Phot by ccharmon under the Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0.
Photo by WordRidden under the Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0.
One of my favorite gardening memories is the morning that my 3-year-old son wrapped his little hands around some greens in our garden and tugged. A few seconds later up popped — you guessed it — a carrot. You and I would not have been surprised to see this. But for him, it was the moment of truth.
That cool, spring morning when the orange root slid out of the ground, he held it up like a prize and said “Look! It’s a carrot!” Although he had helped me plant the seeds, water the bed, and watch as frilly green leaves pushed their way through the soil, he still wasn’t convinced that we were growing carrots. The day that this hidden treasure was dangling from his hand — this kid became a believer.
Carrot Growing Tip #1 — Looking back, my son most likely forgot what we had even planted as carrot seeds seem to take forever to germinate (sometimes 15-17 days). Some gardeners claim that baby carrot tops show up in a week when directly sown into the garden.
I’m not buying it.
For some reason they germinate much later than any other vegetable I’ve ever grown. With the exception of peppers; but that’s only if you insist on planting pepper seeds before the soil warms up. I consider that to be the gardener’s error as opposed to slow seeds.
Anyway, whether I plant them in late summer for a fall/early winter harvest or late winter for a spring one, my carrots have zero sense of urgency and seem to lollygag along. Which is fine as long as you know what to expect, because these sweet dudes are worth the wait.
(I do realize having said that, someone will comment that their carrots shoot up with lightening speed. I fully accept that the carrot species as a whole might just messing with my head. It wouldn’t be the first time.)
Carrot Growing Tip #2 — The trick to making sure that the carrot seeds germinate at all is to keep them moist after their planted. I didn’t say make them moist, I said keep them moist. Don’t get those teeny-tiny seeds all wet on day one just to let them dehydrate on day three and then water them on day six, etc. No bueno. Water them everyday until they rear their teeny little heads if you have to.
Carrot Growing Tip #3 — Plant them in loose, friable soil. Loose and friable soil looks rich, crumbly, and fluffy. Hard, compacted soils don’t leave room for good root development, which is, after all the part that we’re after in the first place. Containers and raised garden beds are great for growing carrots because we typically the add soil mix ourselves. If you have decent soil that’s on the clay-ish side, plant a ball variety that doesn’t need a lot of soil depth such as ‘Romeo’ ‘Golden Ball’ or ‘Oxheart.’
Carrot Growing Tip #4 —Once the little carrot greens are a couple of inches tall, do them a favor and thin them out. Using a small pair of scissors, just snip off some heads until they’re spaced 2″ or more apart from each other. You’re going to fight it, but it needs to be done.
Carrot Growing Tip #5 — This is not a hard-and-fast rule, but I always start my carrot seeds directly into the garden bed outdoors. They really aren’t thrilled about having their roots disturbed while they’re trying to get a grip on growing. This isn’t to ssay that some people don’t start them indoors and transplant them successfully. But it’s extremely hard to place the miniscule seeds far enough apart so that you’re not untangling roots during transplanting. It’s all just a tedious task in my opinion. So I plant the seeds where they’ll grow until harvest day.