Growing Bugs Bunny Sized Carrots
By Rob Sproule
Easy to grow and full of goodness, the humble carrot has been a quiet staple of dinner our whole lives. Here are the tricks to growing them plump and sweet”¦.
“Oh, carrots are divine
you get a dozen for a dime
““ Bugs Bunny
If you’re growing edibles this year, chances are you’re growing more of them in containers than you used to. And that may be opening up more space in your garden for – you guessed it – root veggies. We’re growing more carrots than ever before. We’re eating them fresh and, increasingly, pickling and preserving them.
Carrots grow best in cooler summer, with optimal growth at 13 degree C nights and 24 degree C days (ish). A week of flirting with 30 will stress them so provide plenty of water. Hot summers may lead to slightly bitter carrots. They soil not too wet, not too dry. Water as needed to keep soil from parching out. As they mature, water less frequently but deeper so the moisture reaching the deep roots. Avoid high nitrogen fertilizers (ie. go for a low first number). You want higher middle and last numbers. I use the same fertilizer that I use on my tomatoes and flowering containers.
Carrots are the proverbial goldfish that grow to the size of their environment. If we seed them too thick (which we always do), they’ll bump and grow into each other under the soil. While optimal final spacing is over an inch apart, you’ll want to seed thicker to account for germination and stumbles along the way. Thinning allows growing carrots room to stretch their legs and thicken up to the grocery store thickness we’ve come to expect.
Thin your carrots once the tops around a few inches high. Pinch below the green with your thumb and forefinger; it’s important to get the root out. Thinning is easier after a deep watering or soaker rain that loosens the soil. You may need to thin again in a month-ish, at which point you might get some baby carrot snacks to munch on Bugs Bunny style. Pull out the scrawniest so the stronger carrots can thrive, and backfill any holes with your fingertips to make sure no orange bits are left exposed.
Harvest & Store:
You can start harvesting when they’re finger-sized, but I usually wait. I like to let a few light frosts kiss them before yanking them up; the chill helps convert starches to sugars and injects a little sweetness. My cue to harvest is when the tops have just frozen down. Make sure there are no orange bits visible as the frost will damage the root. Everyone harvests in their own way. They’ll come out with a graceful tug if your soil is light and fluffy. Most soils aren’t.
I harvest with a spade, digging carefully and deep (just below the carrots), flipping up a section at a time and working my way through it. Discard any with chewing, bruising, or other nastiness as they won’t store well (though you may want to eat sections of them fresh). Cut the greens off a quarter inch above the root and pile them unceremoniously into a bucket. I spread mine onto the lawn and blast the majority of dirt off with a high pressure hose before bringing them inside.