(Lori Adams, who owns Down-To-Earth U-Pick Garden and is a frequent vendor at the Sitka Farmers Market, will be writing a regular garden column in the Daily Sitka Sentinel this summer. The Sentinel is allowing us to reprint the columns on this site after they first appear in the newspaper. This column appeared on Page 4 of the Wednesday, May 2, 2012, edition of the Daily Sitka Sentinel.)
GARDENING IN SITKA
By Lori Adams
EVERYTHING I’VE LEARNED ABOUT PLANTING CARROTS
The carrots that are grown in Sitka are the best I have ever tasted. They are so sweet that they are more like candy than a vegetable. They are probably the single most popular item grown at the Down To Earth U-Pick Garden.
Kids love to try to judge the size of the carrot by brushing aside the dirt and looking at the tops. I never get tired of the look of joy and amazement on their faces after they finally make their selection, pull one up and get a look at their prize.
Carrots grow in fairly poor soil, don’t take up a lot of space and provide a lot of poundage per square foot. To get your bed ready for carrots, be sure the soil is not heavily fertilized. Carrots do not like a lot of nitrogen. It makes them grow beautiful, luscious tops and small, hairy roots.
It’s best to amend the bed with a small amount of organic material, like broken down leaves from last fall and then, right before planting the seeds bury starfish or amend with purchased bone meal. It’s good to add sand to the soil if you can get it. Next you should sift out any gravel or sticks that could cause the carrots to become crooked or split. I grow only Nantes varieties because they are shorter with blunt ends and do not taper. This shape is best because most of my beds are not deep enough for long carrots and my soil is not sandy enough for skinny carrots to be pulled out without breaking.
I used to just sprinkle the seeds on top of the soil and lightly rake them in, but I had bare spots and spots that were too thick, so I recently purchased a seeder. It is an expensive tool, but it’s important that every square inch of my garden is utilized to its full potential. With a seeder you use fewer seeds, the spacing is more consistent and you can predict where your seedlings are going to grow, which makes it easier to weed. Carrots should be spaced about two inches apart.
Carrot seeds take a long time to germinate, so be sure to water regularly. Don’t let the surface of the soil dry out. Because the soil is bare of vegetation for so long, it is important to cover the entire bed with row cover to discourage cats from using it as a litter box. Another drawback of having bare soil for that amount of time is that weed seeds are given free range to sprout. My carrot bed always has the most weeds.
When the carrot seedlings are about four inches high it is a good idea to weed even though it seems harsh on the fragile seedlings. They recover from weeding just fine, so be sure to get in there and pull every tiny weed.
About mid to late July you should be able to start eating delicious, sweet carrots, and you will be so glad you planted them.
Next week’s column — Everything I’ve learned about planting peas.
Brought to you by Down-To-Earth U-Pick Garden
2103 Sawmill Creek Road
Open June-August / Monday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
747-6108 or 738-2241