Planting Carrots

at 11:07 pm

Carrots can be a bit tricky to grow successfully.  Sure, just about anyone can get them to grow, but the complaint I hear most of is that they are either super short, or they split and grow lots of roots.

While there isn’t anything wrong with these carrots, and they are perfectly edible, most people want long, straight carrots–especially if they’re selling them.

Here are some tips for how I get the job done.

Timing

You can time your planting one of three ways, depending on your climate and zone.

  1. If you have a long growing period, start planting as soon as all danger of frosts is over.  Plant every two weeks until midsummer, and then stop.  This produces a continual harvest.
  2. Plant half your crop at once when all danger of frost is over.  Plant the other half at once at midsummer.  This will give you two harvests.
  3. For a shorter growing season, plant all at once as soon as danger of frost is over.  This is what we do.  You only get one harvest.
Prep Work

Start of by making sure you’ve picked well drained soil.  Now, work it.  And work it again, and again.  Make sure you’re tilling deep and that all debris and rocks have been removed.

Carrots are not tough vegetables.  If they come across any debris or rocks, they will go around–this causes forks.  And if the soil isn’t loose, they will simply stop trying to get any longer.

My carrot bed was probably tilled five times this year before I planted.  And every other year, it’s at least three times.  Seriously.  The last time I always make sure I’m going as deep as I can.

Putting seeds in the soil

When you are absolutely ready to plant your carrots, till it one more time as deep as you dare go.  Remember that a carrot will get as long as it wants to get before it “fills out,” so you want that ground below your seeds loose.

Want carrots that are long and skinny without splits? Here's some planting tips to get you there.

Rake your ground flat with the back side of your rake as you pull all the debris out.  (Please ignore the volunteer potatoes in this picture.  I didn’t have the heart to pull them.)  At this point, I use a hoe to make my rows/channels.  I only go down as low as I want my watering channels and no deeper.  Now I go back and use the corner of my hoe to put a tiny channel in the middle of the one I just made.  Click any picture to enlarge.

Using sand to plant carrots. This article discusses why this works so well. This is genius! At this point, I get my 60+ ounce glass jar and lid and fill it with dry sand, making sure there are no rocks in it.  We have a sand pit right in the middle of one of our wheat fields that rarely gets used for anything.  You can find sand at the beach, or along another water source.  (Note, this is very bad on your canning jars, so don’t use one of those if you can help it.)

I place a package of carrot seeds (or two) in the sand, put the lid on and shake shake shake!  At this point, I very lightly walk along the small channel I made with the corner of my hoe and fill it with sand.  Two packages of carrot seeds (and at least one quart of clean, dry sand) make a 50 foot row.

At this point, I very lightly put the hoe back in the original channel and drag it carefully down the length.  This should just cover the sand.  Now it’s time to carefully water.

Since everything we do is on a slant, I start the water at the top of the channel and let it gently fill all the way to the end of the row.

Why sand?
  • The sand allows me to pour the seeds out instead of hand planting them one by one an inch apart for 50 foot rows.  Where’s the sanity in that?
  • I don’t know how, but when I really mix the sand and seeds together, they just plant themselves pretty evenly spaced apart.  This means that I don’t have to go back and thin them.  This not only saves time, but also saves the carrot seed lives.  Now every single seed has the potential to grow into a healthy adult.
  • During my first few waterings, the seeds won’t get stuck in hard mud–they will still be in the sand, allowing them to germinate and grow in this well-drained medium.
  • When I cover my seeds, I know how deep they are.  I know that when the sand disappears, they are covered properly.
  • Ever worry about washing your seeds away?  As long as I don’t see the sand appear, I know the seeds are staying put.  If I start to see the sand coming to the surface and making a trail somewhere, I know that’s probably where the seeds are too.
Maintenance

Lastly, remember that carrots get their length during their beginning time in the soil.  They cannot compete with weeds.  If you don’t weed anything else in your garden at this time, make sure you don’t forget to weed the carrots.  They will reward you in the end.

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