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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?

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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.

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