I finally decided to harvest my carrots yesterday. A frost is predicted for this weekend, so I wanted to get them out of the ground, just in case (even though they are supposed to be cold hardy).
This year I planted our carrots in a raised bed. If you remember, last year I tried planting them in rows, without much success. They definitely did much better this time around. I did get more of a harvest in the raised bed. Unfortunately though, the carrots were still really small.
I think my mistake was in the variety I chose- Scarlet Nantes. They are known to be small, but are supposed to be very sweet. Next Spring I’ll plant a larger variety. Right now, for us, quantity is better than quality! I’d rather have larger carrots that aren’t quite as sweet, than tiny ones that taste a little better.
Here’s this year’s harvest! Not a substantial amount by any means, but at least a step in the right direction. We are learning, and improving, so that’s encouraging!
I definitely learned that thinning carrots is a must. If you do not thin them to an inch or two apart, you will only end up with tiny, scraggly roots and no carrot.
From start to finish, here’s what I did:
The raised bed was filled with 12 inches of “compost” from a local landscaping business. It looked more like mulch than good planting material to me. Although I wasn’t impressed with the delivery, I planted in it. It was looser than the red clay dirt we tried to sew our crops in last year, so I was hopeful.
In Spring I direct sowed the carrot seeds. (Meaning, I did not start plants, or buy plants, but planted the seeds directly into the bed. This really is the only way to grow carrots, they don’t transplant well.) Carrot seeds are extremely tiny, so it’s hard to try spacing them out. Definitely don’t try planting them in a breeze!
I made a little trench in the dirt using my finger, and ran it the length of the bed, about 1/4″ deep. Then I slowly sprinkled the seeds into the groove, trying to space them out the best I could. When I’d finished planting the row, I covered it back over with loose dirt.
I marked my rows so that I knew where to expect growth to emerge. Then I watered them well. I watered a little every day for the first few days, then a couple of times a week, if it hadn’t rained.
Some people recommend placing a board over the row until the seedlings emerge, but I didn’t try this this time around.
Once the tops were well established, I thinned the carrots to between 1-2″ apart. When weeds grew up around them, I used scissors to trim them below the surface of the soil. You cannot pull weeds from among the carrots without uprooting your precious harvest as well.
To check the progress of their growth, you can gently brush the dirt away from the top of the carrots to see how thick around it is. Sometimes this can be misleading though. Some of my carrots were very thin at the top, but got very fat underneath the surface of the soil. I decided just to let them grow until danger of frost. I do wonder if the quality of taste is effected by how long the carrots are left to grow.
Anyways, now that they are all pulled up (a job the kids thoroughly enjoyed helping with!), and scrubbed clean, I have to decide what to do with them. I think I’d like to experiment with dehydrating the carrots for later use in soups and stews. Of course, we’ll enjoy some fresh as well!
I’m so anxious for Spring again already! There’s SO much more I want to plant next year.
*For more inspiration and carrot growing tips, check out My 2011 Carrot Harvest! What progress!