Mainstay Vegetables: Carrots

Wendy S. Delmater
By Wendy S. Delmater on Fri, Aug 2, 2013 - 9:33am

These are some of the baby carrots I put in a stir fry. We had bigger ones, but the rest were eaten before I took this photo! Fresh carrots from your garden have a lot more nutients than the ones you get in the store. That must be why they taste so fantastic. My husband calls the taste our our garden carrots, "A carrot sledgehammer!" Vegetable candy though they are, they are also beautiful, adding color to any dish they are in.

Carrots are a wonderful addition to any vegetable garden. Here is my experience with them. Please, please add your own experinces with carrots in your climate or region.

First consideration: which kinds of carrots should you grow? In our case, since we had lots of tree roots on the property with a mole problem, most of our carrots were going in raised beds with hardware cloth underneath. We planned on making the beds taller, eventually, but started with them six-inches deep. So we were limited to half-longs. (In NY I grew full-sized Imperator (Tendersweet) carrots in traditional row gardening.) We chose Danvers half-longs and Scarlet Nantes for the traised beds. We have since done a French double-dig in a mole-and tree-root free area and planted that with carrots. Double-digging was not necessary on the south shore of Long Island, NY--it was all sand--but here ib the Carolina midlands we have a hard clay pan at 6" and any vegtable roots hit that like a wall. Oh, and try to keep rocks out of the soil carrots grow in; they can cause carrots to grow in strange shapes to go around them. And bear in mind that carrots need full sun.

The also need very rich soil. Back in NY I had the same experience as here in South Carolina: carrots are heavy feeders and need fertilized. In NY we did that with aged chicken manure. Here in SC we have horse manue availble from a local farm and rabbit pellets from a neighbor. Or you could use a commerical ferilizer like Miracle Gro. (In a pinch 1 part urine mixed with 20-parts water will work, but we are not that desperate!) The main thing is to give them some nitrogen, both in the initial soil and as they grow. Our carrots grew poorly until we'd built up our soil. Poor soil also allows things like nematodes, microscopic  flatworms in that can cause nodules on your carrot roots and much smaller carrots. That's about the only disease my carrots have ever had. Carrots are tough.

At first I had a problem with planting the tiny tiny seeds until a friend of mine suggested a trick: mix the seeds with sand so they are more dispersed.  I discovered that when they do clump together because seeds were planted too close to each other, rather than just thin the seedlings like I did in NY, I could transplant them. Carrots transplant beautifully. This greatly increased our yields. Not that we start them indoors and transplant them to the beds: our seed-starting space is allocated to more fragile crops. As I said, carrots are tough, and they can handle cool weather. Sow them directly into the soil.

But in cool weather carrots can take three weeks to sprout. So another way to increase your yields is to interplant fast-growing radishes. I use cherry belle red radishes for this purpose. When I harvest the radishes it's time to thin and transplant the carrots, and cover their bed with mulch (in our area, we use pine straw as it is free and it keeps the cats from using the raised bed as a litter box).

When you harvest them don't throw out all of the greens! These are nice in salads, but have a rather strong parsley taste (the same family), so use them sparingly. Carrot greens are also great in soups, but again use them sparingly or they can overpower your other vegetables. And when you use smaller carrots you can leave part of the tops on them as I have shown in the picture. Carrot greens do not dry well, since the dried stems get sharp like needles, so they are only good as a fresh parsley substitute.

Carrots are also a good choice for overwintering in zone 8 and above. We put pine straw mulch over ours and pull as needed; this far south it's the closest thing to a root cellar we've found. We also let a few carrot plants grow a second year, to harvest the seeds but not the woody, second-year carrots (yuck). In northern climates you could put your carrots in a cold frame to either harvest or let grow for seeds.


1 Comment

Magnum03's picture
Status: Bronze Member (Offline)
Joined: Dec 14 2012
Posts: 30
More seeds

I just read, that you can plant the carrot tops, back in the soil. They wont grow a new carrot, but they will flower and produce seeds for your next season.

I havn't tried this yet, but I can't see why it shouldnt work.

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