ORGANIC CARROTS from
THE GARDEN SPOT
by Mort Mather
If you are looking out your window in March at whatever the weather
is, it is snowing outside my window as I'm writing this, and wishing you could eat a fresh
carrot from the garden right now; read on. We finished our last carrots this week. There
were more but they were too limp to be much fun. However, we could still be eating fresh
carrots until it was time to dig the first parsnips if I had prepared to do same.
obviously, you have to plant enough to last. I planted 200 feet of row which is about
right for Barbara and I. Second, the variety should be a good storage variety. We have
been planting Nantes for many years. Third, time your planting so the carrots will mature
a couple of weeks before the first frost. My first frost is usually about September 20th.
I plan to plant the storage carrot crop about June 20th. Last year it was actually planted
June 26th. Fourth, Don't harvest until after the plants have received a killing frost.
Carrots are biennials. The first year they build up energy in their root. The second year
they flower and produce seeds. The frost is the signal to the plant that it is time to
store energy for the winter. That is theory on my part but what is not theory is the fact
that the carrots are sweeter after frost.
Having followed those steps you will have an excellent product for fall eating. Winter
and early spring eating are more challenging. The carrots we just finished with were
stored the cellar in a box I made out of old boards. We live in an old cape with a dirt
floor cellar and water literally running through it. During the years when we heated
solely with wood the temperature in the cellar was near freezing most of the winter which
was ideal. Carrots, beets, rutabaga, potatoes and cabbage held all winter in those
conditions. A furnace in the cellar raised the temperature and decreased the excellence of
the cellar for vegetable storage. I'm now working of walling off a section to make it
colder. This will take several years at the pace I'm going though I did put in some
insulation between the furnace and the root storage area last fall.
My suggestion is that you think about your own situation to try to come up with a
solution. You are striving for an area with high humidity and low temperature. Remember
that humidity is relative, relative to the temperature. You may not think that the water
evaporating from a bucket will be enough humidity but it takes less actual water in the
air to raise humidity to 90% at 32 degrees than at a higher temperature. You can increase
the evaporation rate by increasing the surface area of the water which might mean a large
pan or draping cloth over the edges of a bucket to wick up the water.
The spring carrots can best be stored right in the garden where they grew. All you have
to do is keep them from freezing. I do this by placing bales of hay over the rows,
complete, intact bales which can be lifted off the row for partial harvest and replaced.
This method can be used for the whole crop. It takes a lot of bales but they are excellent
mulch for the next garden.
İMarch 8, 1997
Mort is a husband and father. He authored a book, Gardening For
Independence and was named Environmentalist of the Year by Down East Magazine
in 1987. You
can eat his organic produce at his son's southern