Tuesday, February 21, 2012

How to Grow Carrots

Name: Carrots

**Carrots do not grow well in very hot weather. Coolness keeps them from turning woody and brings out their best flavor. Thus, in warm areas, you should grow them during fall, winter, and spring seasons. In cooler climates, you can plant them in early spring, then more every few weeks until early August, so that there are carrots in the ground even in the winter.

**A few hard frosts makes the roots sweeter and tastier. Carrots are one of the few vegetables that you can actually leave growing straight through hard freezes of winter to dig up in early spring.

**The best site is sunny and well drained, though carrots will grow in partial shade.

**They grow happily in raised beds because it is the best way to maintain the fluffy soil that they like best.

**Carrots like a loose sandy loam the best of all. If your soil is a little heavy even after adding organic matter, simply grow the shorter carrot types. The soil has to be free of obstacles (stones, roots, clay lumps, etc.) in order to grow the long-rooted carrot types.

**Because carrots are a root crop, the soil should be low in nitrogen and higher in phosphorus and potassium. Use rock powders such as rock phosphate and greensand. The ideal pH is around 6.5.

**Carrot seeds are always sown directly into the garden. The first ones can go in about 3-4 weeks before the last frost date. Single rows work best because they are easier to mulch  and thus maintain the moist soil surface needed to thrive.

**Try to sow the seeds about 1 inch apart, though this is difficult because the seeds are so small. Cover the seeds with a half-inch of loose soil made with airy organic matter (such as vermiculite) because the seedlings will not come up through a hard dirt.

**When the seeds are in, water the bed thoroughly every day (twice if weather is sunny/dry) and possibly cover with a very thin layer of straw to shade it and keep it moist.

**One trick is to grow them together with a crop such as a fast-growing radish. The radish seedlings will emerge first and shade the slower-growing carrot seedlings. Radishes are also harvested before carrots produce their major root growth, so there is no harm done.

**Give carrots consistent and constant moisture, do not let their beds dry out. Dig in compost, peat moss, or well-rotted manure into the soil to help the soil stay moist. If you use manure, dig it in at least six months before planting the seeds.

**Mulching will also help keep the soil moist.

**Thin the carrots several times, the first time when they are 1-2 inches high, then later on whenever they are starting to look crowded. In the first thinning, eliminate any seedlings that are closer than half an inch to another seedling. Snipping them off with scissors is a good way to do this without damaging the seedlings still growing. For the second thinning, you pull up tiny carrots and you can eat them (try them in a salad).

**Though carrots need a lot of work in the beginning, once they are maturing, they take care of themselves. You only need to be concerned if there is a long drought (then water them) or if they need weeding.

**Protect the last crop in the winter with a straw mulch and you are repaid with very sweet and delicious carrots, since a few frosts make them even more delicious than usual.

**Because carrots are biennials, they normally go to seed in their second summer. In the early spring before this, they will start to flower. Make sure you pull the carrots before they flower because the energy of the plant will only be focused on the flower at this point and not the growth or taste of the carrot.

**Diseases can be avoided through crop rotation. You can also avoid problems with the carrot rust fly through crop rotation.

**Pull carrots up by grasping the shoulders and giving them a bit of a wiggle or twist as you pull them up. If they don’t come up easily, use a digging fork to help you.

**Once the carrots are out, cut off the stems right away, leaving an inch or two of green for looks. While carrot tops are beautiful, they will keep growing, which draws moisture and nourishment out of the edible roots and leaves them tasteless.

**Carrots keep a long time in storage, either in a root cellar or the fridge. You can freeze the small and tender ones, but most keep find in the cellar or fridge.

Companion Planting:
**Plant onions, shallots, chives and garlic nearby to keep carrot flies away. This only works if they are in the garden bed with the carrots. If you pick the onions/garlic/etc. before the carrots, the protection will be gone.

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