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What's the secret with carrots?

 
Sergio Santoro
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Location: Nicoya, Costa Rica
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Greetings from Costa Rica, where all I know about gardening doesn't apply.

This is gonna be my opening every time
Actually this post is about carrots, and I must say I never planted them, but they seem to be the hardest to grow.
What I know in general is that they need the powderiest soil, because at the first pebble they won't grow straight down. I feel they like it somewhat alkaline, too.
One time in particular we filled the bed with sifted soil and compost, tons of peat moss, it was like cotton candy and still we got jack. I suspect the peat moss made it a little acidic, but come on, give me something!
So I made a search here for carrots and all the results were of people growing them, never of people asking how the heck do you grow them.

Am I missing something? Every time I hear Paul Wheaton speak about polyculture he mentions the carrot getting the goodies from all that's around it; yeah, good luck over here. I am thinking of contacting a shaman.

So, thanks for any advice.

Sergio
 
John Polk
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Carrots are tiny seeds, so they are easy to bury too deeply.  My best results have been to sow lightly on top of loose soil, water enough to wet the seeds, then cover the patch with a board (or cardboard).  Check every few days for germination.  Once germinated, their roots should begin burying themselves in the soil, and you can remove the board.  Keep them moist until this time.
 
Sergio Santoro
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Location: Nicoya, Costa Rica
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Thanks, I don't get too much of a problem sprouting them. Sometimes we get decent tops, too, but then the root is pale, kinky, scrawny... it's like what carrots looked like before man decided to cultivate them.
 
Burra Maluca
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Greetings from Portugal, where everything I thought I knew about gardening doesn't apply either so I've been busy trying to relearn everything.  Several times over.

I've given up on carrots.  I'm growing pumpkins instead.
 
Jeanine Gurley Jacildone
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Had great success for the first time ever this year with carrots.

Piled great quantities of fine mulch (cypress shaving and chicken poo bedding) in one area and dug very deeply in a second bed.  The second bed is a very loose black earth bed; I used to grow cannas and bananas there a long time ago and worked the green leaves back into the soil.

Both beds have given me nice thick straight carrots.  They were planted very early, around Jan/Feb this year.  Some are still there and I am harvesting as I need them - I am hoping that some will go to seed in this hot weather.

The secret seems to be really loose soft soil.  The bed from chicken bedding is piled up about a foot and a half.  The black earth bed was planted with potatoes last year and is soft enough to easily work my hand down past my wrist. 
 
Jordan Lowery
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what i have found best to work here is just toss carrot seed all over the place in the forest garden come fall. come around this time of year i pull up fatty carrots.

before i used to till soil all fluffy, prepare a plot, plant seed, thin it out, and still end up with tiny crappy carrots.

not only do the carrots in the forest garden thrive, they seem to thrive even more in my wood mulched paths which is where i would have never planted carrots. maybe something about stepping on them every now and then makes the root fatter.
 
Ken Peavey
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My soil is sand-it doesn't get lighter than that.  Even with this light soil I get bifucated carrots.  It's not just rocks, roots can also send them for a loop.  Carrots are more finicky than most cats. 

I'm in northern Florida, You are in Costa Rica.  Carrots are a cool season crop.  Lots of mulch will help to keep the soil cool as well as shade out competing plants which might send roots forth to twist your carrots.  The mulch will also help retain the soil moisture which further cools the soil.  Drip or pitcher irrigation would go a long way for you.
 
 
Sergio Santoro
Posts: 256
Location: Nicoya, Costa Rica
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Thank you all so far.
Now, what about polyculture? Carrot can be companion plants to so many other plants, but now it sounds I should plant them by themselves lest foreign roots will interfere.
 
Jordan Lowery
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in my forest garden it grows pretty much next to everything. this year there seemed to be a lot under the thornless blackberry vines. the ones with strawberries did pretty well too. a few good ones mixed with chickpeas.
 
Ken Peavey
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A carrot patch a couple of feet across is big enough to offer a bunch of carrots.  Trouble areas would be at the edges.  They dont get along with other Umbelliferae: angelica, anise, arracacha, asafoetida, caraway, carrot, celery, centella asiatica, chervil, cicely, coriander/cilantro, cumin, dill, fennel, hemlock, lovage, Queen Anne's Lace, parsley, parsnip, sea holly.  Mine have done fine with lettuce, onion, peas, and brussel sprouts nearby.
 
John Polk
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One of the largest monocrop carrot farms I know of is in California's Imperial Valley (east, across the mountains from San Diego).  That single farm produces enough carrots to supply a Chicago sized market!  They are in (heavily fertilized) sandy soil.
I think it needs perfect conditions to produce "perfect" carrots.
 
Charlie Michaels
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Carrot seeds seem to sprout and dry up way too fast for me. I find that carrots are really hard to start in new sheet mulch too.
 
John Polk
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mrchuck wrote:
Carrot seeds seem to sprout and dry up way too fast for me. I find that carrots are really hard to start in new sheet mulch too.

