Carrot Companion Plants | The Best and Worst

With their crisp and sweet taste, carrots (Daucus carota) are certainly a garden favourite. These root vegetables are high in minerals, vitamins and antioxidants. Although we normally associate carrots with being orange, they actually come in a range of colours including white, red and purple. 

Some people find carrots a bit tricky to grow, but so long as you provide them with the correct care and favourable conditions, they can be easy to produce. Companion planting is a great way to help you grow carrots. 

Carrot companion planting can improve the ease, growth, health and yield of your crops. It is a simple yet effective method that provides a wide array of benefits. Choosing the right companion plants requires some consideration.

Luckily for you, I have done all the hard work. This article explains the process of companion planting and explains what plants make great companions for your carrots as well as those you should avoid. 

What is Companion Planting?

Companion planting is described as the process of growing different plant species in close proximity in order to benefit one another. This is a form of polyculture and unlike monoculture, reflects the natural environment and supports ecosystems. 

This natural and organic method eliminates the need to use chemical-based herbicides and pesticides and instead utilises the natural benefits that can be obtained through the plants alone. As such, companion planting is environmentally friendly. 

Companion planting was first developed around 10,000 years ago by Native American tribes. The success of this technique has led to it become implemented all over the world, being used in both agricultural landscapes and ornamental gardens. 

Traditionally, companion planting was used to grow crop plants as it can improve their overall yield. A famous example used to grow sweetcorn, beans and squash is the “Three Sisters” method. 

The tall and sturdy sweetcorn provides a living support structure for the beans to climb up. The beans fix nitrogen into the soil which can be used by the other plants to aid their growth. 

Squash has large leaves which suppress the growth of weeds and help to shade the soil, keeping it cool and retaining moisture.  

Benefits

Some of the biggest advantages obtained through companion planting are:

Saves Space: Companion planting is ideal for small growing spaces as it relies on growing plants close together. Through clever growing combinations you can get the most out of your soil space. For example, pairing upright species with ground-cover plants will allow you to fit more into your allotted space. 

Pest Control: instead of using chemical-based pesticides that can be toxic to wildlife and our health, you can use companion plants to control pests. Some plants produce scents that repel pests or even mask the fragrance of the crop you are trying to protect. 

Improves Soil Health: Nutrient-rich soil is essential for most plant species to thrive. Plants from the Fabaceae family, commonly known as legumes, absorb nitrogen from the air and release it into the soil. This fixed form of nitrogen can be taken up by neighbouring plants.

Attracts Beneficial Insects: Brightly coloured and highly scented flowers are very attractive to pollinators. Growing a variety of flowering plants will entice a range of pollinators that can pollinate your crop plant. 

Additionally, some plant species attract predatory insects such as wasps and ladybugs which will prey on insects’ pests, protecting your crop from them. 

Improves Flavour: Certain plant pairings are known to improve the flavour of crops. For example, basil enhances the taste of tomatoes whilst borage sweetens nearby strawberries.   

Considerations

Selecting companion plants requires some consideration as the wrong pairing can have detrimental consequences on one or all of your plants. 

Be sure to think about the growing conditions each plant requires. Plants will only make good partners if they can thrive in the same environment. For example, pairing a plant that needs acidic soil with one that likes alkaline soil would be a bad match. Likewise, plants which favour hot, arid conditions would suffer if paired with plants that need cool, moist conditions. 

The individual characteristics of companions should also be considered. A fast-growing plant, such as mint, would quickly become invasive and take up space and nutrients of a slow-growing species, like lavender. 

With crops specifically, obtaining a high yield is important. Pests and diseases are the main factors with regard to damaging crop yields. You should avoid planting species together that are vulnerable to the same pests and diseases as they can easily spread and cause great damage to your crops.  

Good Carrot Companion Plants

Like many other edible plants, carrots will benefit greatly from the correct companion plants. Ideally, carrots should be planted in light, fertile and well-drained soil to avoid stunting root growth. They have long taproots so the soil should be deep to accommodate them. Carrots are also light feeders and a cool season crop.

Carrots require full sun and don’t like being moved around, so be sure to plant them in a favourable location. These vegetables are fairly cold-hardy, but it may be a good idea to cover them with a thick layer of mulch prior to winter. They can be grown in USDA zones 3 through 10. 

