tips for fall carrots

ladychipsJune 14, 2011

Like TraceyOKC, I'm a long time reader and lurker; first time poster. I am generally all about the flowers, but now I have room for a couple of vegetables. I'm hoping to plant some fall carrots (thanks OkieDawn for the fall planting calendar). In TraceyOKC's post, Dawn said she would share tips for planting carrots. I'd love to hear them! Thanks...

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I second that request. :) Just planted some yesterday!

    Bookmark   June 14, 2011 at 12:27PM
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Me three. I can get them to germinate and grow about two to three inches. They taste good but are always so tiny. Maybe I need a different variety or fertilizer?

    Bookmark   June 14, 2011 at 2:41PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

The first rule of raising carrots is to remember they are THE GARDEN DIVA and all you have to do is just knock yourself out and practically kill yourself trying to please them, and you'll have yummy, yummy, sweet, tender, delicious carrots. That's all you have to do...just cater to their every little whim and desire and they'll reward you.

How do you please the Diva carrots?

Give them what they want.

Carrots like to germinate in warmish soil but then they grow best is cool weather conditions. Do y'all think there's any way we can arrange those conditions for them in our part of the country?

First, let's talk about the growing conditions they prefer because, in an odd way, for carrots the growing condtions are more important than the germinating conditions. (Well, except for that pesky little rule about how they have to germinate before they will grow.)

Carrots are cool-season crops. By that, I don't exactly mean that they won't grow in hot weather, because they will grow in hot weather. They just won't taste very good if grown in hot weather. So, we have to grow them in early spring through late spring and in the fall (which means germinating in ridiculously hot conditions) through early winter, but never in the summer. Carrots that mature in hot weather are not sweet and often not tender either.


TEMPERATURES: Carrots grow best when temperatures range from 40 degrees to 85 degrees. Divas don't like being too cold or too hot!

In the spring, this means you need to sow your seed and get it to germinate about 3 months before your temperatures start regularly reaching or exceeding 85 degrees. This is harder than it sounds because carrots germinate poorly in cold soil and sometimes it is hard to get them to germinate as early as they need to. (You cannot expect Divas to wake up when they're told, thank you very much. You have to coax them or even trick them into waking up before they are ready.)

For the fall crop, it is a bit easier. Just sow your seed and get it to germinate while the temps are still warm (hot!) and about 90 days before your temps will be dipping down into the low 20s. Carrot divas can freeze when temps get too cold, so you want to keep them happy by having them ready for harvest before it gets cold. No one wants to have to deal with cranky carrot divas who are shivering and quivering and turning blue.

I find it easier to grow carrots as a fall crop than a winter one.


Like all good Divas, carrots have very specific likes and dislikes. They like to grow in loose, friable, fertile soil that is high in organic matter and yet not overly fertile. They don't like clay and they don't like rocks, and too much fertility in the soil makes them have hairy roots and also can give you all green tops and poor roots, which is a problem since we're growing them for the root. They prefer a soil pH of 6.5 to 7.5.

Carrots like loose, friable soil and strongly dislike poorly draining soil, so they are perfect for raised beds. If you don't have raised beds and your soil is pretty heavy and drains slowly or has lots of rocks, grow short carrots. Longer carrots grown in heavy, slow-draining or rocky soil will fork and twist and become quite distorted. Another advantage of raised beds is that if they are raised significantly above grade level, they warm up more quickly in spring.

SEED GERMINATION: This is the area where most people have trouble with their carrots. (Remember what picky little divas they are!) Carrots germinate much more quickly in warm soil, but here in our part of the country, we need for them to germinate and start growing in cool soil so they can mature before it gets too hot for them. So, you have to trick them.

To give them the soil temperatures they need in spring, prepare your bed in fall. About 2 or 3 week before it will be time to sow seed, cover the bed with black plastic. (You can buy it in rolls at Wal-Mart or a home building supply type store.) The black plastic will warm up the soil a few degrees which will help.

How important is soil temperature for fast germination of carrot seed? First, I'll tell you briefly, then I'll link Tom Clothier's germination/temperature chart at the end of this post. Carrots germinate at any soil temperature between about 40 and 95 degrees, but the colder the soil, the longer the seed takes to germinate, and the hotter the soil after the ideal temperature (which is 77 degrees), the lower the percentage of seed germination drops.

