Seeds of Change

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Daucus carota var. sativus

This widely adapted mix of crispy, sweet, cylindrical Nantes and long elegant Imperator varieties yields the most delicious fresh eating orange carrots.

Carrots are best planted in deep, fertile, well drained, sandy loam soils with a pH of 5.5–7.0. Avoid excessively wet and heavy clay soils. Loosen soil at least 12 inches deep for the biggest, best roots. Rocky or gravelly soils will produce forked and interestingly shaped roots. To reduce weed competition, prepare the planting area and water 2–3 weeks before planting. Shallowly rake or hoe out any weeds that germinate before sowing your carrot seeds.

Always direct seed carrots. Seed from early spring through summer, sowing fall carrots 80–90 days prior to the first fall frost date. Sow seeds ½ inch apart in a 2 inch wide band, 1/8–1/4 inch deep. Allow 18-24 inches between rows. Water gently so shallow seeds don’t wash away. Cover with paper or gauzy fabric for the first week to conserve moisture and prevent soil crusting. Remove as soon as seedlings appear. Thin stand to 1–2 inches apart when seedlings are about 2 inches tall and keep well weeded.

Three to four year crop rotations are recommended to avoid Alternaria Leaf Blight, Cercospora Leaf Blight, Downy Mildew, and White Mold. Avoid overwatering to prevent damping-off of seedlings and root diseases for more mature carrots. In areas with heavy carrot rust fly pressure, floating row covers will provide protection. The rust fly can smell the carrots when the foliage is disturbed, so minimize handling and keep the area free of carrot debris. Minimize physical injury of roots prior to storage to prevent post harvest diseases.

Gently brush away the soil around the top of the carrot to see how big it is. Harvest when the roots are at least 1 inch in diameter. Use a digging fork or trowel to loosen the soil around the roots before pulling them or the tops may break off. Wash, remove tops, and place in an open plastic bag to keep fresh in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks. For longer term storage, do not wash the roots. Brush soil off, remove tops, and layer in moist sand or sawdust to keep in the root cellar for up to 6 months. In mild winter areas, carrots can remain in the ground and be harvested as needed.