The Results Of
My Little Carrot Bed Experiment

Dateline: 12 October 2016 AD

Click this picture for a larger view.

Back in July I posted some thoughts about my experiments with gardening in plastic (Click Here To Read). I was disappointed with Tom Doyle's Plant-And-Pick gardening system, but I wasn't persuaded that the idea was all bad. Instead of planting in 3" holes in the large sheet of plastic, I decided to try planting in an 18" diameter circle, as you can see above. 18" is the inside diameter of a standard tire sidewall, as you can also see above. The sidewall serves to hold the plastic from billowing up and blowing out of place.

I planted several different crops in these 18" diameter experimental plots, and they all grew very well. It is kind of amazing how much productivity you can get out of an 18" diameter bed, as you will shortly see.

In the carrot bed above there are five tri-plantings of Bolero carrots. Unlike my surprisingly popular Four-Day Carrots video on YouTube, I did not plant those carrots in a triangle within 3" holes in black plastic. Instead, I planted them 2.5" apart in a triangle using the planting template found on page 88 on my Planet Whizbang Idea Book For Gardeners.  And I used the aluminum shade discs (as seen in the video) to bring the seed up quick (see page 89 of the book for details). Five of these tri-plantings fit just right in an 18" diameter bed.

A few days ago, I harvested two of these experimental carrot beds. Here's what they looked like before digging...

I mulched both beds with dried grass clippings. Here's a close up...

Here's the carrot yield from one of the beds...

And here is the yield from the other bed...

I trimmed the tops, put all the carrots in one of my Whizbang Garden Totes (plans for making your own totes are in my book), and weighed them...

I ended up with 9.5 pounds of carrots from only two 18" diameter beds. 

An 18" diameter bed has 254 square inches of area. Two of these beds = 508 square inches, which is 3.5 square feet. That amounts to 2.71 pounds of carrots per square foot. Isn't math fun!

Next year I will be expanding on this little idea. Instead of planting in 18" diameter beds, with tire sidewalls to hold the plastic in place, I'll be planting in square beds that measure 27" x 27." A 2" x 4" frame (outside dimensions at 30" x 30") will serve to hold the plastic from billowing up. And the frames will also accommodate hoops with netting or row cover, if needed.

The square beds will have 5 square feet of soil to grow in. I'll use the same carrot tri-spacing and mulching technique as I used in this year's 18" experimental beds. And, based on this year's results, I should get 13.5 pounds of beautiful carrots from each bed.

You'll be seeing and hearing more about gardening in these square mini-beds, arranged over a large sheet of  heavy black plastic, as I pursue this idea next year. There is logic behind this, and I'll explain it more when the time comes.

For now, the point I want to make is that small beds can be very satisfyingly productive. And they are so much easier to manage than a large garden bed.


  1. Hi Carrot,er Herrick,Funny, but I just this afternoon harvested the rest of my carrots that we hadn't eaten yet. Put them in totes buried in damp sand and not touching each other. Put four layers in each of three totes. I tried the clamp trick last year and it turned out okay except for the access problem. Tomorrow it is the parsnips turn! Will only take 1/2 of them and leave the rest to overwinter in the ground. Just now harvesting the cukes we planted in the High Tunnell about 6 weeks ago. Boston Pickling type and are they prolific! Have harvested 3 BUSHELS of Jalapeños over the course of the summer, sold at the local grocery store. The same with the California Wonder bell peppers. Got another peck sitting on the back steps waiting to be cored, diced and dehydrated tomorrow. OBTW my Oats are growing like weeds wherever I have planted them. First ones are about 12-18" tall. I am some glad that I read that post. Time to quit yakking. See Ya, Everett

    1. I received the carrot harvest picture you sent, Everett. Very nice. It was a good year for peppers here too.

  2. I don't know if you already follow her but grows everything in tractor tires. Lots and lots of them. They do that because of their very poor soil. Looks like they cut some of the upward sides out of each allowing them more growing room. They use drip irrigation in them.
    I tried growing rhubarb in a tire and I got lots of snails hiding under the flap of tire on top. My soil was not to the top so that might make the difference. Thanks for the new information. :) Sarah

    1. I've seen Partice Lewis' BIG tire gardens. I don't think I want to go there myself, but I like that they are trying new ideas and finding out a system that works for them. I can see where that top sidewall would be a perfect slug haven. I've gardened in tires but smaller ones and with both sidewalls cut out. I discuss this option in my Garden Idea book. Thanks for the comment.

  3. Aren't the square beds you are planning for next year basically mini-raised beds? Or is there more to it?

    1. They are not raised beds. About half of my garden is in permanent raised beds (30" wide by 15' long), but this large black plastic sheet experiment is on flat ground. My soil is sandy/silty. It drains well. A raised bed is not needed. I think it would be counterproductive to try and fill the frames with soil. I actually did that years ago.

  4. Elizabeth L. Johnson said,
    Oh, I see. The new experiment next year will have wooden square frames that hold the plastic down, instead of tire walls holding the black plastic down: that's why it is not a raised garden. Your carrots are gorgeous!

  5. Elizabeth L. Johnson said also,
    So you can use hoops in a wood frame where it's not so easy in a tire, and also your wood frames will be just as wide as your rows that are also 30 inches. I see! Great idea for control of crop and weeds, altogether!!

  6. What variety of carrots are these? I've grown St Vallery and Red Cored Chantennay but have not been satisfied with the taste of either. Thank you!

  7. Do you have any suggestions for ground squirrels? They help themselves to my root crops. I have cats and dogs and so far the squirrels just laugh at their efforts to keep them in check.

    Elizabeth (the one that lives in MT) :)

    1. Hi Elizabeth,

      The only thing I can think of to thwart the squirrels (and other varmints) is to cover the bed with netting. Oh, I just thought of another thing... you could put out some live traps, or other traps of some sort. Maybe someone else reading this has a good solution???