Well a couple years later, here we were starting our own farm. We knew we had gotten the eggs right early on when customers started driving from 30 or 40 miles away to pick up eggs from us. But oh the carrots. It seemed like everything was against us growing deliciously sweet farm fresh carrots.
You would think that carrots are easy. They are pretty much a staple to every home gardeners garden right? They never seem to be in shortage at the grocery store. Well there are a couple of factors that make them harder than you might expect.
For starters, carrots are very particular about their soil texture. They need a nice loose friable soil so that their roots can grow nice and straight, without too much resistance. But if you dare to give them too loose of a soil, well then they grow in every which way. For us, this posed problem number 1. In case you have not noticed when you are walking around, Uncle Bills is located on some relatively solid clay soil. After our first year, try as we might, we could not get our carrots roots to grow more than a couple inches before they jutted off into mutant looking creatures. The second year, we tried putting them in large planters, filled with beautiful hand crafted loose soil. Well that was too loose. Try again. Finally, in our third year, we found the answer: blood, sweat, and tears. Well, mostly just sweat, with a little bit of callusing and sunburn. We found that deep forking our carrot beds created the perfect Goldilocks friability.
Another fun fact about carrots is that they are fairly particular about their spacing, but their seeds are so small that they are nearly impossible to set out at regular rates. No matter how you seed them, it seems like they inevitably come up in clumps, which require hours of tedious thinning. One year we tried to get around this by simply broadcasting them. Needless to say, this was a complete disaster. They do make pelleted seeds, but alas, not in the varieties we were interested in. Well folks, this year we found the answer. Once again, it was blood, sweat, and tears. If we painstakingly laid down each seed by hand, extremely slowly and carefully, we were able to achieve moderately consistent spacing.
The cherry on top of all our carrot problems is that they are EXTREMELY slow to get started. It can take them up to 3 weeks to even germinate, and then its another month before they have any sizable greens. If you are a conventional grower and can simply spray a preemergent herbicide before you plant, then I imagine this is no problem. But for a small scale organic grower like ourselves, this is a weeding nightmare. The moment one turns their back on their tiny carrot seedlings, they have suddenly disappeared under a mountain of weeds. We kept looking for tricks that would make our lives a little easier. Flame weeding before planting helped a little, but did not solve the problem. Guess what did? That’s right, blood sweat and tears. This year, for the first couple weeks of their growth, we cultivated our carrots a couple times week, in addition to countless hours of hand weeding in between
Long story short, it looks like we have a beautiful crop of carrots this year! Id like to take this moment to thank all the volunteers, workshares, and interns, whose blood, sweat, and tears are directly responsible for our delicious carrot crop. Thank you Anthony, Teddy, Mary and Laura!