Sunday, September 6, 2009
When to Plant
Carrots are usually planted with other frost tolerant vegetables as soon as the soil mellows in the spring. They may be planted earlier in gardens with sandy soil. The soil should be plowed and prepared to a depth of 8 to 9 inches to allow full development of the carrot roots and the seedbed should be worked uniformly to break up clumps and clods that prevent penetration of the roots. Varieties with extremely long roots (Imperator and Tendersweet) usually are recommended only for home gardens with deep, sandy soil. Excess organic debris worked into the soil just before planting also may affect root penetration, causing forked and twisted roots.
Spacing & Depth
Plant seeds 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep (no more than two or three seeds per inch) in early spring. Later sowings may be planted 1/2 to 3/4 inch deep when the soil is dryer and warmer. Space rows 12 to 18 inches apart. A single radish seed planted every 6 to 12 inches can mark the row. Germination requires as long as two weeks and the seedlings may not emerge uniformly. If heavy rains occur after sowing, packing the soil surface, no seedlings may emerge. Thin the seedlings when they are about one inch tall to no more than three seedlings per inch for finger carrots; one or two seedlings per inch for carrots that will be harvested young; and one seedling per 1 to 2 inches for larger varieties like Danvers and Chantenay that will be allowed to develop to full size and be harvested mature for canning or freezing.
Carrots germinate best in warm, moist soil. Covering the row with clear polyethylene film warms the soil and conserves moisture. Remove the film immediately when seedlings appear. To assure germination of successive plantings during the late spring and summer months, it may be necessary to supply water by sprinkling. In the heat of summer, some shade may be necessary to keep the tiny seedlings from burning off at the soil line.
Young carrot seedlings are weak and grow slowly. It is essential to keep weeds under control for the first few weeks. Cultivate shallowly with a knife blade cultivator or hoe. Deep cultivation may injure the roots.
Carrots can be harvested or "pulled" when the roots are at least 1/2 inch in diameter. Under usual conditions, carrot tops may not be strong enough to withstand actually being pulled from the ground and digging helps to remove the roots without damage. Finger carrots are usually ready to harvest within 50 to 60 days. Other varieties should be allowed to grow until they have reached a diameter of at least 3/4 inch (about 60 to 70 days after planting). They then may be harvested over a 3 to 4 week period. Summer planted carrots may be left in the ground until a killing frost. Some gardeners place a straw mulch over the row so that carrots can be harvested until the ground freezes solid. In many areas, a heavy mulch allows harvest of carrot roots throughout the winter. For carrots to be stored, cut off the tops one inch above the root and place in storage at 32°F with high humidity. Carrots may be placed in a refrigerator, buried in lightly moist sand in an underground cellar or stored in the garden in a pit insulated with straw. Under proper storage conditions, carrots keep 4 to 6 months.