Carrots in the Fall

Carrot seedsjpg

Photo by Kerry Heafner.

carrots in a pot 2jpg

Photo by Kerry Heafner.

CC of NELA carrots May 2020jpg

Photo by Kerry Heafner.

It’s fall, y’all! Let’s talk carrots in the fall veggie garden.

Carrots have been cultivated for millennia and are right at home in ArkLaMiss veggie gardens. There simply is no substitute for their aroma and sweetness when harvested straight from the soil! Carrots are super easy to grow and are such a fun way to get kids interested in gardening! Here are some tips to keep in mind if you try growing carrots this fall.

First, carrot seeds are small. VERY small. Spacing carrot seeds adequately by hand-sowing is tedious, especially if you have King Kong hands like I do. Also, handling carrot seeds is not a task for the super-caffeinated, and for goodness’ sake, don’t sneeze! Sprinkling seeds from an empty spice shaker will help distribute seeds more evenly and make the inevitable thinning seedlings to one to two inches apart a lot easier. Tiny seeds are not sown deep, 1/8 of an inch or less is perfect. In fact, I’ve had good success with just sprinkling seeds onto the soil surface and lightly pressing them in for good contact. Always keep the soil moist. Seedlings should emerge in about one week. Before too long, the first, parsley-like, true leaves will emerge.

Second, to produce nice-sized taproots, plants will need plenty of space as they grow. Seedlings will need to be thinned periodically. Is this carved in stone? No. But, with overcrowding comes intense competition among plants for water and nutrients. Ultimately, most carrots that aren’t thinned won’t be any size. The fattest taproots will be on plants that are thinned to two or three inches apart. Generally, the amount of lush green foliage above the soil will indicate the size of the carrot underground, so you can judge when to harvest to suit your needs. Carrots large enough for slicing will be attained if you leave them alone and let them

grow for as long as possible. Small carrots for salads or pot roasts can be harvested sooner. All sizes are good for general munching!

Third, give carrots the appropriate soil. A heavy, impenetrable, clay soil won’t work for carrots. They need a well-worked, loose, airy soil for best results. Incorporating lots of organic matter such as peat moss or finished, screened compost works great. Adding perlite or vermiculite to the soil is also recommended if soil is especially compacted. I have grown carrots in only screened compost and it worked great. I had to water more frequently, but the results were worth the extra effort. Few gardeners realize carrots are PERFECT for containers! So, if space is limited in your garden, grow carrots in deep containers! If you have a large, terra cotta pot that you can’t decide what to do with, grow carrots! It works!

Several varieties of carrot have been developed with taproots that attain different sizes and shapes. Imperator varieties are long and cylindrical, the type found in supermarkets. The stocky build makes them good for long distance shipping. Nantes varieties, like ‘Scarlet’ and ‘Half Long,’ have blunt ends. Parisian varieties are round and may sit just above soil level. ‘Danvers 126’ and ‘Chantenay Red Core’ are also recommended for our area. Peruse new seed catalogs in a couple months and you’ll find purple, yellow, red, and white carrot varieties. LSU AgCenter trials showed that ‘Sugar Snax,’ ‘Yellow Bunch,’ and ‘Deep Purple’ were top performers in 2016. More recent trials conducted at the Northeast Research Station show that ‘Danvers Half Long,’ ‘Envy,’ ‘Firewedge,’ and ‘Scarlet Nantes’ are also good carrot varieties for the ArkLaMiss.

So, if you’ve never tried growing carrots before, you’ve missed out! Try them this fall and enjoy the ride. Nothing is more satisfying that pulling one from the soil, rinsing it off, and chomping down!

10/29/2021 1:59:10 PM
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