Of all the garden vegetables, carrots are at the top of my favorites list.
They can be sown directly in the garden, do not need to be pruned or staked out, withstand the cold wonderfully, have few pest problems, are easy to harvest, can be eaten raw or cooked, and are of course delicious.
Carrots, along with coriander, celery, fennel, parsley and dill, belong to the Apiaceae family. Flowers of the umbel family grow as short flower stalks that spread out from one place, like an upturned umbrella, hence their name. If the carrot root is not harvested, the plant will form beautiful umbrella-like inflorescences in the following year, since carrots are biennial.
There are a few important things to consider when planting carrots. Here in Florida, carrots thrive in our cooler season. They prefer soil temperatures below 80 ° F for good germination and air temperatures below 75 ° F for best growth. So wait until mid-September to October before sowing for better germination and growth.
One of the biggest mistakes one can make in the garden is neglecting the seedlings.
And carrots – the seeds of which are only a millimeter long – are one of the main culprits. Depending on the variety, a single carrot needs 2.5 to 10 centimeters of floor space to grow to full maturity and not to compete for light, nutrients or moisture.
However, this doesn’t mean you only need to plant one carrot seed per one to three inches. In fact, carrots should be sown half an inch apart, especially if daytime temperatures are above 75 ° F, as you may have spotty sprouting. But the key is proper thinning.
Carrots take between seven and 21 days to germinate, so give them time and make sure to keep the area consistently moist, but not with waterlogging.
After germination, it is important to do the first thinning. Find the seedlings that are less than an inch apart and simply trim their stems along the bottom line with a sharp fingernail or secateurs.
Depending on the variety of carrots and the density of seeds, you may need to do some additional thinning to ensure the carrots have enough room to thrive.
I know removing growing seedlings from your garden can be emotionally challenging – but remember – it’s for the good of the carrots!
Molly Jameson is the Sustainable Agriculture and Community Food Systems Advisor at UF / IFAS Extension Leon County, an equal opportunity institution. If you have any gardening questions, please email the extension office [email protected]
Never miss another story: Subscribe to the Tallahassee Democrat using the link at the top of the page.