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Tips for Growing Great Carrots

October 4th, 2011

Yesterday, some readers asked if I had any tips for growing great carrots, so I thought I’d share a few things that work well for me. I’m by no means an expert carrot grower and sometimes things work well in one place and not in another. If you’ve had difficulties growing carrots, keep trying new varieties and different methods, keep amending your soil, eventually you’ll find a variety that works for you. Here are a few tips I’ve learned.

Carrots like loose rich soil, preferably a little sandy, and soil that’s been worked quite deeply. I find that they work best when planted where I’ve grown something like potatoes or sweet potatoes because the soil has been worked up well. Having loose sandy soil, will allow you to grow long slender straight carrots. If you have heavy soil, like I do here at Chiot’s Run, try growing shorter round varieties like Oxheart and Parisienne while you spend time amending and loosening the soil. Remove as all rocks and debris, because carrots will form “legs” when they hit a rock. If you’ve ever seen a carrot that looks like a pair of pants you know what I mean.

Carrot seeds take a while to germinate and they like even moisture during the process. This can be a bit of a chore since they are very small and are sowed very close to the surface where the soil dries out quicker. You can water your carrots twice a day to keep the top of the soil damp. That can be time consuming, so I usually cover them with a layer of burlap to hold the moisture. I only have to water them every couple days and this works beautifully for me. Make sure you check under the burlap every day for germination, at the first green sprout, remove the burlap and water daily until they have all sprouted.

Carrot seeds like to be planted close to the surface of the soil, the general rule: plant one and a half to two times the width of the seed. When I plant carrot seeds I usually sprinkle them on top of the soil and cover them with fine vermiculite, which holds moisture, thus it helps with germination rates.

I usually plant one big wide row of carrots four feet wide and about ten feet long. I use my square foot gardening template that Mr Chiots made for me, sprinkling one or two seeds in each hole, the cover with vermiculite. This method works really well for me because I know exactly where each carrot seed should be and I can pull any weeds sprouting outside the vermiculite. This way I do not have to thin the carrots since usually only one or two carrots germinates in each spot. I’ve also read that carrots do better when slightly crowded, so this close planting should make your patch more productive. Planting in one wide row also saves garden space as compared to having several long rows with paths in between then.

As with all root vegetables, carrots appreciate a lot of phosphorus in the soil. As you should do with onions, garlic, potatoes and other root vegetables, give them a healthy dose of bone meal when you work up the soil at planting time. An occasional watering with a light fish/seasweed emulsion like Neptune’s Harvest or Dr. Earth Liquid Fertilizer¬†will also help them size up and grow beautifully, especially if your soil tends to be on the lean side.

Make sure you do not plant carrots where you had sod growing the previous year, they do not take kindly to this. For even greater success You can also plant mustard as a cover crop in the area you are planning to plant your carrots. Mustard does a wonderful job mitigating problems for root vegetables. I’m hoping that soon, the soil here at Chiot’s Run will be amended enough and cleared of stones so I can grow a nice crop of carrots here. Until then they’ll have a spot in the potager that I share with my mom.

Any great tips & tricks you want to share about how to grow carrots more successfully?

Carrots in the Garden

October 3rd, 2011

I’ve grown carrots in the garden almost every year. Here at Chiot’s Run they aren’t very fond of the heavy lean soil and thus they don’t get very large. As a result I generally grow the small round variety. In my mom’s garden however, she’s spent years amending the soil and it’s now a deep rich loam that grows some of the most beautiful carrots you’ve ever seen.

We planted these carrots at the end of June and have been waiting for them to size up. Of course you can start picking carrots as soon as they form small roots, but we prefer to let ours mature and harvest them as a fall and winter vegetable. Leaving them in the ground until after the weather turns cold seems to make them sweeter.

A great many different varieties of carrots were planted, as I finished off all the seed packets that were in my seed box. I did have a few new packs of ‘King Midas’ and ‘Sunshine Mix’ from Renee’s Garden, so there are a good number of those in the 4 x 10 foot row of carrots.

Another benefit of growing carrots is that you don’t have to harvest them all right away. You can leave them in the ground and harvest them as needed, especially if you planted them later in the summer so they mature in fall. Last year we harvested the last of our carrots in January right before the ground was fully frozen. It’s like they store themselves. We will dig these before we put the garden to bed, and they’ll be stored in the fridge or maybe in a box of sand in the garage, where they’ll stay sweet and crunchy for quite a while.

When I have more garden space I’d like to start growing both a spring and a fall crop of carrots. They’re one of my favorite root vegetables, especially when roasted, so I’d love having them on my table for more months of the year. I really appreciate that they don’t need much processing to stay fresh in storage, saving me precious time. Along with carrots, I hope to grow a wider variety root vegetables in my garden each year including celeriac, parsnips, rutabagas, and more.

What’s your favorite root vegetable? Do you have a kind of root vegetable to recommend?

