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Garden Guide: How to Grow Great Carrots

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Looking for an easy, tasty crop to add to your garden this year? Try carrots! Here are some tips for growing great carrots.

Carrots are a great crop to add to your garden, whether you’re a beginner gardener, or have been growing for many years. They are generally very easy to grow, with few pests and other problems, and don’t require a lot of maintenance other than regular weeding.

Carrots do well in a variety of soils, though some types are better for certain soils than others. In general, long, slender carrots do best in deep, loose soils, and short, blocky varieties are better for heavy or clayey soils.

They keep well for quite a long time after harvest, and in some climates, may be planted in succession for harvests all summer and well into the fall. (Last year, we started ours in the fall, covered them through the coldest winter months, and now they are almost ready to harvest!)

There are many varieties of carrots, and it can be fun to try different colors and shapes. You can find carrots in every color from yellow, to red, to purple, and of course, regular old orange.

Here are a few tips to help you grow great carrots:

How To Plant Carrots: To produce the best crop possible, double-dig your planting area or build up a raised bed. Loose, rock-free soil is the goal. If you have heavy soil, add plenty of mature compost.

Start sowing this cool-weather crop 3 weeks before the last expected frost; plant again every 2 to 3 weeks after that. Most cultivars take 70 to 80 days to mature, so sow your last planting 2 to 3 months before the first expected fall frost. In Zone 8 and warmer, plant carrots in fall or winter.

Rake the soil free of lumps and stones. Broadcast the tiny seeds, or for easier weeding, plant in rows. Put a pinch of about six seeds to the inch. They will take 1 to 3 weeks to sprout (they germinate more slowly in cold soil than in warm), so mix in a few quick-growing radish seeds to mark the rows. Cover with ¼ to ½ inch of screened compost, potting mix, or sand—a little more in warm, dry areas—to make it easier for the delicate seedlings to emerge. Water gently to avoid washing seeds away; keep the soil continuously moist for best germination.

Growing Guidelines: Thin to 1 inch apart when the tops are 2 inches high, and be thorough, because crowded carrots will produce crooked roots. Thin again 2 weeks later to 3 to 4 inches apart.

As the seedlings develop, gradually apply mulch to maintain an even moisture level and reduce weed problems. It’s best never to let young carrot plants dry out. However, if the soil dries out completely between waterings, gradually remoisten the bed over a period of days; a sudden drenching may cause the roots to split. Carrots’ feeder roots are easily damaged, so hand pull any weeds that push through the mulch, or cut them off just below the soil surface. Cover carrot crowns, which push up through the soil as they mature, with mulch or soil to prevent them from becoming green and bitter.

Problems: The biggest threats to carrots are four-footed critters such as deer, gophers, woodchucks, and rabbits….

Otherwise, carrots are fairly problem free.
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Harvesting: Carrots become tastier as they grow. You can start harvesting as soon as the carrots are big enough to eat, or leave them all to mature for a single harvest…

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For more on carrot pests and diseases, and harvest and storage tips, check out the full article at RodalesOrganicLife.com.
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