Saturday, May 9, 2015

CARROTS




Carrots are simply beautiful fresh from the garden! 





Carrots really grow well in our climate. There are many varieties. The blunt-ended nantes varieties seem to be the most reliable.


A few of our favorites:


WHITE SATIN



SUGARSNAX


EXCELLENT FOR OVERWINTERING, MERIDA ON THE RIGHT




NELSON (ORANGE)


Some other varieties we have grown and enjoyed over the years are TAMINO F1, MOKUM, YAYA, NAPA, SOLAR YELLOW, INGOT, ATOMIC RED, COSMIC PURPLE, PRODIGY, TENDERSWEET, BOLERO AND ROMANCE.

Once you have decided which varieties you want to grow, prepare a garden bed early in the season around the end of April through the middle of May. This will be early enough in the season for carrots to mature in flavor and size by fall.

Because we get so much rain, we find that a 50/50 mix of sand and fertile soil does wonders for carrots and other root crops. Good drainage is essential for successful growth. Organic matter in a carrot garden should be decomposed, not fresh. And, as tempting as it might be with our annual herring spawn, hold way back on the herring eggs. Too much nitrogen results in carrots that look like deformed hands with 2 or more hairy fingers!

Choose a time to till or loosen your soil when it is not soaking wet. Lucky for Sitkans, if our soil is ever going to be even remotely dry, it is in April or May.

Once the soil in the carrot bed has been loosened, direct sow the carrot seeds into the soil. This means you will be planting the seeds directly into the soil, not starting the seeds in advance indoors. Carrot seeds are the perfect size to put in an old herb shaker with standard sized holes.



Gently shake the carrot seeds over the prepared garden bed spreading the seeds sparingly and as evenly as possible. Best to do this when the air is still rather than when it is windy. 




Once the carrot seeds have been shaken onto the surface of the garden bed, take a rake and lightly rough or chop the seeds into the soil. The seeds barely need covering... say 1/4 to 1/2 inch. If you have a small carrot patch, you could sprinkle 1/4 inch of soil or sand over the seeds. 



Don't forget to label if you are growing more than one variety!




Now it is time to gently water the newly planted carrot bed. Use a gentle shower so that you don't form a crust on the surface from too much pressure. It is important to keep the carrot bed moist until the seeds germinate. If it is not raining, then best to get out there every couple of days and water. Be patient! It can take up to three weeks for these little carrot seeds to sprout! 




Cats love to use carrot beds for litter boxes. For that reason alone, it is best to cover the carrot bed with a floating row cover. A more important reason for a floating row cover is to increase the temperature of the soil. It makes a remarkable difference in carrot growth. No need to remove the floating row cover to water. The water from hose or rain will pass through the cloth with no problem. Sunshine too!







Now think of a way to keep dogs from tromping through your freshly planted carrot patch. We have used old fish nets successfully for fencing:





We have also kept old rolls of fencing handy to protect garden beds. We use old pieces of rebar to hold the fencing in place:




Time to remove the fencing and floating row cover after about a month of growth for weeding and thinning. We replace the fencing and floating row cover once the job is done:



Start enjoying small carrots as early as August!


When the weather starts getting cold in October, we cover our carrot bed with a tarp. We place a foot or two of mulch on top of the tarp. This protects the carrots from freezing. Most often we use seaweed from the high tide line for mulch. As we harvest the carrots, we toss the seaweed mulch to the side and uncover however many carrots we need. Come spring, we can till that seaweed as fertilizer into the new spring garden bed.


So what to do with lots of carrots? We use the majority of our carrots for juicing from September until they are gone. Fresh carrot juice is sweet and delicious! Carrots are wonderful juiced in with other fruits and vegetables:




We also like to share carrots with friends and neighbors:




It's always fun to invite an entire classroom of children over to drink carrot juice, eat carrot cake and munch on carrots!



And, carrots are surprisingly good grated into ribbons and then dehydrated! A yummy snack food!






Here is one of my favorite thank you drawings from one of the many children who visited and harvested fruits, vegetables and flowers from our gardens. I received this unusual piece of art work in a classroom bundle 
...and never knew the name of the amazing young artist! 
The carrot makes a lovely bride for the zucchini groom!







Wishing you all a good experience and success growing carrots!







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