Sow carrots now!

Sow carrots now!

Holy smokes, my carrot seeds just emerged faster than they ever have: nine days! Most sources say that carrots take between one and three weeks to germinate, and I’ve often found my carrot seeds emerging from the dirt more on the three-weeks end. Why so fast this time?

I believe it was the soil temperature. As this page from Cornell says, the ideal soil temperature for carrot germination is 75 degrees. While I haven’t measured the temperature of my soil, I can see that the temperature of the soil at a nearby CIMIS station averaged 76 degrees in September and 69 degrees in October, likely putting the soil temperature when I sowed my carrots on October 19th close to that ideal of 75 degrees.

What does this mean? Optimal carrot-sowing season is mid-September through mid-October — for my yard, and probably throughout Southern California. That’s when the soil temperature is likely near 75 degrees. (See the CIMIS site location map for a station near you.)

Carrots will certainly germinate in soil with temperatures above and below 75 degrees but more slowly. The most discouraging thing about growing carrots for me has always been that I have a hard time remembering to keep the seed bed moist for a whole 21 days. Staying on top of watering for only a week? I can manage that.

Cornell also says that carrot roots develop their best quality when they grow in soil with a temperature of 60 to 70 degrees. That’s what mine will be growing in through November here.

The point is, sow carrots today! It’s not too late, as the soil temperature is still pretty warm. Or, put it on the calendar to sow carrots between mid-September and mid-October, 2017. I just did.

Don’t transplant carrot seedlings?

In the checkout line at Walter Andersen Nursery a guy said to me, “Carrot seedlings? Wow, you’re bold.”

“Yeah . . .” I said. “You know, sometimes you’ve got to try things that everyone says can’t be done.”

“OK.”

“How do you know you can’t grow carrots by transplanting seedlings if you’ve never tried?”

That’s the question I try to ask anyone who gives growing advice: How do you know? Often, it turns out, they only know because they’ve read it somewhere or heard someone say so. But that’s not good enough.

So I bought those seedlings of Nantes carrots and planted them on January 18. I figured the danger was that the roots wouldn’t grow straight or uniformly if I didn’t have loose and uniform soil for them, so I tilled a little row, and then upon planting I did my best to set the long carrot root tip straight down and deep into that row. Come late March I pulled the first one up.

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“I’m eating like a bunny,” said Cass. He has been pulling up at least two carrots a day and walking around the yard “eating like a bunny.”

The roots formed fairly well, I was surprised to find. There are occasional forks, but they taste sweet and are certainly an acceptable crop overall. And considering the fact that they grew to harvest size in two months (it feels like carrot seeds take almost that long to germinate sometimes!), and that they cost less than a packet of seeds ($3 seedlings versus $3.49 seeds), I will grow carrots from seedlings again for sure.

Now what should I try next that the experts tell us can’t be done?

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