By E. VinjeTweet
Crunchy and sweet, growing carrots is easy! A wonderful source of Vitamin A and anti-oxidants, they provide color and nutrition to a gardeners diet. Carrots grow best in cool temperatures (between 60-70˚F) and may be planted as soon as the soil can be worked in early spring.
Select a garden site in full sun or very light partial shade and prepare the soil with ample amounts of mature organic compost. Carrots will reach perfection only when planted in deep, good-textured soil that is free of stones and debris. Plant the long varieties only if you can provide this type of soil. Choose shorter varieties if your soil is heavy or stony.
How to Plant:
Sow carrot seed in early spring — 2 weeks before your last frost date — or fall — 10 weeks before your first frost date — thickly in rows 1 foot apart. Or broadcast seeds in 1 -1-1/2 inch wide raised beds. When tops are 1-2 inches high, thin individual plants to 1-2 inches apart. Thin again when they begin to crowd. Cover crowns that push through the soil with a layer of mulch to prevent carrots from becoming green or bitter. Carrots benefit from applications of compost tea from emergence until the tops are 5-8 inches high.
Like all root crops, carrots require plenty of potassium for healthy growth. Excessive nitrogen or uneven soil moisture will cause forking and split roots.
Tip: Greensand is an organic soil amendment of the highest quality. Use to supply potassium, an essential nutrient that promotes overall plant hardiness and disease resistance, along with iron, magnesium, silica and as many as 30 other trace minerals. Greensand may also be used to loosen heavy, clay soils.
Harvest at finger size for best texture and flavor. Watering prior to harvest makes pulling easier. Extend their storage life by cutting off all but 1 inch of the leaves and stem. Allow 50 to 95 days from seed to harvest.
Insects and Diseases:
To prevent problems with diseases and insects, do not plant where carrots or parsley has grown for three years. Rotted or dwarfed plants may be due to the Carrot Rust Fly. The maggots of the fly are often found chewing on the roots. If your carrot plants are stunted and the leaves are yellow, suspect nematodes. Unlike Beneficial Nematodes, these microscopic pests attack the roots of the plant, causing galls (swelling) to develop. Protect emerging seedlings from birds and snails. If seedlings topple over, suspect damping off. Check for watery soft rot on the stem at the soil line.
Tip: One of the easiest methods to protect garden crops from flying insects is the floating row cover. Simply cover loosely over seed beds to allow plenty of slack for plant growth. Garden staples or rocks can be used to secure the fabric to the ground.
Seed Saving Instructions:
Biennial. Carrots will cross-pollinate, so isolate 1/4 mile from other carrots the second year when going to seed. Harvest in the fall before a hard frost. Trim the tops to 1 inch and store roots in slightly damp sawdust, sand or leaves in a root cellar over the winter. Replant in the spring and harvest seed heads when dry.