Thursday, May 1, 2014

Growing Carrots {Watch My Garden Grow Series}

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Carrots is one of those foods that I thought would be super easy--and it usually is. But as easy as it is, we have had some funny problems with carrots. One year, we had our carrots "stolen" from us by a rodent of some sort--literally like how you used to see in those cartoons. The whole row got taken out. They were just gone. My grandpa told me if a rodent gets lined up with the row just right, they literally do go down the row and take each and every carrot. 

I'm looking at you, Bugs.

image source
What you need:
  • Soil. Carrots prefer loose soil to grow in--they like sandy over clay. I have clay soil at this house and they are harder to grow here than they were at my previous house (which happened to have perfect soil. Perfect).
  • Seeds. I like the variety "Tendersweet."
  • Water
Also handy:
  • A hand shovel. This isn't necessary since carrots aren't planted deep in the soil.
When to plant:
These are planted later than the peas, lettuce, spinach, and onions. Plant these 2-3 weeks after you planted those other things. Where I live, this is usually mid to late April. carrots do not germinate as well when it is 80 degrees or above. You can space your planting out if you like and plant every four weeks or so. This will make it so you have carrots throughout the season instead of all at once. 

Where to plant:
Carrots like sun. Again, they like loose dirt. 

How to plant:
  1. Prep the soil. Make sure it is loose. Again, we till the garden in the spring. If your soil is hard, each Fall, put compost in the garden and till it in. Over the years, your soil will get better and better.
  2. Mark the rows where you want your carrots to be. 
  3. Flatten rows with a landscaping rake if desired.
  4. Plant carrots about 1/4 inch deep. Carrot seeds are so small, they are one of those seeds I will dig a trench for and just sprinkle them down the trench and cover them up.

    If your soil gets hard on top once wet, it is wise to place the carrots on top of your soil and then cover the seeds with compost or a soft soil. This allows the leaves of the carrots to break through the soil. 
  5. Water after planting. Carrots should emerge after 14-21 days. 
How to care for carrots:
  • Again, germination happens about 14-21 days after planting.
  • Once the leaves are a couple of inches high, I thin the carrots. You want about 3 inches between each plant. It is so painful to thin your plants. I find carrots especially painful because they look like the real deal when you thin them. Trust me--thin the carrots. It helps them grow better.
  • When watering, you want to water regularly. Do not over water. When you over-water your carrots, the carrot will get little hairs all over it. It can also cause the carrot to split into two. If you see that problem when you harvest, you know you over-watered that year. We have had a couple of really wet years over the last 5 and the carrots really do split. You can't really do much about it when it is mother nature. The forking can also happen if your soil is heavy. And if the forking happens, it isn't a huge problem. They are still usable. But if you don't keep your watering consistent, it can cause the carrots to be bitter, which isn't what you want. 
  • It is helpful to put some sort of mulch around the carrot plants. This helps keep moisture even.
How to harvest carrots:
  • Harvest when the carrot is the size you want it to be. This is often a trial and error situation. You pull one up and see if it is the size you want. They are usually ready 70-100 days after you plant them. I always mark on my calendar the date I should check the different foods in my garden. I am paranoid about my carrots after losing them one year. 
  • The biggest problem with harvesting carrots is pulling them up and the green comes off and the carrot stays behind. It is like weeding a plant with a giant root. You want to loosen up the dirt around the root and then work it out. I like to harvest after a watering so the dirt is softer (just like how I like to weed).
  • Once you have them up, wash them. We give our kids the vegetable brush and the hose in the backyard and they clean the carrots. We then store in the fridge. You can also keep them in the ground and cover them with mulch and harvest all winter as needed. I don't dare do this because of those pesky rabbits (actually, I think it is voles, but there isn't a cute cartoon about voles). I just use them up before they go bad. And the kids LOVE to eat them with the greenery still attached. 


Michael and Yvonne said...

we are doing our first ever garden now, yippee! What i find interesting is it seems you do all yours from seeds (aside from onions it seemed). Do you not get below freezing/frost so much earlier? Up in MI the general rule i heard is to not plant til Memorial weekend as that's the only "safe" time to not have a freeze. so unless you start growing them from seeds inside (and needing supplies and room for that) it seems most people buy seedlings instead of seeds. obviously seeds are way cheaper and i'd prefer that but if you only plant after Memorial Day the growing season is too short supposedly. (This is all hear se,etc). Anyways i am surprised a bit as i thought your area still had the cold nights and snow pretty wasn't it just snowing at your daughter's soccer game? Do you protect them somehow? i know you get very hot there so you want to beat those temps in the summer but I thought your ground was frozen a while. We didn't even have all our snow melt til April/mid april!
Anyways we'll see how our garden grows. We're excited!

Valerie Plowman said...

I plant most things from seed.

The things I have talked about are still very cold tolerant. Peas, spinach, and lettuce can really easily handle temps in the high 20s. Onions usually can, but a really cold snap can kill them. We have been in the 20s at night for the last few weeks and nothing has been damaged.

Carrots are a bit more sensitive, but still handle the cold temps rather well.

There are plants that freeze really easily, and with those I use a wall of water initially. I currently buy tomatoes and most pepper plants because of the length of time it takes from germination to production. If I want to start inside, I would likely need some growing lights inside (or a greenhouse). But I start things like cantaloupe, cucumber, watermelon, pumpkins, and zucchini from seed outside in a wall of water and they do great! Those are all very sensitive.

You could start tomatoes outside in a wall of water, also, but I will often get "volunteers" which are plants that are growing from seeds that fell the year before from your plants and then I don't know which is the real plant and which is the volunteer.Volunteers don't produce fruit. So right now I do plants. I bought 9 tomato plants and 3 pepper plants yesterday for 17 dollars, so it isn't too bad.

Some things, like carrots, really can't be transplanted, so I would be surprised if people transplant those in MI. Most others can be, but not so much carrots.


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