Taste Testing Carrots

January 6th, 2011

On Tuesday, Mr Chiots and I tried one of each of those carrots that I harvested on Monday. It was very interesting to be able to try so many different kinds at once. The only problem was that it was difficult to tell which was which on some of them, some of my labels had disappeared from the garden, and we didn’t keep them all separate at harvest. So I was going on shape and size based on the description on the seed packets. *note to self* I must find a better labeling pen

The ‘Muscade’ carrots were probably the best when it came to size of carrots and uniformity, they did very well. They’re a shorter fatter carrot, which are the kinds I like. The ‘Atomic Purple’ did well for size also as did one one yellow variety. The best tasting ones were probably the ‘Napli’ I grew (these are the variety Eliot Coleman calls “sugar carrots”). If you like those little baby carrots from the store you’ll love ‘Short n Sweet’ as they taste exactly the same, they’re small, sweet and very crunchy and had a great texture. The ‘Little Finger’ carrots also were great, nice and orange and with great texture.

The white ones we didn’t like much at all, and one of the yellow varieties didn’t do so well in the cold weather as the texture was off. I grew both ‘Yellowstone’ and ‘Amarillo Yellow’, I’m not sure which was which at harvest. I won’t give them the thumbs down because they might be very delicious if grown and harvested in warmer weather. I have a few seeds left so they’ll be sown this spring and we’ll test again then. I also wasn’t super impressed with ‘Chantenay Red Core’ the carrots didn’t size up as well as the other varieties and they were more difficult to peel because they were highly textured on the outside. Perhaps these are also more of a warm weather carrot.

I still have seeds left for most of these varieties so I’ll grow them again and keep better track and do a better break down for you in 6 months or so. For my fall planting I’ll definitely narrow it down to 2-3 varieties. I think trying new carrots is more for the spring/summer growing season.

Have you found a type of carrot that works well in your climate/soil/garden? Do any of you have a great labeling pen you’d like to recommend that will go the distance in the harsh weather?

The Fall Garden at My Mom’s

September 30th, 2010

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you know I grow some things with my mom in her garden. The majority of my potatoes were planted there this year as were most of my peas, sweet potatoes and a few tomatoes. When we harvested all those potatoes, we replaced them with fall crops including: carrots (10 varieties), leeks, cabbage, broccoli, beets, and more peas. When we went on the field trip last Friday I made sure to get a few photos of the fall garden so you could see the progress.

The leeks are still very small, I’m hoping they’ll size up in time. I may need to adjust my seeding time next summer depending on how these do. I guess we can harvest baby leeks if needed.

We planted 10 different varieties of carrots in all colors shapes and sizes. We had different germination rates on the different carrots. It should be interesting to see how these do.

We planted 3 varieties of beets, Cylinder beets, golden beets, and Detroit beets. The ‘Golden’ Beets didn’t germinate well, so we’re considering replacing them with some ‘Bull’s Blood’ beets.

The peas are doing well, we planted 4 different varieties and one of them is thriving, unfortunately we forgot to write down the name of this variety. We also planted ‘Wando’ and ‘Alaska’ peas but neither had great germination. I’m thinking they must not like the warm soil when planted in August. We should get a decent crop of peas from our fall crop.

The fall broccoli, cabbage and Brussels sprouts are doing well. We’re hoping to have a nice crop of sprouts for Thanksgiving. I’ll keep you updated on how all my fall crops do. Since this is only my second year growing fall/winter crops it’s certainly an experiment. In a few years I should have a better grasp on planting times and the difference in growing patterns with the reduced sunlight in the fall.

Any exciting crops growing your fall garden?

Beautiful Parisienne Carrots

July 28th, 2010

I’ve mentioned before that one of the reasons I grow food in is because of all of the interesting varieties of vegetables that you can’t get at the store. When I saw these Parisienne Carrots from Baker Creek I just had to grow them. Carrots don’t do all that well here, our soil is heavy and compacted, lacking a lot of humus. Since these carrots grow fat and wide instead of long and deep, they do well in heavier soils.

I think these carrots weren’t very fond the hot dry weather we’ve been having since this particular variety started to die back. I dug the ones that had died back and left the rest to size up. I’m quite happy with these though, what beautiful little carrots. I haven’t tasted on yet (I should have yesterday), but I have yet to meet a carrot I don’t like. I also planted a few other varieties of carrot this spring: ‘Blance a Collet Vert’, ‘St Valery’, ‘Short n Sweet’, and ‘Oxheart’.

Sure, they’re small, but that’s normal in my gardens. In a few years after adding lots of manure I should be able to grow carrots and onions of reputable size. Until then I’ll be happy with these little rolly polly beauties. These will be wonderful with some tiny potatoes and pearl onions baked up with one of Mr Chiot’s venison roasts. A perfect homegrown meal!

Do you grow carrots in your gardens? Every tried round ones?

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.