Tuesday, January 26, 2016

End of Season Review - Carrots


I have been growing carrots for 4 years and have yet to have what I would consider a good harvest.

This year, several issues were at play.

Baby Carrots

Firstly, we have the garden-wide irrigation issue.  This bed was on a drip system, but even those beds suffered as it's not automated and I didn’t turn it on as often as I should have considering the heat we had over the summer.

Secondly, I was very late sowing the seeds.  Almost two months late to be exact.  I didn’t get around to sowing them until the end of June.

Then, as I was in a rush, I didn’t use Granny’s seed mat method but just sprinkled the seed in each row.  This meant a mountain of tedious thinning which, not surprisingly, I left for far too long.  I’ve read that improper thinning can lead to not only smaller carrots, but can also result in them taking longer to mature.

Unthinned carrot bed in mid-August

And lastly (how many issues are we at now?), I sowed them in bed #1, which, as it turns out, is rather shady towards the end of the summer as the sun sinks lower in the sky.  I didn’t notice this until late October, by which point the bed was in the shade as of noon.  Had I sown the carrots on time, I think this would have been much less of an issue.

The end result was that the carrots took forever to size up and a big chunk of them never made it to a good size at all, even though I left them in the ground until early November.  In fact, over half of the harvest was separated out as "baby carrots", which were cleaned & put into the fridge for snacking.

I grew 6 varieties of carrots this year.  Two varieties I had grown before - Scarlet Nantes & Chantenay Red Core - and 4 were new - Sprint, Amsterdam Maxi, Mokum and Napoli.

For comparison, I took a photo of each variety, separating out the babies from the regular sized carrots.

Mokum

Scarlet Nantes

Amsterdam Maxi

Chantenay Red Core

Sprint

Napoli

Because I gave some of the carrots more space than others, I find the square foot comparison the most telling when it comes to yield:




I did do a taste test on all of the carrots and they all tasted good, with only subtle differences in sweetness.  Ranking them, I would say that Mokum came out on top and Napoli was at the bottom (unfortunate since this was the one with the highest yield).


Overall Impressions and Plan for Next Year

Not a great carrot year, but on the bright side, I was able to harvest enough to carry us for a few months anyhow.  Those, together with several bags of carrots that I brought home from the farm, should take us to this spring.

What I find interesting about my carrot growing experience, is that my lack of a good harvest has been due to very different reasons each year:
  • 2012 – My first and, surprisingly, best year – the problem that time was that I simply grew too few carrots – they were gobbled up in no time.
  • 2013 – Slugs, or possibly earwigs, got to all of the seedlings and my harvest that year was a big, fat zero
  • 2014 – The carrots were grown in bed #8 which I discovered this year was being zapped of moisture and nutrients by a nearby willow tree.  At the time, I wasn’t certain why the carrots hadn’t sized up and blamed it on the bed being too shady.  I did notice how difficult the carrots were to pull up and all of the fine roots in the bed at the time, but thought those belonged to the carrots.

Each problem has brought with it one or more solutions, so I now have a laundry list of corrective measures to implement this coming season:
  • sow a full bed of carrots (2012)
  • avoid shady beds (2014 & 2015)
  • sow the carrots on time (2015)
  • use Granny’s seed mat method (2015)
  • use diatomaceous earth to deal with slugs until the seedlings get to a good size (2013)
  • irrigate in a timely manner (2015)

As for varieties, I’ll be dropping Napoli & Chantenay Red Core.  Although Napoli produced well, when it comes down to it, my priority is taste & this one was at the bottom of the list.  As for Chantenay Red Core, I don't particularly like it's fat, squat shape - I prefer longer, cylindrical carrots.  I’ll keep the remaining varieties and will be adding 2 more which have been on my list for a while - Yaya & Bolero.

I KNOW that 2016 will be THE year that I finally get my bountiful carrot harvest.  One must be optimistic about these things, right?

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things” ~~ Robert Brault

16 comments:

  1. I had my best carrot harvest ever last year and that was down to growing in a deep raised bed where there were no stones and covering them in enviromesh to keep the carrot root fly out. Good luck with your carrots this year.

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    1. Thank you Jo. It seems every year there is a new pest to deal with. I keep hearing about carrot fly and am wondering when I'll have to get around to covering my beds because of them too. Fingers crossed it's not for a few years yet!

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  2. I really like the way you analyzed the problems each year and then applied solutions. Very sensible.

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    1. Thank you Jane - I quite enjoy the whole process of learning and improving each year (or trying to anyhow!)

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  3. I'll be watching your views on the Yaya---I've been wanting to try it but haven't wanted to give up any space to do that. I am adding an extra bed for the Mokums because we eat those by the bucketful....can't seem to get enough of them. I can hardly nag hubby for stealing carrots when they're so darn healthy for him!!
    Have a great week, Margaret.

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    1. Carrots are a mainstay around here to - one of the first things that disappear off the veggie tray!

      That's the problem with growing a good variety - it's hard to let it go in order to try new things that may very well not work out. I think that's what I actually *like* when I grow a variety that isn't up to par - it's super easy to say goodbye and try something new. Have a wonderful week too!

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  4. Oohh! I love how organized you are with all your charts and lists. A woman after my own heart. :o) I grow carrots in pots just to make carrot cake. As long as I have enough, I consider it a good harvest. :o)

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    1. Yummy! I haven't had a good carrot cake in a while - that's an idea for this weekend! Oh yes, I'm all about the list making...they not only give me focus, but they are also like little bits of motivation on paper :)

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  5. With how organized you are I am sure 2016 will be a great carrot year. I may have the shade problem with my carrot boxes on the deck this year as the tree we planted is getting larger and providing more shade. Which I wanted but forgot about shading the carrot boxes! Woe is me! Nancy

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    1. That's funny - a true double edged sword! I love shade trees too - so long as they stay away from my beds!

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  6. I think all this proves that if you want to have a good yield you have to "put in the work" and do things properly! My carrot-growing prowess has been dramatically improved by the use of Enviromesh which keeps the Carrot Root Fly off. Prior to that my harvests had been ruined by the fly. Adding sand to the soil also had very beneficial effects.

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    1. That's very true, Mark. I'll not be doing any large projects this year so I'm hoping that the slower pace will mean a better year in the garden, both in terms of a harvest and when it comes to enjoying it!

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  7. I would have been really happy to have a carrot harvest like that in 2015. It doesn't help that I never got around to sowing any seeds. And I haven't really figured out where in the bed rotation to tuck them in. There's alway some new lesson to learn. I predict that you will have a very carroty 2016!

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    1. Sometimes time just gets away from us, doesn't it? That was a common theme for me this past year & hopefully won't be repeated this season!

      I always find crop rotation to be a bit of a challenge, especially as so many beds are devoted to solanaceas. I'm sure you will find a good spot for your carrots and it will be a very carroty 2016 for both of us! :)

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  8. Yum! You're making me hungry ... again! At least this time it's almost supper time. Reminds me, I need to get going with that. You amaze me always with your successful harvests, and I enjoy your sense of humor. :)

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    1. Oh, you are just too kind, Beth! I actually find that deciding what to grow and actually growing it is sometimes easier than deciding what to make for dinner ;)

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