Crisp, crunchy carrots

    • Sweet peas, with their memorable fragrance, can be planted now from nursery starts for wonderful bouquets later this spring.
    • Potatoes like to grow in the cool weather of spring. Plant them as soon as possible.
    • Wildflower seeds can be broadcasted now on hillsides for colorful blooms and erosion control.
    • Lettuce, cabbages, broccoli, onions and other cool-season vegetables can be set out with no frost protection. They will give you a delicious early harvest.
    • Mouth-watering strawberries should be planted now for delicious berries this summer. Plant them in a sunny, well-drained bed.

Crisp, crunchy carrots

Carrots are one of the most popular vegetables, loved by young and old alike. And fresh carrots right from the garden are really a treat.

Carrots are easy to grow and every garden should have a good-sized plot of them. A loose, sandy soil that is free from stones is their main requirement. Rocks and hard clods make the roots deformed and cause them to split. Raised beds are ideal for carrots, just make sure the bed is deep enough for the roots.

Prepare the soil with compost but don’t add too much fertilizer. Carrot seeds are tiny and germinate best in damp soil when the soil temperature is between 50 and 60 degrees.

Sprinkle the seeds down a shallow trough and cover with a quarter inch of fine soil. Firm the soil and water gently.

The seeds must be kept constantly moist during the two to three weeks they take to sprout. If you have trouble getting carrot seeds to sprout, cover them with a layer of vermiculite, which will retain moisture, or lay a piece of burlap over the seed bed until the seeds germinate. As soon as they have their true leaves, when they are half an inch tall, it’s time to thin them. For baby carrots, thin plants to 1 inch apart, and for full-sized carrots, 2-4 inches.

Carrot varieties range from three inch miniatures to 12-inch tapers that need deep, well-worked soil.

‘Little Finger’ is an extra-early tender, sweet baby gourmet carrot that are nearly coreless. ‘Danvers’ is a popular variety with a strong top and smooth, tapered root that pulls up easily.

‘Chantenay’ is a standard variety that grows 5-8 inches long and does well in all types of soil. ‘Nantes’ and ‘Scarlet Nantes’ carrots are nearly cylindrical in shape, and are blunt and rounded at both the top and tip. Nantes cultivars are often sweeter than other carrots and have fine flavor that is sweet and full of carotene. They are excellent eating when young and tender, and also make good storage carrots.

‘Juwarot’ is an excellent variety for juice as it has twice the normal vitamin A content, and is a very tasty carrot. ‘Saint Valery’ is a large carrot, 10-12” long with 2-3” shoulder. Its flesh is fine-grained, sweet and tender with very little core, and it stores well in the ground.

‘Imperator’ carrots are the carrots most commonly sold whole supermarkets; their roots are long and tapered.

‘Solar Yellow’ and ‘Dragon’ will add variety to your carrot patch. ‘Solar Yellow’ is a variety of Danvers, and grows about 6 inches with a sweet flavor. ‘Purple Dragon’, or ‘Dragon’, is a purple skinned carrot with a bright orange interior that is very sweet. ‘White Satin’ carrots are sweet and juicy with a smooth flavor. They have more fiber than other carrots.

April is a fine month for planting carrots. Keep the soil moist and the bed weeded and in 2-3 months you should have a bed of carrots worth bragging about!

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