Below are some of the best companion plants for carrots: 

Flowering Annuals and Perennials

Marigold: These fiery-coloured flowers make great companions for just about any crop. Their yellow and orange blooms add a burst of colour to your green carrot fronds. Marigolds give off a fragrance that repels pests including the carrot rust fly and psyllid. They also improve the carotenoid content of the carrot’s roots. 

Daffodil: The bulbous daffodil flowers are toxic to animals that may want to nibble your carrots, including rodents and deer. These animals detest the smell and taste of daffodils so planting them around your carrots will keep them away. 

Nasturtium: The pretty blooms of these flowers inject colour into your carrot bed and attract a variety of pollinators. The flowers are also edible and have a peppery taste. Nasturtiums make great companions for carrots because they can be used as trap crops to lure pests like aphids away from your carrots.  

Herbs

Oregano: The strong essential oils oregano contains repels pests including rust flies and nematodes. Additionally, oregano enhances the flavour of carrots and they make a great pairing for many culinary dishes. 

Cilantro: Carrots and cilantro thrive under the same growing conditions, making them great partners. Cilantro can also be used as a trap crop because the white flowers attract aphids, whiteflies and nematodes, keeping them away from your carrots. 

Borage: The vibrant, star-like flowers attract beneficial insects whilst the scent it gives off deters pests. Borage is a bioaccumulator meaning it draws minerals and nutrients into the soil that your carrots can absorb. 

Rosemary: Rosemary makes for an ideal border plant as its strong fragrance can deter pests from the bed margins, without shading out the carrots. 

Chive: When grown alongside carrots, chives will improve their taste and texture. The pungent scent of chives also keeps pest insects away. 

Vegetables 

Tomato: Tomatoes are the perfect companions for carrots for many reasons. Tomatoes are best grown in the centre of the best whilst carrots occupy the margins. The bushy tomato foliage provides the carrots with shade. 

Tomatoes produce a natural insecticide to repel pests whilst carrots attract beneficial parasitic wasps that prey on tomato hornworms and caterpillars. Tomatoes also improve the flavour of carrots. 

Onion: The pungent smell of onions repels carrot flies, one of the main pests of carrots. Onions also have shallow, bulbous roots so won’t interfere with the long, taproots of your carrots. 

Onion

Turnip: Carrots and turnips have similar climate and moisture needs. Turnip’s green foliage also produces a mustard-like smell that helps deter pests. 

Lettuce: Like carrots, lettuce is a light feeder so will not compete with your carrots for nutrients or root space. Additionally, lettuce grows quickly and is a great crop to fill up empty space around your carrot tops. 

Radish: As radishes sprout, they loosen up the soil, helping your carrot roots to penetrate deeper into the ground. They have shallow roots so won’t be in competition with the long carrot roots. Radishes are also the quickest-growing vegetable. 

Legumes: Legumes fix nitrogen from the atmosphere into the soil, creating a nitrogen-rich environment for your carrots. Popular companion planting choices here include beans and peas.

Beetroot: The large bulbs and taproots of the beetroot loosen up the soil for carrots to grow. The purple stalks add a splash of colour to the green foliage. Carrots and beetroot also make a great pairing in the kitchen. 

Beetroot

Spinach: Like carrots, spinach grows best in cool weather. Spinach is a great ground cover plant and helps to keep the soil cool and moist. It also has shallow roots so won’t interfere with your carrots.  

Bad Companion Plants for Carrots

Avoid growing these plants with your carrots: 

Dill: This herb produces compounds that can stunt the growth and development of carrots.

Parsnip: Carrots and parsnips belong to the same family so are susceptible to the same pests and diseases. 

Fennel: Attracts a variety of pests and releases certain chemicals into the soil, making it a bad companion for many plants including carrots. 

Cucurbits: This vining plant is an aggressive grower and may suffocate and overtake carrots if planted too closely. 

Potato: This root crop is a heavy feeder and can steal nutrients from your light-feeding carrots. 

Citations

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Ben's horticultural interest grew when graduating from Hertfordshire University in 1997. Having contributed to numerous publications including Better Homes & Gardens, Garden Design Magazine, and The English Garden. He is also the author of Propagating Houseplants Made Easy.