Let's say your temperatures begin hitting 85 degrees in mid-May. Count back roughly 90 days and that puts you in mid-February. That's when you need for your carrot seed to be germinating. Do you think your soil temps are around 77 degrees in mid-February? No way. They're probably in the 30s or 40s. So, how to trick the seeds? Start with warming up the soil. Then, right before planting, moisten the soil so it is nice and moist but not damp. Sow your seed as desired. (You can plant in rows or broadcast seed and thin later after your seed has germinated.) Then, in order to keep the soil moist (because if it dries out, that seed won't sprout), place the material of your choice on top of the newly planted carrot seed: plastic, plywood, cardboard, or burlap. With any of the above, the idea is to hold the soil moisture in place AND prevent the carrots from washing away and disappearing if it rains before they sprout. Every day (I do it every morning and every evening) just lift up the covering to see if you see tiny green sprouts. The minute you see a sprout, remove the covering.

When watering carrot seeds before they sprout, you need to water extremely gently so the seed doesn't wash away. This means avoiding the hose. Use either a watering can with the sprinkling rose on it or use a sprayer set to a fine mist type setting. Water very gently.

Most gardeners that have poor to no seed germination either lose their seed to rainfall or watering, or the soil crusts over and is too hard for the seed to break through the soil surface (the covering we use prevents that for the most part), or the seed sits in cold soil so long it rots before it sprouts. If your soil temperature is 32 degrees, you'll get 0% germination. At 41 degrees, 48% of your seeds will germinate, but they will take up to 51 days to do so. Once the soil is up to 59 degrees, 95% of the seeds will germinate within 10 days, and at the ideal temperture off 77 degrees, 96% of your seed will germinate in just 6 days. See how important temperature is? Personally, I've never had carrot seed germinate when sown in very cold soil because in my garden it washes alway, blows away or rots before that 51 days has passed.

You can see why it is so much easier to germinate seed in the fall when soil is cooler, right? When sowing seed for fall carrots, I take my soil's temperature using an ordinary kitchen meat thermometer with a probe (you can buy one at Wal-mart for about $6 or go to a garden supply shop and buy a similar 'soil termometer' for 2 or 3 times the price) about a week before my recommended planting date. If the soil is too hot, I put shade cloth over it to cool it down. If it is really too hot, I put 3 or 4 inches of mulch on the bed and then put shade cloth over it to cool it down. At planting time, I rake the mulch off, plant and water in the seed, cover it with a covering to hold in the moisture, and put the shade cloth over that to keep it all cool enough. For a shade cloth, you don't have to have a purchased 'Shade Cloth' and can just use any textile that will provide shade.

If you can get the soil prepared properly and can get the seeds to germinate, then carrots stop being quite so picky and are easy after that. Just remember to thin them to 1" apart once they are about 2 or 3" tall. If the ground is dry, water before you thin so the thinnings will pull out easily. After you've thinned them out, mulch them well with an inch or two of mulch to keep soil temperatures and moisture levels from fluctuating too much.

You might think that your carrots grow 'wide' shortly after emergence and then grow long as they continue growing, but the opposite is true. They actually make most of their length in the first 6 or 7 weeks after they sprout, so during that time it is important to have soil that is just slightly on the dry side. If they have a lot of soil moisture early in their life, they will remain shorter. You want the soil dry enough that they reach down deep searching for moisture, but not so dry that they don't grow at all! Later on, after that first six weeks or so, you want to keep the soil evenly moist so they won't fork and send off many feeder roots searching for moisture and so they won't crack. Often, extreme fluctuation in soil moisture causes your carrots to split and crack because as they fluctuate from dry soil to moist soil they crack, split and send out numerous feeder roots. This is because their growth is sort of stop-and-go-and-stop-and-go if they fluctuate from very dry soil to very wet soil. Water them well enough that the soil is moist about 6" down and never let that soil dry out completely before you water again.

OK, so we've covered soil preparation, seed germination, soil temps and air temps and their effect on the plants, moisture needs, thinning, that everything?

I don't know if any of you have carrot pest issues. I've never had a single one here, but if your soil is prone to root knot nematodes, you may have trouble getting a good carrot crop. Some folks have issues with fungal diseases, but since that requires moisture, it is not an issue I've ever had here.

Tracy, there in Arizona, you may have a hard time getting a carrot crop if y'all get too hot and too dry before they can mature. You might have better success with some of the shorter carrots like Short 'N Sweet, Sweet 'N Petite or the round ones like Thumbelina or Paris Market because they don't require deep soil moisture and they mature pretty fast.

