Dig It recently went underground to discover the stars of the root veggie family.
Carrots: Yes, Bugs Bunny was a genius…
If you’re only aware of the orange variety, you’re in for an awakening of rainbowed proportions. Yellows, whites, purples, reds, and other colorful carrots can be planted in your garden. Numerous seed companies like the Asheville-based Sow True Seed offer carrots offer beyond the Clemson color.
The first rule for carrots: don’t start seeds inside. They do not like to be transplanted. Sow directly into the garden when the climate is agreeable. Consult the NC State spring planting guide or the Farmer’s Almanac for planting times in your region. Carrots will germinate in full sun with temps ranging from 50F-80F.
Plant seeds 1/2″ deep and 1/2″ apart in rows 12″ to 24″ apart. Be patient, carrots can take anywhere from 1 to 3 weeks to break ground. Uneven germination is common and can be alleviated with light watering if the rows are dried out. You can mark the rows either by a loose application of sand or even a piece of string stretched along the row and tied at both ends.
Some farmers even plant radishes in the rows, since they break ground quickly and can mark the carrot rows. Make sure to thin out and/or harvest the radishes before they compete with the carrots.
Once the carrots are almost two inches tall, make sure to thin them out to from one to four inches (depending on how large you want your carrot root to be). Side dress with a good compost like McEnroe to keep in moisture and prevent exposed roots from becoming bitter. A well tilled garden or a great raised bed recipe is crucial for healthy root growth. Rocks or compact clay can stunt a carrot and make a grower shake his/her fist.
A good standard granular fertilizer like a McGeary 5-3-4 will benefit the carrots and should be incorporated in at least a week before sowing. Carrots love phosphorous and potassium, so an extra addition of something like bone meal (phosphorus) and green sand (potassium) will make your colorful roots happy. If you really want to tweak your garden, get a soil test from your local ag extension office. This will help gauge exactly what to put in the plot for the plant’s needs.
Once again, patience will be pivotal since harvest time is usually 60 t0 80 day (depending on the variety). Since all sizes of carrots are edible (although some types will develop a woody, fibrous middle if left in too long), they can be slowly harvested. Overwintering (with fall planted carrots) is possible even when the tops have succumbed to freeze. Just cover with a good amount of leaves and/or dirt, and by next spring you may have a surprise crop waiting for a pull.
To be continued:
Next up? Radishes: making all growers look like geniuses.