting at the bottom.
- Blight – Fungal disease that kills leaves and damages fruit.
Some common pests and diseases of carrots include:
- Carrot weevils – White grubs that bore into and eat the carrot roots.
- Wireworms – Pale yellow grubs that burrow into and eat carrot roots.
- Nematodes – Microscopic pest that causes deformed root growth.
- Caterpillars – Some species of caterpillars, including swallowtail butterfly caterpillars, eat carrot greens.
- Blight – Fungal disease causing leaf damage and poor development.
The great news is, yes, you can grow tomatoes and carrots together as neighbors. They each offer some benefit to the other and grow well as companion plants. Stay aware of the timing of your plantings so they are each growing during their ideal seasons.
As always, keep an eye on any potential pests and diseases. Harvest tasty tomatoes throughout the summer, and harvest crunchy carrots in early summer or fall. A well-timed garden planting will have you harvesting fresh produce all season long!