I wonder if they stay short because of poor fertility? Knowing the kind of gardener you are, I assume your soil is well-amended but I am cognizant of the fact you're in a much tougher climate than we are. Try top-dressing your carrots when they're 3 to 4 inches tall. Here in OK, I wait until they're 6" tall, but I'm worried that in AZ you maybe shouldn't wait for them to reach that height. I don't add anything to my soil before planting except compost if it needs it and some Garden-Tone (3-4-4)organic plant food at the rate recommended on the bag, which I think (don't trust my memory on this one) is 3 or 3.5 lbs. per 50 s.f. Avoid ferts with high N-P-Ks because carrots overreact to high fertility and give all top and no bottom. It it hard to overfertilize anything with the Espoma organic fertilizers, which is one reason I love them so.

If y'all have potential carrot issues that I didn't address, ask questions!

Oh, what to do if you do have heavy soil and think you haven't been able to amend it well enough yet? Plant your seeds only 1/4" down and then sprinkle compost on top of them instead of native soil. In well-prepared or sandier soil, plant them 1/2" down.

Another trick that helps overcome soil that crusts over on top is to interplant radishes with your carrot seeds. The radish seeds germinate easily and punch through any crusty soil layer that has formed on top, and that paves the way for the carrot seed. Since you can harvest the radishes in 25 or 30 days, they are out of the way before the carrots are up and growing larger.

If you're in an area where the soil tends to be very wet at planting time, be sure you're purchasing seeds treated with a fungicide. This gives your seed the best chance of germinating before it rots and gives your seedlings the best chance of growing and avoiding damping off in the tiny seedling stage.

Finally, although I do not necessarily recommend the following be used as a routine practice, it works. You can sow your carrot inside in bottomless cardboard tubes (like toilet paper rolls) or in paper cups with the bottoms cut out. As soon as they germinate, plant them---cardboard tube or cup and all---in the ground. It works. I've done it. I don't like doing it and I don't routinely do it, but I've grown them this way in both incredibly wet and incredibly dry years when I felt like I couldn't give them the type of soil conditions they needed at seed-planting time. You also can grow them in containers, but to succeed, don't use a growing medium with pelleted fertilizer as it may be too fertile for them.


    Bookmark   June 14, 2011 at 4:02PM
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Hmm, shade cloth...I know nothing about shade cloth...could you elaborate on that? Also, I remember reading that fall potatoes don't want to be planted in ground that is too hot. So should I also put shade cloth over the areas where I want to plant potatoes?

A few years ago my husband planted carrots, had an awesome crop and then canned them. Those were the best carrots I have ever eaten in my life. I hope I don't have my hopes up too high! Thanks for the tips!

    Bookmark   June 14, 2011 at 4:14PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

Oops, I forgot the link.

I've linked Tom Clothier's database below. Practically memorize it and it alone will solve a lot of your seed germination issues. If you can plant seeds when the soil temps are what they like/need, you can get very speedy germination.

Ladychips, Shade cloth is a commercial product designed to provide specific amounts of shading in order to reduce the impact of the sun's heat. Next time you're in a greenhouse, nursery or garden center, look overhead and see if you see a black, green, brown or silver open-weave textile above. (The silver one likely is Aluminet.) You can buy it in different amounts--30%, 50%, etc. to control light exposure and heat. In our hot climate, it can be used to shade crops and keep them cooler. About the only thing I use it for in the gardenlong-term is for tomatoes because it is pretty pricey if you have a large garden. By shading the tomatoes I can keep them about 10 degrees cooler, which in hot weather can help keep the plants a little happier and a little more productive. I will use it short-term to shade an area for a week or two to help summer-planted seeds or transplants get off to a good start. You can buy shade cloth from horticultural supply or greenhouse supply stores, or from places like Lowe's or Home Depot, where it normally is sold from big rolls in the Garden Center so you can get it cut to the length you need. Usually, Sam's Club has it at this time of year in prepackaged rolls that are about 4' or 6' wide and 25 or 50' long. I haven't looked at it in Sam's this year to see what size they're carrying or what the price is.

Potatoes are not as picky as some crops about soil temperatures at fall planting time and I don't use shade cloth to cool down their growing area. You can just dig deeper when planting them. For example, if you trench plant them down about 6 inches in winter, then dig deeper and trench plant them down about 8 inches in summer. After the foliage is up and growing, mulch with 3 or 4 inches of mulch to keep the soil cooler. When it is time to dirt or hill the potatoes, rake back the mulch and remove it from the row or bed, do your hilling or dirting, then rake back the mulch on top of the dirted or hilled potatoes. I don't use mulch as a substitute for hilling or dirting because I get better yields from hilled/dirted potatoes than from mulched ones.

