Tuesday, November 10, 2009

2009 Overview Carrots

SugarSnax my favorite carrot of 2009

2008 was the first year I really grew carrots well in my garden. Clay soil is not great for carrots. I had abandoned them for years, but decided the soil was good enough to try them again. I grew shorter carrots to make my life easier. But this year I wanted to try long pretty carrots - imperator style carrots. I double dug the bed so they would have free reign to grow. I chose SugarSnax as the best of the pretty carrots to try. I did have four different varieties and I'll discuss them at the end.

I did notice in all the carrots and all the plantings that anytime I didn't thin to at least 3" apart the carrots were small and slow to grow. I always want to leave the good growing seedlings, but I must be ruthless.

I did three sowings of carrots over the year and I'm going to go over each one individually.

The first sowing was on March 27th. We were getting some nice weather so I decided if I could get the carrots to germinate (using burlap), they would grow just fine. And they did - slowly as usual for carrots. They were thinned on May 30th and again in mid June (with eatable thinnings), so grew very slowly in the cool weather. They were harvested over time in mid July. So they took 3 1/2 months to grow to full size from sowing.

These early carrots were grown in the middle of the eggplant and tomatillo bed. They had 7' x 1' of growing space. I put in four rows (of four different varieties) each spaced three inches apart. This worked well in the eggplant section. The eggplants didn't grow fast enough to shade out the carrots. In the tomatillo section the tomatillos started shading the carrots in late June. Nematodes were a problem. About a third of the SugarSnax (long carrots) had issues with stunting and forking due to nematodes. The other varieties showed nematode damage too. There was a little carrot fly damage, but not much.

I harvested 3.5 lbs of carrots from the 7 sq ft area.

The second planting was on May 14th. They were planted between my peppers and tomatoes in a 12' x1' section. I had three rows each four inches apart (four varieties - one row was split by Atomic Red and Big Top) . They were thinned on July 17th. The first picking was in the middle of September, but the carrots were still a bit small. Once the peppers shading them were removed, they bulked up quickly. By mid October they were a good size.

These carrots took five months to grow to full size. Unlike the first carrot harvest there was no nematode damage to be seen and very little forking. Almost all the SugarSnax were long beautiful carrots. These carrots were grown near Ground Control marigolds. I spaced the marigolds between every other tomato, but behind the tomatoes, while the carrots were in front of the tomatoes. They weren't that close, but it was good enough. For those that want more precise measurements the marigolds were four feet apart in the long direction of the bed and about 2-3' away from the carrots in the other direction. Let us just say I will always grow my carrots with marigolds whenever I can. Sadly early spring is a bit too cold for a marigold.

I still had carrot fly this time worse than in the spring, but still not bad. It affected maybe one in every eight carrots and usually only at the tip, which was easy to just cut off.

I harvested 7.3 lbs of carrots from this 12 sq ft of space. Which was a better yield than the spring carrots even though there was one less row.

The last sowing was on July 24th, in a different bed. I did prepare the soil well for them even if I didn't double dig it. There were however no marigolds close to protect them. Unlike my other sowings, this one had bad germination and it was really too late to try another sowing. They are still not sized up enough. They are still baby carrots. I've sown carrots on July 15th (I think, haven't double checked) and that was long enough, so that one extra week makes a lot of difference. I think in the heat of summer it would be better to use a board to help with germination. My dark brown burlap heats up the soil too much. Cooling it down with a a board might be better.

I grew four varieties this year. The first and best is SugarSnax. This is a hybrid. It is reported to grow about 9", but can get up to 11". I forget how long they were in the spring, but the fall carrots were mostly 6" and up, with some getting to eight inches long. It might not grow as well for me as stated, but I love this carrot. I love the long slender roots which are easy to peel. I love the sweet taste. I love that it gave the biggest best carrots of all the ones I grew. I will grow this next year. Most of my carrots will be this variety.

Atomic Red is not all that red and sometimes has some yellower carrots

I grew Atomic Red because red carrots are fun. That being said I was less than impressed. The carrots did not germinate well. The ones that did were prone to damping off. When they did get started they were slow to grow. Their final tally was about 1/3 of SugarSnax in the spring and about 1/5 for the fall carrots (please note that I didn't keep track of the whole harvest by carrot type, but the big ending harvests I did, so I used that as a guideline). Their high point was taste. I think they were the second tastiest carrot after SugarSnax. They weren't a really sweet carrot, but they did have a lot of carrot taste. I've seen catalog descriptions that say it is better in soups than fresh because of their strong taste, but I would disagree with this. I loved them fresh. That being said, I won't grow them again. Not enough carrot for the effort.


Danvers was bred for heavy clay soils. It has a more fibrous core to power its way through. I grew it for this reason. It was indeed easy to grow. It was the second best producer in the garden. It produced about 3/5 of what SugarSnax did. Its roots were short and very wide if left in the ground for a while. I don't like the taste. It is bitter. I'll only use it in soups. I won't grow it again.

The last carrot I grew was Big Top. It was a fine middle of the road carrot. Nothing great about it and nothing bad. It produced about 1/2 of SugarSnax. It tastes good. I probably won't grow it again just because I could try something different.

For next year I'll probably stick to the same timing I used this year. It worked. I'll forego the last sowing since the May sowing doesn't come out of the ground until fall anyway. I'll grow SugarSnax and probably pick another variety to try, but if I only grew SugarSnax, I'd be happy. I'll need several packets though if I want to sow it all with one variety.


