How is your garden doing? Are you harvesting baby carrots yet?
Carrots are one of the first items I plant in the early spring.
|a painting I did of one of my favorite varieties of carrots,|
Find the sandiest part of your garden to plant your carrots in. At the farm I plant rows of carrots in several blocks measuring about 20' by 20' leaving 6 inches between the rows. This allows you to have a bit of room to step when harvesting. Using a hoe, I make a small trench and sprinkle in the seed, covering with just a thin layer of soil. Mist carefully with water until well soaked then add fresh grass clippings scattered lightly over the top. I found the clippings were the best mulch to use as they weren't to heavy and did not block the sunlight, yet helped keep in the needed moisture to allow the seed to germinate. Keep moist for 3 weeks the seeds take quite a while to germinate, add more grass clippings if needed.
The carrots pictured above are planted in soil that is heavy clay. Lots of organic matter (goat manure, old hay and compost) was tilled into the soil before planting. I also mounded the bed by shoveling the pathways out and placing the dirt in the wide row. You will want your soil to be loose to a depth of at lease 10 inches. If your soil is heavy and compact you will not get the carrots to grow long and straight.
Once your carrots are sprouted and the stems are about an inch high I thin the bed by running a garden rake lightly over the rows. I do not weed until the carrots tops are about 4 inches high. The weeds are pulled by hand and laid in the rows for a green manure (above picture) and then the bed is covered with 2 or 3 inches of old hay or straw.
. As the carrots mature I continue to thin the baby carrots to sell at market. Remember to water well. By late summer the carrots are sufficiently thinned enough to allow for good root development before winter sets in.
|These carrots average about 10 inches in length|
If your winters are mild just leave them in the ground. Cover with old straw bales and simply move the bale and dig out the carrots you need.
My winters are too cold to leave them in the ground so in the late fall before hard frosts begin the carrots are harvested with a shovel. as much dirt is left attached as possible and then they are placed in plastic storage bins. DO NOT WASH!
The bins are placed in a cold room. (MY back porch stays about 35 degrees all winter). If you have a dark root cellar or basement storage room those would work great. To allow for good air circulation so the carrots won't rot, I leave the lid off the bin. However if you are storing them where they will get exposed to natural light, drill a few holes in the bottom, sides, and lid of your bin (don't use a clear bin). This will help keep the light out so they won't begin to sprout, but will have good air circulation.
The carrots will start to become a bit soft before spring hits. Keep an eye on them and as soon as you find them loosing their crispness wash and store as many carrots that will fit in your fridge. They will stay good and crunchy for another 3 weeks. The carrots in storage can be used in stews, steamed, candied, or thrown in the crockpot.
Carrots freeze extremely well. I slice them fairly thick, blanch and freeze. Try drying in a food dehydrator for long term storage. Make certain they are completely dried then place in an air tight glass jar and store in a dark, cool place.
Carrots make great house plants during the winter. Just cut off and inch below the stems and pot in soil. place in a sunny window.