Precisely. That is why I have had my best results on loose soil, AND covering with a board.  The board prohibits the quick drying out, and allows them to get their feet into soil.  Mulch (nor compost) is not a growing medium for germinating seeds.  While compost may have some nutrients, there are not enough available nutrients to allow a tiny seed to grow through even a thin layer into soil.  By law, compost cannot be marketed as a fertilizer, but can be marketed as an amendment: the nutrients are too variable, and of inconsequential amounts.  Tiny seeds need to get their feet into real soils, as they cannot store enough energy for a long fight for survival.

 
Charlie Michaels
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John Polk wrote:
Precisely. That is why I have had my best results on loose soil, AND covering with a board.  The board prohibits the quick drying out, and allows them to get their feet into soil.  Mulch (nor compost) is not a growing medium for germinating seeds.  While compost may have some nutrients, there are not enough available nutrients to allow a tiny seed to grow through even a thin layer into soil.  By law, compost cannot be marketed as a fertilizer, but can be marketed as an amendment: the nutrients are too variable, and of inconsequential amounts.  Tiny seeds need to get their feet into real soils, as they cannot store enough energy for a long fight for survival.




I find that for larger seeds such as beets, sheet mulch works just fine, but with carrots, you're right, it does not work. I think that beets have just enough energy to punch their little taproots through the compost to get to the real soil

So how would you amend the soil to grow carrots if sheet mulch would not work? Perhaps tilling in compost is the only way.
 
Jordan Lowery
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sow them in the fall as they would if the carrot was to go to seed and drop them. they will germinate over the winter when they feel its the right time and will not dry out because of winter rains. come spring they are easy to identify and thin if needed.

this works best in a polyculture system.
 
John Polk
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That should work in any but the coldest climates.  For some reason, carrots prefer direct soil contact.  Considering they started life as a "weed" you wouldn't think they would be so choosy, but they buck the trend, and want ideal conditions to exist.  I wish some other weeds were so choosy!
 
Terri Matthews
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Location: Eastern Kansas
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What works for me is to start them early, before the frosts are finished. They LIKE the frosts, it helps them germinate/ I never get mucch if I strt them too late. They really are a cool season crop.
 
Sergio Santoro
Posts: 256
Location: Nicoya, Costa Rica
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Well, meanwhile I made this raised bed with cinder blocks and banana trunks and filled it with river sand mixed with chicken manure, wood ash, charcoal and some dirt, and the carrots seem to be thriving. I mean, it's sandy, it's drained, it's super rich... I'd better get some carrots this time; longer than an inch, that is. Problem is, the earthworms must be taking the most advantage of that mix, because every day the raised bed is getting more and more empty. Didn't see that coming.

I did come across this page about carrot greens, though. Sort of a relief, because we do get the greens all right.
Here it is, if you, like me, weren't aware of these facts:

http://www.carrotmuseum.co.uk/carrotops.html
 
                            
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most important thing for carrots is that they need space. you can just throw seeds around, water enough all the time, cover them with little soil or some mulch, but after a month or so you have to take out some of them, and leave at least 10-15 cm around each of them. apart from this yes, they need rich and loose soil.
they can survive winter if you cover them with mulch. also sowing them in early autumn is maybe possible in moderate cilmates.
 
Hugh Hawk
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Location: Adelaide, South Australia (Mediterranean climate)
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Sergio, perhaps that is the banana trunks reducing down.  I heard Paul Wheaton say that Hugelkultur beds generally reduce to almost half their volume over time.  Good to hear you are having some success though, I also have struggled with carrots.  My friend who spends time producing nice fluffy weed-free soil has no problem, but that's not really what I want to do.

I am trying to develop a forest garden style patch in our Mediterranean climate so it is interesting to read what hubert cumberdale said, though I suspect he is in a cooler climate than me.  Again it probably depends on how much mulch you use, the condition of the soil, etc...

Do other growers produce carrots successfully in Costa Rica?  With some plants they will not fruit or form roots properly in tropical climates, unless specific cultivars are used.
 
Sergio Santoro
Posts: 256
Location: Nicoya, Costa Rica
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No, the banana trunks are for retention this time. It's just my soil mix on top of dirt, retained by cinder blocks and banana trunk (just what I found around). It's clearly the worms.
There are many climates in Costa Rica. Further South, toward San José it gets mountainy and it may even snow. That's where they grow everything, but they also use a lot of chemical aids...
I'll keep trying.

By the way, I tried to change my settings so it shows that I live in Costa Rica at every post and people don't give me all kinds of frost-related advice, but I didn't find anything in my profile options

As far as the hugekulture... mine has disappeared! I'll post pics soon. I've have good results for the first year, but I really have nothing left to plant in for the second one!
 
                        
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There's a book out called Carrots Love Tomatoes.  I tossed some old carrot seed in with the tomato seedlings and they all seemed to come up but then  we got a hot spell.   I washed most of them out when I watered the tomatoes and beans

The ones that had long enough roots to withstand the deluges have done very well tho.
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://richsoil.com/cards
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