Small Space Garden Favorite: Carrots!
I love growing carrots for so many reasons! Mostly I still experience the same thrill I did as a child digging for ‘buried treasure’ when it was time to harvest the carrots. And as a gardener who has limited veggie growing space, I really appreciate the bountiful crop I get in a very small amount of space. The harvest of about 4 dozen carrots shown in the photo above came out of a 1 foot by 2 foot patch in one of my raised beds! I plant a new crop every couple of months so that I have fresh carrots year round. And if you have kids, it’s a great kid pleaser! Who doesn’t want to eat ‘buried treasure’ from their own garden?!
How to plant carrots
Carrots are a root vegetable and like all root vegetables, it’s best to plant them from seed directly where they are to grow. Root vegetables don’t transplant well. Carrots grow better in sandy soils where their long roots can easily grow deep into the soil. If you have clay soil, choose shorter carrot varieties and amend the soil with plenty of compost. Or plant them in containers which are deep enough for the roots to have room to form.
Sow the seed in shallow furrows, or broadcast the seed over the planting area. The seeds are somewhat small so try not to sow too close together. Cover with an eighth inch of soil. Water well and keep consistently moist until germination. They will germinate in about 6-14 days. When the seedlings are 1 to 2 inches tall, thin them so they are 1 to 2 inches apart.
What varieties to plant
Did you know carrots come in different colors? In addition to the standard orange, there are yellow, red, and purple! They come in long tapered varieties, and shorter varieties suited to clay soils or containers. There’s even a carrot shaped like a ball! Here are some favorites:
Short varieties (3″-5″ long): Short n Sweet, Little Finger, Lady Finger
Medium varieties (5″-6″ long): Danvers, Chantenay, Nantes
Long varieties (7″-8″): Imperator, Gold Pak 28
When to harvest
Carrots take about 90 days to mature, which can seem like forever! That’s why I plant a new crop every couple months so I always seem to have some ready to harvest. I leave my seedlings an inch apart and start harvesting every other one when they are only about 1/2″ in diameter. I gently steam these ‘baby’ carrots. I leave the remaining carrots in the ground to grow to mature size, 3/4″ to 1″ in diameter. In cool weather, you can ‘store’ carrots in the ground and just harvest as you need them. Don’t leave in the ground too long though or they can get woody.