I love carrots. They are pretty high up on the must have veg to grow in the garden as every single member of my family really enjoys them. Either cooked or raw they are an essential part of our everyday food.
This year I grew 3 varieties of carrots. Two of them – Scarlet Nantes and Little Finger - I had grown before; Chantenay Red Core was new to the garden this year. I used Granny’s seeds mats, which I talked about HERE and I covered the bed with Agribon to keep it moist after sowing – a trick I learned from Daphne. Both of these techniques worked very well and the carrots came up beautifully. Once the Agribon was removed, I sprinkled the bed liberally with diatomaceous earth to ward off any sluggy predators.
I’m still finding my way when it comes to growing carrots. Specifically, I’m trying to figure out when to sow them and when to harvest them.
This year, I harvested the carrots much too early. I had it in my head that I would be growing two rounds of carrots in the same bed - a main season variety and then a shorter season variety in the fall. As it turns out, I was way off when it came to timing. I kept waiting for my spring planting to size up and by August 1st, I just couldn’t wait any longer. I pulled up a few carrots and they seemed to be an ok size, so I dug them all up.
Then I compared them with my harvest from 2012. The Little Finger were fine, but the Scarlet Nantes were just over ½ the size they should have been (see table below). Some of the carrots were what I would refer to as "runts" - atypically small - which can skew the average. If I considered only the "normal" carrots, the difference was even larger, this year's carrots being 57% smaller (71 grams in 2012 vs. 31 grams this year).
What surprises me is that both the Nantes & Chantenay days to harvest was listed at around 70 days and I harvested them after 81. Even if you took into account the 10 days for them to germinate, that should still be enough time for them to size up fully. Are the days to harvest on the carrot packets referring to days to a “harvestable” carrot vs. a full size carrot (much like days to harvest on peppers are actually days from transplanting (vs. sowing) to a mature, green (vs. ripe red) pepper)? One thing I also have to keep in mind is that the carrots shared the bed this year with the chard - if you read my review on the chard, you will recall that this bed is the shadiest bed in the garden. So perhaps that was another factor that resulted in slower growth.
|Chantenay Red Core|
I choose 2 quick maturing varieties (Amsterdam Maxi – 45-55 days and Sprint - 42 days). I sowed them in the beginning of August……and got exactly zilch for my efforts. Germination was sparse (I think I was a bit slack on watering the bed after seeding) but even where the seeds did germinate, the foliage grew only a few inches and that was it. I eventually just pulled the whole lot & not one root was bigger than an actual “root”. And that is why I didn’t list Amsterdam & Sprint as varieties that I grew this year as I actually didn’t end up growing either of them.
I enjoyed both the Chantenay Red Core and Scarlet Nantes in terms of flavour – not outstanding, but good. Little Finger had the biggest per sq. ft. yield, but they were the loser when it came to taste, which was decidedly bland. Another interesting point was that after a couple of months in cold storage, the Scarlet Nantes also had a bland flavour. The Chantenay Red Core, however, held on to its flavour much better.
Prior Year Comparison
2012 was my first year growing carrots. I was a bit paranoid about sowing the seeds as I knew they could take a long time to germinate. I wasn’t sure if I could keep that top layer of soil constantly moist all that time so I decided to pre-germinate the seeds. I tried several different pre-germination methods and, although I was ultimately successful, all of them were messy and tedious.
So with all of my pre-germinating experimentation, the carrots got off to a late start, not getting into the ground until end of May/early June. In late July/early August, I started harvesting a carrot here and there, just to see how they were sizing up. I harvested the bulk of the carrots on October 11.
As I already mentioned, compared to this year, there was little difference in the average size of the Little Finger variety, even though they were in the ground an extra 42 days. Giving Scarlet Nantes that extra time, however, resulted in carrots that were twice as large. Also, according to my notes, those picked in October were decidedly sweeter than those picked in August, which is not a huge surprise.
Last year I tried a fall sowing of carrots. I only had 4 beds and was itching to try other crops, so I waited until my bush beans were done to sow the carrots. I sowed them on August 1st & they started to germinate within 10 days. But not two weeks later, I noticed that the seedlings seemed to be slowly disappearing. By the time I realized what was going on, it was too late - all of my seedlings were gone. The likely culprits? Slugs.
So my carrot total for 2013 was a big, fat zero. I now realize that had the slugs not gotten to the carrot seedlings, I likely wouldn’t have harvested a crop anyhow as August 1st is way too late to sow a fall crop, judging by my failed attempt this year.
On a positive note, I learned about & used Granny’s seed mats for the first time and they worked out very well…much better than all the pre-germinating tediousness from the prior year.
Overall Impressions & Plan for Next Year
I think I need to grow a few different carrot varieties next year as I have yet to be bowled over by any of the varieties I have grown so far. Because I’m still trying to figure out my timing, I’m not sure if lack of flavour has to do with when I am growing/harvesting the carrots (as carrots generally get sweeter in the cool days of fall) or if the variety is to blame (according to other bloggers, only a few carrot varieties have good flavour when grown in the spring/summer).
The bottom line is that when it comes to carrots, I really need to experiment – both in terms of timing and varieties grown. I will be dropping Little Finger as it was the least favourite in both the years that I grew it. Scarlet Nantes & Chantenay Red Core will be grown again but, this time, I won’t pull them until later in the season and they will hopefully be larger & sweeter. Or I may grow a different quick spring crop in their spot and then sow them in early summer for a fall crop.
I will also grow the fast maturers that failed to give me a crop this year (Amsterdam Maxi & Sprint) and I’m thinking that I will add at least 2 or 3 more varieties to the list. Perhaps I can dedicate part of the bed to long maturing varieties and then use another part of the bed to grow two rounds of fast maturing varieties. Hmmm....lots to ponder over the coming weeks.
Radishes are not a huge crop for us; more of a little something extra to gather from the garden. As such, I don’t generally devote a particular spot to them, but try to squeeze them in among other crops. I have since discovered that this may be the reason why I usually don’t get the best results.
|Scarlet Globe Radishes|
share the basket with Viroflay Spinach
|On the left - one of the (only just) harvestable icicle radishes|
On the right - practically every other radish "root" looked like this
Prior Year Comparison
Last year, I sowed the same varieties as this year & I sowed them as a border around the lettuce. I did get a few more icicle radishes than this year (although they were much smaller), but the overall results were equally unimpressive – in fact the Scarlet Globe radishes averaged half the size they did this year.
Overall Impressions & Plan for Next Year
This year wasn’t great but at least it was a bit better than last year, at least with regards to the size of the Scarlet Globe radishes.
Then, a couple of months ago, I read a post on Mark's Veg Plot that alerted me to the fact that planting radishes near plants that overshadow them could cause them to bolt without forming bulbs…it was an “aha!” moment.
I have no idea why it had never occurred to me that they didn’t produce well because they were shaded by other crops. And I know that had I not read Mark’s post, I likely would have continued to try growing them around crops that they were not suited to be paired with.
I could try growing some radishes around slower growing or smaller crops, where they would still get a good bit of sun, but I have decided that next year, I will give them a small spot of their own, perhaps a couple of square feet.
I will grow Scarlet Globe and White Icicle again (more for comparison purposes than anything else) plus a couple of other varieties that I purchased this past summer but never made it into the ground – French Breakfast (inspired by Daphne’s gorgeous display of radishes) & Easter Egg Hybrid Mix. Four varieties is more than enough for us, so I will not be purchasing any others.
Till next time…