Garden Q&A: Carrots need loose soil
Q: Last year we grew carrots for the first time. They tasted great, but the roots were malformed. They were gnarled and some of them divided and grew two or three “legs,” which made it very hard to peel them. Did we do something wrong?
A: Carrots originated some 5,000 years ago in Middle Asia. These precursors to modern carrots were white, purple, red, yellow or green and had relatively tough, small roots. Today's orange carrot came to be in Holland around the 16th century when breeders focused on promoting the orange, beta-carotene rich color.
Carrots are quite easy to grow, if you keep a few important things in mind. First and foremost, it is essential that the soil be loosened before planting the seeds. If there are clumps of clay or rocks in the planting area, the roots will fork into “legs” or become otherwise malformed. Till or turn over the soil with a spade and work lots of organic matter — like aged manure, compost, or leaf mold — into the soil.
Carrot seeds should be sown directly into the garden soil anytime from late March all the way through late July. Carrots are quite tolerant of cold and hot weather, and in my garden, I sow a new batch of seeds every few weeks to keep the harvests rolling in all season long.
Be aware that carrots take quite a long time to germinate. Don't be surprised if two or three weeks pass before you see the spindly seedlings break through the soil. Once they are in inch tall, thin them so the remaining seedlings are 2 inches apart. If the roots are too crowded, malformed roots and forking also can occur.
There are literally hundreds of carrot varieties available to growers. Many of them are orange, but you'll also find yellow-, red-, white- and purple-rooted varieties (“Yellowstone,” “Cosmic Red,” “Snow White” and “Purple Dragon” to name just a few).
Each color of root contains different nutrients, so growing a variety of colors not only makes for a beautiful dinner, it's healthier.
Even orange carrot selections greatly vary in size and shape. From the small, round “Tonda di Parigi,” a 19th-century Parisian variety, to the baby-type “Little Finger” and the early maturing “Napoli” hybrid, there is a huge diversity of choices on today's seed market.
Horticulturist Jessica Walliser co-hosts “The Organic Gardeners” at 7 a.m. Sundays on KDKA Radio. She is the author of several gardening books, including “Grow Organic” and “Good Bug, Bad Bug.” Her website is www.jessicawalliser.com.
Send your gardening or landscaping questions to email@example.com or The Good Earth, 503 Martindale St., 3rd Floor, D.L. Clark Building, Pittsburgh, PA 15212.
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.