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Kitchen Gardening | Sowing Carrots in your vegetable garden

by FigTree

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Adding carrots to your kitchen garden is an easy way to add some crunch to your salads and is a vitamin-rich vegetable that is loved by kids and adults alike!

While the homely roots of carrots may lack the élan of arugula or radicchio, they make a vitamin-rich contribution to everything from cakes to soup. As an early crop, carrots flourish right through the lingering cold spells that play havoc with the first sowing of such crops as flageolet beans. If mulched with several inches of straw, a late crop of carrots will stay sweet and crisp in the ground until the arrival of the new year. Carrots are easy to grow, too—if you start them off right. The care you take at planting time will do much to determine the success or failure of this worthy root crop.

 

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1. PREPARING THE BED
In the matter of soil, carrots are uncompromising. If the growing root should meet a pebble or a big, hard clump of earth, it will branch or fork. Likewise, if the root should meet the clay or hardpan, it may stop growing. And although carrots need plenty of moisture, good drainage is essential. If the soil remains perpetually soggy, the roots develop black spots, which decay into unappetizing cavities.

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Work the soil well to a depth of at least 10 inches, turning it with a spading fork, breaking up any clumps, and removing all stones and pebbles larger than an inch in diameter. Add a couple of inches of compost to lighten a clay soil and improve its drainage. This is good medicine for sandy soil as well, since the compost boosts fertility while enhancing the sand’s ability to retain moisture.

 

2. FERTILIZING
Carrots are also particular about fertilizer. Too much nitrogen brings on branching and hairy, fibrous roots. For that reason, nitrogen-rich animal manures are a poor choice for this crop. Instead, sprinkle a thin layer of wood ashes over the soil or apply a commercial 5-10-10 fertilizer at the rate of five pounds per 100 square feet. Both of these downplay the nitrogen while furnishing the potassium and phosphorus that root crops relish. Work the fertilizer in to a depth of four inches with your spading fork, then rake the bed smooth.

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3. SOWING THE SEED
Timing is not critical when planting carrots, for they’ll grow right through the summer in all but the hottest parts of the country. But a cool-weather sowing in early spring does protect them from the larvae of the carrot rust fly, which hatch in warm weather and burrow into the roots.

Stretch a string along the garden bed to mark the row, then lay a board alongside it so that you can step into the bed without compacting the prepared soil. Dig a furrow (a drill, in gardener’s jargon) three-quarters of an inch deep along the string, and line the bottom with a quarter-inch layer of sifted compost. Carrot seed is very fine and therefore difficult to handle, so mix it with clean builder’s sand for easier sowing. Sift a fine trail of the seed/sand mixture along the furrow, trying to space the seeds about a half-inch apart. You might sow a few radish seeds among the carrots while you’re at it. Unlike carrots, which may take three weeks to sprout in cool weather, radishes come up almost overnight, marking the row so that you won’t accidentally run a hoe across it before the carrots emerge. By the time the radishes are ready to harvest, the carrots will be ready for thinning; pulling the one crop will help to thin the other. Once you have sown the seeds, cover the drill with sifted compost.

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4. WATERING AND MULCHING
Soak the planted furrow with a fine shower of water, then cover it with a strip of clear plastic. This polyethylene mulch serves two purposes: it keeps the soil evenly moist and warms it by trapping sunlight. Carrot seed germinates in soils as cold as 45 degrees Fahrenheit but performs best in warmer soils; 80 degrees is ideal. Inspect the bed every morning, and as soon as you see any seedlings poking up through the soil, remove the plastic. If the plastic is left in place after the young plants emerge, it will cook your carrots before they have a chance to take root.

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  A final tip: If your soil is heavy, plant shorter varieties such as ‘Royal Chantenay,’ which makes a stubby root five inches long, or even a beet -shaped carrot such as ‘Kundulus.’

Tags

sowing carrots, kitchen gardening, Carrots, vegetable gardening

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