In Texas, we get spring started a little early,usually the end of February/beginning of March. This is very exciting for a gal from NH, where spring doesn’t show her face consistently until at least May. That is why I typically ignore the general recommendation to wait until after March 21 (when it is consistently above 40 degrees) to plant tomatoes, basil and peppers and get my garden in the ground around St. Patty’s Day. This year, I dared to go one week earlier. This is how it looked after planting.
And this is how it looked the first week of April when we had a very late hard freeze. I did cover these bad boys, but this was no brief dip below 40. It was a chilly 32 degrees!
All my tomatoes, peppers and basil plants died along with a few beans. Eggplant was the sole survivor of this box. Even sadder, it was slim pickings at the Natural Gardener when I went to replace my crops as most everyone has purchased their starter plants by April.
Happily, three weeks later, everything is thriving. I used a concept called companion planting to plan out my raised beds. This is the notion that certain plants help each other out in terms of providing nutrients, pest control and pollination. I read a lot of articles on this technique, but found the chart on this site and on wikipedia the easiest to follow. The list of crops I desire in my garden includes:
Tomatoes, eggplant and peppers are all part of the nightshade family. Good companions for nightshades include alliums (garlic, onions, shallots), mints (basil, oregano) and carrots. Basil increases the yield of tomatoes and carrots help them to grow, although somewhat at the expense of their own growth. In addition, marigolds or nasturtium flowers help repel pests.
Cucumbers grow well with beans, peas, celery and lettuce. Nasturtiums repel cucumber beetles and corn protects against bacterial wilt and gives the cucumber something which to climb. Cucumbers do not grow well with cauliflower, potato, basil or any strong aromatic herb.
Beans and peas work well with carrot, corn, cucumber, squash, radish, turnip, spinach, lettuce, mint, potatoes and brassicas (broccoli, cabbage, brussell sprouts and cauliflower). Corn lends climbing support and squash helps to suppress weeds. Like other legumes, beans and peas contain nitrogen-fixing bacteria and are great soil amenders. They do not like to be planted with alliums.
Carrots help the growth of tomatoes and alliums. They are, in turn, helped by alliums, rosemary, parsley and sage, which all deter the carrot rust fly. Beans add nitrogen to the soil, which carrots love. They do not do well with dill or parsnip.
Alliums help nightshades, brassicas, and carrots, as already mentioned, as well as fruit trees. Avoid planting with beans, peas or parsley.
Lettuce helps radish by repelling earth flies while radish helps spinach (leafminers prefer the radish leaves). Both do well with strawberries and peas and beans help by providing shade these cool weather crops prefer.
Based on the above info, I mapped out my 3 beds.
Box 1 (4×10): Snap peas, beans, spinach, lettuce, cucumbers, strawberry (not planted this season as it was too late), nasturtiums
Box 2: (4×10) Carrots, onions/garlic/shallots (to be planted in September), tomatoes, basil, marigolds
Box 3 (4×12): Tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, basil, marigolds
Things are looking a tad bit crowded in box one but will ease up once all the lettuce is harvested (likely by end of May). I can’t wait until all my hard work pays off! I really hope my veggies like their BFFs.