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August 31, 2012

The third planting of carrots, covered by floating row cover

This year, I have done better than previous years getting carrots planted. I scheduled eleven plantings and actually got eight in the ground. They didn’t all go on schedule, but they were spread out over the course of the season and the last one went in on time. The first two plantings did great. The third one was late and I will be thinning down that planting over the next week or so. The fourth planting is partially ready and I will be pulling from those carrots over the next few weeks, too. The fifth and sixth plantings did not have good germination, but there should be a few carrots from those beds. As for the seventh and eighth, they got planted together at the last planned time. Germination looked good, but it is time for a good weeding, so those carrots will grow!

The seventh and eighth planting of carrots are ready to be weeded

Carrots ought to be easy to grow, but they are a bit of a pain for me. It starts with seeding. Carrot seed is more expensive than you would think, at least I think so. The last two years, I have been seeding more carefully, to use less seed and to get more even spacing. The process is slow, but it has worked better and I have used less seeds with better results. It has helped a lot when it is time to thin the carrots. There are not as many to thin, which makes that task easier. Another difficulty with carrots is weeding. Carrots don’t compete well with weeds, so unless the weeds are kept clear, the carrots don’t grow much. Weeding carrots is a lot harder and slower than weeding something like kale. It is pretty easy to pull young carrots out with the weeds. Of course, I make it harder by getting as many carrots into each bed as possible, planting very densely, six rows per bed, verses a more common three rows for thing like lettuce or beans. This year, it has been great to have Jonas’ help with the carrots. He has worked on all but the first seeding and he has worked on weeding all but the last planting, which will come soon. A little help sharing the load goes a long way.

Ah, the perfect place for a Carrot Rust Fly to lay it’s eggs

The one other trick that has make a tremendous difference this year for the quality of the carrots is floating row covers. One major pest for carrots is the Carrot Rust Fly. It lays its eggs at the crown of the carrot. When the eggs hatch, the larvae eat their way into the root. Some of you may have seen the evidence of the larvae in previous years, if you ever bought “B” quality carrots. You can still eat the carrots, you just have to cut out the bad parts. Last year, in most of the plantings, I lost about 50-60% of the carrots to Carrot Rust Fly. The best organic control for Carrot Rust Fly is floating row cover, a very light piece of fabric made from spunbonded polypropylene, that allows light, rain and air through, but creates a barrier to keep the pests out. The flies can’t get to the carrots to lay their eggs. It works amazingly well. I didn’t use it on my first planting this year, and as I harvested those carrots, more and more of them had Carrot Rust Fly damage. The rest of the plantings have been covered, and there has been very little damage in the ones I have harvested so far.

The voles ate these carrots

The covers do cause a few difficulties. I don’t seem to have as good of germination if I cover the rows right after planting. So far, it seems that waiting for germination, then covering is working pretty well, too, even though those eggs could be deposited before I get the row cover on. Slugs and voles love the extra cover the row covers give, so even though you save the carrots from Carrot Rust Fly, you may lose them to slugs or voles. It is a little harder to keep up with weeding with row covers, since you don’t see the weeds every time you walk by, unless you look under the cover. And of course, you want to keep the uncovered time to a minimum when you do weed, so those flies don’t have a chance to lay their eggs. Despite these challenges, with the results I have had so far, I think I’ll be sticking with the floating row cover.

I mentioned I’ll be pulling from the fourth planting of carrots in the next few weeks. We planted three varieties in that planting: White Satin, Cosmic Purple and Yellowstone. I chose different colored carrots because I thought it would be fun. The carrots seems to have more variation in size and sometimes are bit more oddly shaped. I would love to have you feedback on how you think they taste.

White Satin, Cosmic Purple and Yellowstone carrots, from the fourth planting

3 Comments leave one →
  1. August 31, 2012 12:55 pm

    We love your informative posts and photos Michelle!! Thank you for sharing your carrot growing experiences, glad to hear the row cover is really helping and about the details of your successions. : ) Naomi & Carissa

  2. September 7, 2012 11:37 am

    These carrots are delicious! We love all the colors and my 2 year old is gobbling them up!

  3. Valerie Joachim permalink
    September 11, 2012 11:35 am

    We loved the colored carrots this week. Made for a more interesting salad, and visually was stunning. Anything that subversively coerces my 8 year old to ask for 2nds or 3rds (yes, 3rds!) for salad helpings is wonderful. Tastes great too.

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