Monday, June 13, 2011

Cultivating carrots

Saturday was a great day for thinning and mulching carrots. A neighbor brought me a half barrel of high-quality fresh grass clippings Friday evening. By noon Saturday they had all be carefully distributed in my carrot patch. The promise of next winter's carrots is good now, but one never knows.

"Thinning" a crop means taking out extras so that the plot looks "thinner" than it did. Saturday I thinned to one inch, which means that the individual plants were a minimum of one inch from each of their nearest neighbors. Some of the thinnings (the plants taken out), were good enough to eat, although not exactly delicious.

Last month I tried to thin to a half inch, but it was an overwhelming job at a very busy gardening time, and the job was not accomplished completely. So I had some carrots that were side by side in the soil. Saturday's juicy soil meant that I could pull up the extras and hold down the ones I wanted to survive, apparently successfully.

Better yet, the soil was so juicy (in the drizzle!) that I could punch a hole in the soil and insert the carrot transplant with apparent success. Today the plot looks promising. There are plants every two inches with no gaping holes.

Next month I will thin to two inches, and eat the delicious "finger carrots", small ones the size in a super market bag, that are the thinnings. Each time I thin the lot, I mulch between the plants with the best grass clippings I can get.

This has worked for decades to produce excellent, large carrots all winter -- including this past winter until April! I cover the plants in late December with plastic bags of leaves that keeps the ground below from freezing. Then I shovel the snow off a bag, pick it up, pull a week's worth of carrots, and replace the bag. This past winter there was the extra job of finding the bags, but this April I placed the carrots where
they will be easy to access next winter.

Carrots may be the hardest vegetable to grow. I do not advocate trying to grow carrots for your first years of gardening. They need a friable, organic-rich soil, and that doesn't come naturally in this eco-system!


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