This carrot harvest this year was a good one and it’s time to make a report. First, the most notable thing is that this year I planted my carrots in a raised bed. I want to add 2-3 raised beds to my garden every year until the entire garden is raised beds. So I made two raised beds–one out of salvaged wood pallets and the other from wood that I got from the avenue during spring clean up. So both raised beds cost me only pennies, just for the screws.
Raised beds all the way!
But I didn’t get to making these until the garden was already in, so I didn’t plant my carrots until the first week of July. Even with such a late start, the harvest was quite impressive. Out of a 4’X10′ I got nearly 70 lbs of carrots. (I planted a half-row of carrots in the garden at the same time as I planted the raised beds, but they never did get big enough to harvest.) Last year without raised beds I got -about 45 lbs of carrots out of a similar-sized area of the garden. That means that raised beds increased our yield about 30%.
But even better than quantity of carrots was the quality and how easy they were to harvest. The carrots came easily out of the loose dirt and there was very little dirt clinging to them, so I didn’t have to wash any before storing. Wow! About 10 times easier to harvest and store than trying to dig up carrots from our clay-ey soil. And because they grew in the looser dirt of the grow box, there were only a couple that grew forks and almost no breakage when pulling them up.
With great production, easy harvest, less breakage and fewer deformities, I will never plant carrots again in rows. Raised beds all the way!
A carrots is a carrot, right?
Oh, no, no, no, no. There are so many varieties of carrots, you may have a hard time choosing.
First you need to consider timing. Carrots taste sweeter when they’ve gone through a couple light frosts, so you want carrots that will be ready about the time you expect your last frost. Most carrots will mature in 50-70 days. If you leave them in the ground much longer than, they will start to develop a thick, woody core and you don’t want that.
Now you have to decide what type to grow. There are four main categories:
- Nantes: These are not very picky about the soil. They have a blunt end, so they can push their way through heavy, clayey or rocky soil. That is why it’s a good variety for just about any home gardeners to grow and the variety I’ve grown the most. 6-7″ long. OK for storage.
- Chantenay: These are short and stout (6″-7″ long) and also do well in heavy or rocky soil. They will develop a woody core, so be sure to harvest when they are about 6″. They store well.
- Imperator: These are the classic long, tapered roots you see in stores. Since they are narrower and more tapered, they need a light, loamy soils (like in raised beds.) They’ll grow 10″-12″ and usually store well.
- Danvers: These are the thickest carrots and take the longest to mature (up to 110 days) But they do well in cool climates and store well.
Now choose your color
Want to get kids to love their veggies and their garden? Plant unusual colors and varieties. No plain-old orange carrots for us. Oh no! We want color and variety. My 4-yr old granddaughter is a huge carrot fan and with the different colors, she loves them even more.
Here are the four varieties I planted this year:
Scarlet Nantes is like the gold standard of carrots. Everyone loves it. The carrots are nice and long and since they aren’t very tapered, they don’t break so readily when I pull them up. I don’t think I’ll ever not plant this variety.
I really like the pale yellow Amarillo Carrot. It makes a pretty contrast to the orange in slaws, salads or cooked. I serve yellow carrots with green peas along with my yellow and green cucumbers on days the NDSU Bison play their home games.
This year I tried the Purple Dragon–a pretty reddish purple on the outside and bright yellow in the middle. I liked this one a for it’s pretty color contrast and it kept that color contrast nicely after cooking. The germination was quite a bit less than the other varieties, but I still think it’s worth planting again.
This is the second year I’ve grown the Pusa Asita Black Carrot. Isn’t this a stunning carrot? It was developed to have more nutrients than other carrots and have a richer, more carroty flavor. I can attest to the flavor–it has great flavor. And the color is just brilliantly intense. I really liked it in salads and slaws–a very pretty accent.
But the problem is the color bleeds. They turn my hands a purple-black that doesn’t wash off easily. When they are cooked–like in a roast, soup or with other differently colored carrots, they bleed into the other food. They turned the potatoes that were in with the roast an icky gray-brown color. I thought a tri-colored bowl of cooked carrots–black, yellow and orange–would be pretty. I was wrong. The black carrots turned the other carrots a dark gray-brown. So, I’m sorry to say I don’t think I’m going to plant this one any more. Or maybe I’ll just plant a handful for eating raw and in salads. Because they really do have a wonderful, carroty flavor.
Carrots in the fall and beyond
It’s now early January and we have eaten through about 1/3 of our carrots, so I think we’ll have plenty to last through early- to mid-May. Later I’ll write about how I store them, so that you, too, can have fresh garden carrots year ’round.
So now, what carrots will you plant this year?