Crisp, crunchy carrots

    • Last chance to plant asparagus roots this year. This delicious vegetable will keep producing for up to 20 years.
    • Evergreen candytuft is a hardy perennial with bright white flowers set against dark green foliage. They bloom now and make a fine border plant.
    • Dahlias come in a wide variety of colors and shapes. Plant the roots now for flowers this summer.
    • Put up hummingbird feeders this month and enjoy these colorful and entertaining birds.
    • Hang up Codling moth traps now to reduce the number of wormy apples in your harvest this year.

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, 2-3 inches apart.

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 is 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 juicing as it has twice the normal vitamin A content. And fresh from the garden it is crisp, juicy and sweet.

‘Imperator’ carrots are the carrots most commonly sold in supermarkets; their roots are long and tapered. ‘Autumn King’ is one of the best main crop varieties with a deep orange color and tapered roots that grow 10-12 inches long.

You can add color to your carrot patch with these varieties: ‘Purple Dragon’ is a purple skinned carrot with a bright orange interior that is very sweet. ‘Atomic Red’ carrots grow 8-10 inches long. They are dull pink when you dig them up but turn scarlet red when cooked. Or plant a packet of mixed carrots and enjoy your rainbow harvest.

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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