  1. Good for you on the carrots. I've only tried "short and sweet", and the size just wasn't very big. Maybe I should try them again in containers....

  2. Beautiful carrots, beautiful pix and encouragement! I never do well with carrots, but I think my problem is in the weeding not the soil. I'm going to try again, though.

  3. What a great post, Daphne! I feel like I've learned more about growing carrots from this post than I did in hort school! This year our CSA grew orange, yellow and purple carrots, and they were all great (wish they'd post the cultivars along with the produce, though!), so we didn't have to grow them here. But I wonder how they'd do in our in-ground bed in the greenhouse...

  4. OKAY! Sugarsnax is it Daphne! Thanks for this overview. I have had trouble growing carrots, even in a three foot tall raised bed with excellent sandy soil. The later sowing with the marigolds will be on my to do list, for there is nothing that can compare to a home grown carrot. :-)


  5. A really interesting post for me. Right... 3 inches apart, OK will try to stick to that. And clay... I didn't know that clay soil's not very good for carrots, which is a pity because that's what we've got. I probably usually dig a good forks depth, but will have to dig deeper for the carrots in future.

  6. Thanks for the review. I'll get out there and thin again -- Denise is always after me to do that. I've got both Danvers and Nantes well started, with some mixes going in one bed. The marigold tip was really useful for next year, too. I've got to revise my spring plantings plans!

  7. EG, yeah I've found small carrot a pain in the kitchen. The Danvers weren't too bad that way. Since they are so fat it isn't hard to skin them, but usually little carrots are such a pain to clean up. I like the bigger ones better. I would think for carrots you would need a nice deep container.

    CommonWeeder, I suppose I didn't mention weeding, but carrot don't like competition. I kept mine pretty clean. I only found a few weeds when I pulled the last of them.

    our friend Ben, I wonder if I have to try another color next year. Mostly I've heard of the non-orange carrots being dissed this year, but I loved the taste of the red ones. So maybe I'll like the other colors too.

    fairegarden, I'd also suggest planting with onions (which I didn't do this time). Just some here and there. I don't know which of your pests is bad, but carrot flies can really stunt carrots too. Onions are supposed to help. I haven't tried the onions though so don't know personally. Some of the typical tricks work for me and some don't.

    Jan, yeah, carrots are pretty weak and have a hard time growing down through clay. If a carrot can't push through easily it just stops growing longer. It doesn't take much to stop a carrot. Sadly my clay soil is still pretty heavy, but it has gotten better over the years. I hate when it dries out in the summer because if I haven't mulched it can crack. It doesn't do it nearly as much as it used to. I have a lot of organic matter in that soil now.

    Stefaneener, it really was amazing the difference in the sizes based on how far apart they were grown. Two small close together ones, did not even come close to the size of one spread far enough apart, even when you add them both together. I found the same thing to be true of spinach also. The ones spaced far enough apart grew much faster than the ones that weren't.

  8. Oh, the SugarSnax are lovely ! Now that's what I call a carrot. I really like the Atomic Reds also because they're so pretty. I'll probably give them a go even though they're not great performers. (Others have said so too). Or maybe I'll try another colored variety but I do want colored carrots. I just won't make them the main crop.

    I grew Napoli which did pretty well. The first sowing was great, the second, not so great, the third is still out there in the beds, tiny.

  9. Great job with the carrots Daphne. I think I'll succession plant carrots every month or so starting in the spring. I sowed my fall carrots in mid August and that was just too late. Which is why I'm surrounded by baby carrots now.

    I'd love to try the atomic red and purple haze carrots next year.

  10. miss m, Atomic red is pretty if slow. I keep thinking about if I'll grow another colored variety. I really like the interesting colors.

    Thomas, Succession planting is a really good idea with carrots. I think I'm only going to do two though. The spring planting will just be stored in the fridge until the fall crop comes in. I do a lot of succession planting with greens and I'm trying to think of a way to get out of it a bit since it is just so much work.

  11. Carrots seem so fussy. We got some good-enough ones this year. Reading this, I feel as though I've been out in the garden with you, really absorbing the lessons. Burlap! I cannot wait to try what I've learned today from you...

  12. Carrots are one of my most reliable and favorite crops. They really do appreciate a double dug and soft quality soil to grow in. I am not as good about thinning as I should be and could probably increase my yeilds if I were more thorough in that job.

    Never can have too many carrots. They are a great overwintering crop, highly nutritious, and taste wonderful!

  13. The SugarSnax look really good, I will have to try them next year. I am going to grow many more carrots next year. Your Atomic Red's, although not very red are much redder then the ones I grew. Next year I am going to grow Dragon carrots from SSE again. They are a beautiful purple/red carrot with a orange core. I grew them last year and they preformed very well: http://veggiegardenblog.blogspot.com/2008/07/out-with-flowers-in-with-vegetable.html

  14. June, I do use burlap to help germinate. Anything that will keep it moist under there.

    kitsapFG, this year I was pretty good about thinning, but I would occasionally find some carrots 1 1/2 or two inches apart and think that would be OK. They really didn't grow as well. The ones closer than 2" didn't size up at all. They were tiny little things not even worth eating.

    Dan, those look really beautiful. I'm thinking I might try Purple Haze. I've decided to order from Fedco this year instead of Pinetree (just for a different selection) and that is the one they have.