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Carrot, Tomatoes, Pepper and Sunflowers? Not too goofy?

Posts: 5
Location: Just Outside Ann Arbor, Michigan
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Hello Friends,

I have been happily thrown into becoming a farm manager for a local farm.
After studying some of Helen Atthowe's videos (time is at a premium right now and i'm trying to soak info up while getting things done!), I felt compelled to try her system. This is my first year as a farmer, managing 3 acres.

I'm planning to use white clover for green manure, planting tomatoes, peppers, carrots and sunflowers together in a row.

In companion planting, I hear Tomatoes and Carrots like eachother very much!
Similarly, I hear Peppers and Tomatoes are very happy to have Sunflowers as well.
Frankly, this feels like "abstract farming", and I have a feeling I'm going to get into trouble.
If I'm planning to use a plastic ground cover (porous, but barrier to weeds), which type/color would you use?
What do you think about multi alphabet soup all in the one row on the ground cover? Too edgy for the novice?
This is a cash crop field, so I can get goofy as long as things continue to be marketable.

Thank you!

Verena Sofia
Outreach Volunteer

Posts: 39
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Hi Verena,
I would be cautious about mixing sunflowers with other crops as they have allelopathic effects on numerous plant species, inhibiting germination and growth even beyond the current growth cycle.
Google "Helianthus annuus" + allelopathic for articles.

I don't know what sort of climate conditions you are working in (I live somewhere where you can't even grow tomatoes outdoors...) but I would think that tomatoes would shade out carrots. Also their nutrient needs are very different. Tomatoes are heavy feeders, carrots are not.
I always grow tomatoes in trenches filled with well-rotted manure. That'd be way too strong for carrots. If I was doing a row system with the two I'd probably grow basil beside the tomatoes, then a row of French beans, then carrots.
Given that you work in a commercial system, ease of harvest may also be an issue.

Posts: 4437
Location: North Central Michigan
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i'm not fond of plastic mulch sheets, I have never had any good experience with non organic mulches.

I have had sunflowers planted in with my crops in the past to no ill effect, however, sunflower seeds from birdfeeders can kill off what ever is under them..the indians grew sunflowers in their gardens.

I would say trial and error as for mixiing things together..myself i mix nearly everything, however am removing my jerusalem artichokes from my mixed beds as they were far to aggressive to be companions..I also do not use horseradish in mixed beds as it will take over..

There are probably a few others..but most things will be fine in mixed beds..corn must have a block planting but can be underplanted ex. 3 sisters
Posts: 1459
Location: Midlands, South Carolina Zone 7b/8a
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I have tomatoes and sunflowers growing together and the sunflowers are said to act as a 'bait' to pests to help keep them away from other plants. I do know that by the end of the season my sunflowers are usually pretty well defoliated by bugs while what is growing near them is not too bad. But I am only growing the occasional sunflower here and there.

As a matter of fact I don't really plant them anymore. They reseed themselves and if they pop up in a place that works for me I just leave them alone. I'll try to post a pic of a sunflower and some tomatoes later today.
Posts: 116
Location: Colorado
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I would not grow tomatoes and carrots together. I tried it one year. Carrots were extremely not happy.
I am trying basil this year, as I read recently that basil planted about ten inches from tomatoes will increase tomato yields by 20%. Am also trying onion family, as the two are supposed to be very friendly. (By the way, different members of the onion family, alliums, interact differently with other plants, which can be confusing.)
From experience, marigolds interplant extremely well with tomatoes.

Edit: On the other hand, sometimes you get weird synergy from planting 'hate' crops together in an ignorant mishmash. Like the year we planted peas, onions, potatoes, and cukes in the same row, peas on one side, onions and cukes on the other, potatoes down the middle. Never seen such an amazing bumper crop of cukes. Gave them away by the literal bagful (and these were the lemon cukes!) for like two months. Later found out that potatoes and cukes 'hate' each other. My reaction was: "You're kidding, right?"
Posts: 3999
Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
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You say 3 acres. How much is actually in vege production? I'm assuming you're talking the summer season?
Here's a few things I think could grow well together in summer:
Tall: tomatoes, green beans up sunflowers, amaranth
Medium: chillies, sweet peppers, eggplant (be aware of rotation with solanums) zucchini, zinnias, buckwheat
Low: Italian basil, Thai basil, purslane, red lettuces take the heat, winter squash
My indeterminate tomatoes seem to take over whole beds, so I never plant things very close to them
If it's possible, I really, really recommend using spoilt hay or whatever soft organic mulch you can find, rather than plastic.
Carrots and tomatoes would both fail if planted together in my garden! As Ute said, carrots like nutrient-poor soil and cool weather. My tomatoes like rich soil and as much heat as I can give them.
Here's the plants I segregate (kind of)
Carrots. Poor soil, slow germinatrion, no mulch...
Broad beans (favas) way too tall, shady and floppy to share.
Garlic. It's just easier to grow my maincrop garlic alone under the heavy mulch it needs. I poke cloves into gaps around the place, but they're not part of my main harvest.

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