2012 Harvest

2012 Harvest

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Planting Carrots in a Raised Bed Garden


While the raw dirt under our feet may be the cheapest to use, it isn't always the easiest to grow certain vegetables in. Carrots are one of those vegetables we've had difficulty growing in our home garden. They require a light, loose soil with plenty of organic matter. Unfortunately, our soil is fairly heavy, which makes growing carrots challenging. After a few years of poor results, last year we decided to try growing them in a raised bed garden. The results were amazing. There is nothing more satisfying and exciting than unearthing a 10-12 inch carrot. This year we are trying the Scarlet Nantes Carrot variety.

Preparing the Raised Bed


Probably the most attractive reason to use raised beds is the ability to control the soil and weeds more effectively. The raised bed we planted our carrots in is 2ft x 10ft and 1ft tall. Our local township sells leaf compost for $10 a truck load, so we filled the raised bed with about 85% leaf compost and 15% mushroom compost to add some additional organic matter into the soil. This produces a soil with a great consistency for growing carrots. I'd estimate one truck load would fill about 4 raised beds of this size, so the cost of the soil per bed is only around $2.50.  The raised bed cost us about $20 to build and will hopefully last us 10+ years.  If you amortize those costs over 10 years, the raised bed garden filled with pure compost ends up costing about $2.25 per year. We purchased the packet of seeds for $0.99, so for $3.25 we will likely end up with over 150 carrots... Sounds good to me. 

Planting Carrot Seeds


Carrots cannot be transplanted, so direct sowing in early spring is really the only option for planting. Carrot seeds are quite small and seem to have lower germination rates than other vegetables, so rather than plant each seed individually, we dig a small trench about 1/2" to 1" deep and disperse the seeds generously. This ensures a nice thick row of sprouts without many gaps. Carrot seeds are slow to germinate and can take up to two weeks to start showing. They can also be somewhat easily displaced by heavy rains, so be patient and gentle on the watering. Once the plants are established, we thin our carrots to about 2" apart on center.  


Growth and Care

Carrot Seedlings
The hardest part to growing carrots is getting past the first few weeks, but once the seeds are germinated and the seedlings are properly thinned, they are very easy to maintain and require little maintenance. As with any vegetable, carrots do not like competition, but because we planted our carrots in leaf compost the threat of weeds it greatly minimized. We've also found raised beds to be much easier to weed than the regular garden. Carrots require plenty of water, so make sure the soil remains relatively moist throughout the season. Mulching with straw will help maintain proper moisture and will also keep the temperature of the soil cooler, which is beneficial to carrots. 

Carrots after 45 days

Harvesting

Harvesting vegetables is probably the most exciting time for any gardener, but that is especially true when harvesting root vegetables, because the vegetable is hidden from sight and you never really know how well your crop is doing until it comes time to dig them up. The greens of carrots will look the same for the last few weeks of the growing period, so the best way to see if your carrots are ready is to remove some dirt around the tops of the carrot. Once the tops of the carrots are roughly 1" thick, its probably a good time to pull a few and see how they look. Although most seed packets suggest carrots will be ready to harvest in 65-70 days, don't be surprised if it takes a few weeks longer.  You can probably start pulling a few carrots around that time, but many of your carrots may need longer than 70 days.

Carrot ready for harvesting 
Perfect Carrot