‘A Way to Garden’ Talks Carrots with Dr. John Navazio

Author Margaret Roach showcases OSA’s Dr. John Navazio’s wealth of knowledge in her recent how-to piece on growing carrots. If you find carrots to be tricky to nurture, don’t fret. “Carrots are one of the harder vegetables to grow,”John shares. His carrot growing tips are after the jump. Check out the full story at A Way to Garden (a great resource for gardeners).

And don’t miss the story below on one of OSA’s new breeding projects that addresses the critical needs of organic carrot farmers. OSA’s research team is working with partners to improve your farming and gardening success (including in the carrot field!) that much more by developing quality seed that is optimal for organic systems. Keep tabs on this effort by bookmarking the project’s website.

John’s Carrot How-to:

1. Plant your root crops, including carrots, in the least-rocky soil you have.

2. The soil should have a good “tilth”—with plenty of organic matter in the form of compost incorporated.

3. Plant early, but not too early. A 70-80F degree soil temperature is ideal, but if you are patient, and don’t mind slower germination, plant in spring once soil temps are consistently above 60F, or as the old-timers would say “once the weather has settled.” (Many gardeners stagger sowings to have fresh-eating carrots over a longer season, timing their “storage” types to harvest late.)

4. Don’t overwork the soil; a fine powder (which can result from mechanical tilling) can crust over—and crusting=checked growth=bad news. Just work the soil enough to create a welcoming seedbed.

5. Plant the seed ½ inch deep and don’t sow too thickly! Better to space correctly than to thin. “I’m a great believer in putting down the exact amount you need—not too little, and not three to five times too much!” John advises.

6. Assuming you are using fresh seed or a leftover packet that has been properly stored, germination would be about 80 percent, so:

7. “Take your time, and carefully place 16-20 seeds per foot in the row,” John says. If you have good seed, you’ll be ‘planting to stand,’ as farmers say—plant right, and you eliminate thinning time.” The successful plants will end up about an inch apart

8. Alternatively: Plant staggered in 2½- to 3-inch-wide “bands.”

9. Tamp down the seedbed once sown, but don’t step on it; that’s overkill.

10. Be prepared to wait 7-10 days for germination.

11. Keep the seedbed evenly moist till the seeds emerge. Especially in clayey soils, crusting must be prevented or else!

12. Make light, frequent sprinklings to a depth of 2-3 inches. If the seed’s tiny radicle—the embryo’s primary root—meets resistance? Death, says John.

13. A trick to “mulch” the seedbed: “Sprinkle a very light layer of grass clippings on top of the row to keep things moist,” he says.

14. Or the tip John likes best: Sow radish or even better turnip seed among the carrots. Both germinate extra-fast, and help break through any possible crust.—and also mark the row, since they sprout before the carrots.  “Pick the tiny plants and eat the baby leaves in salad,” he advises.

15. If you planted too thickly and must thin (like the seedling below), do so in the first couple of weeks after emergence.

16. Weeding is essential—early and often; ferny-textured carrot foliage isn’t much competition for weeds. Hand weed; don’t let any competition get established.

17. Remember our mantra throughout the growth cycle: unchecked growth. The taproot of the carrot is below the carrot itself–meaning what John calls the “buggy whip” (like the one in the photo above), which can be 14-18 inches long, needs water. Soak deeply as the plants grow.

There’s more to this story — read it here!

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