Carrots

Carrots are fabulous in the garden and practically grow themselves–once they receive their haircut, that is. It’s the only special consideration with these beauties, and I do mean beauties. Aren’t they gorgeous?

carrots-anyone

They are 14K beautiful, and taste just as decadent, particularly in cake form. Definitely check the recipe section for this one. It’s the lightest, fluffiest carrot cake you’ll ever eat!

light and fluffy carrot cake

Forget trying to sprout these indoors ahead of time. It’s unnecessary. Come spring, head to the garden and prepare their bed. If you live in a warmer climate like me, you can plant these fall through spring. LOVE that about Florida.

Carrots NEED light and fluffy soil more than any other plant in your vegetable garden due to the nature of their growth. They go straight down. Hard soil? No grow. Loose and easy? Fab carrots.

You can use a push-tiller, but if you don’t have one, the easiest way to create your carrot bed (or any bed for that matter), is with a shovel. I begin by stabbing it deep along the edge of my rows to create a starting point–depth-wise.

slice edges with shovel

Then, I take my shovel (you’ll notice mine is a flat-edged transfer shovel which works better for me) and stab it at a perpendicular angle to my border. This loosens the dirt very well.

stab shovel down row

I do it on both sides. BTW, you won’t need to do your regular work out on tilling days. Around my house, we call this an “aggressive gardening day” and no extra exercise is required. Just a suggestion!

stab shovel both sides

Finally, I smooth the row by dragging the backside of a metal rake down the length. You might need to do this a couple of times, depending on how much dirt you’re moving and how much leveling is required. Larger vegetables, like squash and tomatoes, don’t require smoothing before planting, because you can simply make “wells” around your seeds as you move down the row. Carrots, on the other hand, are quite tiny and will become lost in the massive “dirt waves.”

rake smooth for carrot planting

The best way to plant carrots is to create a shallow channel down the length of your bed. You can use your finger, and simply draw a line in the sand, or a shovel, as shown below.

drag shovel down row to make channel

Once you’ve created your channel, gather some of your tiny carrot seeds and deposit into your channel via your forefinger and thumb. Simply roll them between your fingers, dropping them into the soil.

sprinkle carrot seeds

Keep your hand moving–you don’t want overcrowding. You won’t be able to avoid a bit of crowding, but aim for a sprinkle line similar to this one.

line of carrot seeds

Next, I cover mine with compost which helps retain moisture for these tender babies. It also helps to remind me where they are when I’m watering. (Genius!)

cover carrot seeds with compost

As your sprouts emerge from the soil, they’ll look like tiny hairs. Great start! When they reach a few inches in height, take your garden shears (fine-pointed shears, or a pair of household scissors will do), and thin your line of sprouts. You’ll want to thin them down to about 2 inches apart. This way, they’ll have plenty of room to grow and spread. If you don’t thin them out enough, you’ll be saddened to discover long, skinny carrots upon harvest. So sad. Don’t let this happen to you. Trim your girls and they will be good to you.

kids found a carrot ready for harvest

Carrots are light feeders for the most part, though they do enjoy their nitrogen, so be sure to include a healthy dose of worm or cow poop. Your plants will thank you!

carrot finally ready!

To harvest, wait until your greens are lush and bushy, give them 2 months or so, and brush the soil away from their tops–if they haven’t already begin to pop from the soil. If they look to be of good size, gently loosen the soil around your carrot and pull.

Problems: Other than too-dense soil, nematodes are pesky critters who like to devour carrots. You’ll see their tell-tale signs upon harvest–ugly nodules over the length of your carrots. ICK. Control these beasts and many others with Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). p.s. you can still eat your ugly carrots–just shave the yucky parts off. 🙂

hairy carrots

Good Companions: Beans, Brussels, onions, peas, peppers, tomatoes.

Bad Companions: Celery, parsnip. Caution: tomatoes might stunt your carrot growth but they’ll still taste good!

Health Benefits: We all know carrots are good for the eyes, improving night vision and working to reduce the risk of macular degeneration, but did you know they help fight cancer? In addition to the famous beta-carotene, carrots have another antioxidant, alpha-carotene. Researchers have found that lung cancer occurred more often in men with low levels of alpha-carotene than their counterparts with higher intake. And if you don’t like them raw, cooking carrots makes the beta-carotene easier for your body to absorb. Food for thought!

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