Most people are familiar with these super sweet and very popular root vegetables… their signature bright orange coloring is easily recognizable! Mothers and fathers are perpetually encouraging their children to consume this lovely, sweet vegetable for its nutritious properties such as improved vision, healthy skin, strong and healthy teeth and many more! Carrots are fairly easy to grow, and you can avoid pest invasions by simply keeping up with weeding. They like full sun and sandy or loose soil so that they can stretch their roots far into the ground. Mulch to keep the roots cool. Carrots are also frost resistant, and actually can taste better after having endured the first couple frosts before being pulled from the ground. They come in a variety of colors including the traditional orange, as well as reds, purples, yellows and whites, and have varying levels of sweetness.
Plant your carrot seeds 3 to 5 weeks before the last spring frost date and make sure that the soil is well-tilled with no rocks so that the roots can dive down deep. To avoid forked carrots, don’t till too-ripe or too fresh manure into the dirt before planting the seeds, and wait to fertilize until 5-6 weeks after sowing the seed. Water at least 1 inch weekly.
There are 5 different categories regarding carrot shape and size. Ball-type, Chantenay, and Danvers carrots have bulbous shapes that can handle heavy or shallow soil due to their short root length and wide width. Nantes and Imperator carrots are long and thin, requiring loose and deep soil. Sow 1 pinch of about 6 seeds per 1 inch and cover with ¼ to ½ inch of screened compost, potting mix, or sand. Soil should remain moist for best germination. Carrots take about 1-3 weeks to sprout, so don’t worry if they don’t come up right away. They also tend to sprout slower in colder soil, so take soil temperature into account. Thin the sprouts to 1 inch apart when the tops are 2 inches high, as crowded carrots will produce crooked roots. Thin again 2 weeks later to 3 to 4 inches apart.
Aside from four legged pests such as deer, woodchucks, gophers and rabbits, carrots are fairly pest and disease resistant. To prevent soil-borne pests and diseases such as parasitic nematodes, carrot weevils and soft rot, rotate crops. To prevent pests such as leafhoppers (which cause carrot yellows disease) and carrot rust flies, utilize floating row covers.
The first carrots originated in Afghanistan, and actually looked nothing like the carrots we all know and love today. They were thin, spindly and purple! By the time they reached Europe in the 12th century, they had acquired their recognizable rainbow of colors.