• Lori Adams discusses everything she’s learned about planting carrots in her latest Daily Sitka Sentinel garden column

(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

http://downtoearthupick.blogspot.com/

• Lori Adams discusses crop rotation in her latest Daily Sitka Sentinel garden column

(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, April 18, 2012, edition of the Daily Sitka Sentinel.)

GARDENING IN SITKA

By Lori Adams

UNDERSTANDING CROP ROTATION

It’s time to start transplanting and direct sowing seeds for most crops, but before you put them in your beds you should be aware of the benefits of crop rotation. Each separate crop depletes the soil of specific nutrients and attracts specific pests. If you plant that same crop in the same place year after year that crop will decline in quality. It is good to determine to not place the same crop in the same spot for at least three years.

Different crops can be grouped together based on similar qualities and be considered “family groups”. To begin planning your crop rotation plan, familiarize yourself with the different plant family groups. There are many books and articles written on the subject. Many books I have read confused me because they separated the plants into too many groups and included too many things that don’t grow well here, like corn and eggplant. But I have used their information to separate my crops into these basic family groups:

  • First year (new dirt) — potatoes, radishes
  • Second year (amend with organic material and plant legumes that bring nitrogen into the soil) — peas green beans, fava beans
  • Third year (amend with nitrogen rich material and plant heaviest feeders) — lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard, celery, zucchini, fennel
  • Fourth year (amend again but not as heavily as previous year and plant heavy feeders that attract root maggot flies) — broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, cabbage, kohlrabi, kale, Chinese cabbage
  • Fifth year (amend with phosphorus and plant light feeding root crops) — beets, turnips, carrots, parsnips, garlic, onions, leeks

This plan is not perfectly by the book, and I apologize if I forgot anything, but it works for my garden. Rhubarb, berries and asparagus stay in the same spot every year and I am planning to keep my herbs in the same spot also because many of them over-winter well and I don’t like disturbing them in the spring to move them to a new bed.

If you feel that you need less than five groups for your garden just minimize your plan to this type of rotation: new dirt (potatoes), heavily amended soil (heavy feeders), used soil (light feeding root crops). If you don’t have the same amount of beds as you have family groups simply divide your beds into sections. Once you have your crop rotation plan in place it is a good idea to draw a diagram of your garden on paper each year and note which crops were grown in each area. Time has a way of helping you forget what you did the years before!

Many gardeners swear that growing specific crops together is beneficial — that the crops help each other in some way.  There is a good book written on the subject named, Carrots Love Tomatoes written by Louise Riotte, that you should read if you are interested in learning more about the technique.

Next week’s column — Transplanting time.

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

http://downtoearthupick.blogspot.com/

• Lori Adams gets the scoop on dirt in her Daily Sitka Sentinel garden column

(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 5 of the Wednesday, March 14, 2012, edition of the Daily Sitka Sentinel.)

GARDENING IN SITKA

Issue No. 3

By Lori Adams

THE SCOOP ON DIRT

If you have any dirt in your yard at all it is most likely ash.  This dirt has very little nutritional value and must be amended. Our local experts recommend the following recipe for building new beds:

  • One-third (1/3) sand (purchased or gathered);
  • One-third (1/3) seaweed (from the high tide line); and
  • One-third (1/3) dirt that you already have.

They also add that if you have to do without one of these three things, you can give up the dirt!  Be very cautious about bringing in someone else’s dirt to supplement what you already have because it may contain invasive weed roots that could plague you for years to come.  I use this recipe faithfully with excellent results.

These items should be gathered and mixed together in your bed as soon as the ground thaws out. Do not pile layers on top of a frozen bed or it will act like insulation and keep the ground frozen longer.  This mixture provides a good basic start.  Different types of crops require specific additional amendments to do their best, but you can add those as the years go by.

One additional thing I’d like to address about dirt is the pH level. Because of the amount of rain we get here in Sitka our soil is acidic.  From what I have read, only a few crops can tolerate this condition — potatoes, carrots, radishes, parsley, and parsnips. It would be a good idea to plant some of these crops your first year.

Rhubarb, mint and most berries thrive in acidic soil but you need to take into consideration that they come back year after year requiring a permanent spot in the garden.  Also, mint must be grown in a container as it can be quite invasive. If you have your heart set on growing something other than these crops you will need to add some fast-acting lime and read up on pH levels. The Internet or any good gardening encyclopedia will cover the subject in depth so I will not go into the details here.

Here are my recommendations for your new bed in order of importance:

  1. potatoes
  2. radishes
  3. rhubarb

This is a realistic plan that will reward you with produce spring, summer and fall.

If you want a little more variety and have time to put in some additional work consider:

  1. Amending a section with extra nitrogen and lime for lettuce;
  2. Putting up a trellis and amending a section with lime and inoculant for peas; and
  3. Sifting a section and amending it with bonemeal for carrots.

Brought to you by Down to Earth U-pick Garden

Located at 2103 Sawmill Creed Road

Open June-August / Mon-Sat 11:00-6:00

747-6108 or 738-2241

• Maximizing Space in Small Gardens handout