Potatoes will start growing in warmer temperatures, and generally in the fall by the time they are large enough to start setting and sizing their tubers, the soil temps are well below the critical threshold of 85 degrees.

Home-grown carrots are superb. They are so much better than those from stores, and I suspect one reason is that store carrots can be held for weeks (months!) before you buy them. I've kept carrots from the garden in my refrigerator for 3 or 4 months without them going bad. (I have an extra refrigerator in the garage for excess produce that has a long cold storage period like cabbage and carrots.)

There's nothing better than fresh, tender carrots right from the garden that practically melt in your melt after you've cooked them.


Here is a link that might be useful: Tom Clothier: Effect of Soil Temp on Seed Germination

    Bookmark   June 14, 2011 at 4:44PM
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Wow....I'm so excited to try carrots again!

    Bookmark   June 15, 2011 at 12:22AM
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    Bookmark   July 7, 2011 at 4:58AM
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I'm going to try making some new soil in tubs for carrots. I believe my issues have been a combination of issues but mainly had to do with timing and coarseness of the soil. I'll try sifting the soil for a big tub and see if that helps, plus a regular fertilizer schedule. I also have to fight high pH, which seems to cause some of my root crops not to bulb up.
Thanks for the potato info too, Dawn. I'm planning to try fall potatoes this year. Any suggestions for places to buy seed potato for fall?

    Bookmark   July 8, 2011 at 6:27PM
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joellenh(6b Jenks)

Dawn...that was EPIC and wonderful.

I grew carrots this year and they were small and rubbery. Probably around 25% germination.

I am trying to figure out what is easy and worth it to grow here and am crossing carrots off my list. Sam's club sells organic baby carrots for around a buck a pound. That will do. I will devote my gardening space to something easier and less picky.



    Bookmark   July 8, 2011 at 7:53PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


For fall seed potatoes I usually replant the small potatoes from the spring planting or buy organic potatoes at Whole Foods or Central Market down in Texas. Most online retailers who offer seed potatoes are sold out by now. You might try Ronninger's Seed Potatoes to see if they ship for fall.


Well, they are divas, so why not just say so? lol

I can't say I blame you. Carrots are a lot of work and I have to fuss over them a bit to get them started. In Texas, I could just throw carrot seed on the ground and rake it into the soil. That doesn't work for me here.


    Bookmark   July 8, 2011 at 8:47PM
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okiedawn, What Home Depot or Lowes are talking about that has that kind of shade cloth? All I have found in south okc is prefabricated rolls that are 70 to 75% shade cloth. Not really the optimal % for vegetables I wouldn't think although I do have things growing under it, flowering and a little fruit here and there on some plants. A local grower told me that but I haven't found that to be the case here unless only certain ones do. The beans are coming back and producing some, cowpeas are starting to know, cucumbers, etc. Janine? at Organics Okc Garden Supply told me that her Grandmother I think used to cover her tomatoes with white bed sheets and grew champions. I have covered my okra and corn with the sheets and so far so good. They are growing again and the okra is starting to form buds again, hallelujah! I have been told that 60% is the optimal for a variety of plants.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2011 at 9:03AM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

You just have to check with your local Lowe's or Home Depots to see what shade cloth they have. I haven't bought any new shadecloth in several years, but when I bought mine the store had rolls of 3 or 4 different percentages of shading and the rolls probably were 6' wide and then you could buy it by the foot and get it in any length you wanted. The rolls were on a big metal rack out in the Lawn & Garden area outside.

I bought my original shadecloth in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and the last time I bought some, which was 2 or 3 summers ago, it was in a pre-cut roll that probably was 6' wide by 50' long at a Sam's Club store in Southlake or Lewisville. We are close to Texas and my DH works in Dallas so we do a lot of our shopping down there.

I have no idea who has what in OKC. I only make it up to OKC once a year for this forum's Spring Fling/Plant Swap.

You can use bedsheets, sheer curtains, etc.for different degrees of shading. I like 50-60% for veggies. Peppers seem to like/need/tolerate more shade than tomatoes, for example.

You also can order shade cloth online in just about any percentage you want and in custom sizes. Sometimes you can find 'scraps' like the end pieces off large rolls, etc., that are large enough to use in a vegetable garden in a website's clearance or 'steals and deals' section. I'll link one of my favorite online suppliers. I buy my large rolls of insect-weight and frost blanket weight Agri-bon fabric from this place.

You may have a hard time finding shadecloth right now because everybody already may have purchased whatever the stores have. The time to buy it is in early spring before you need it---whenever the stores are receiving their new stock of outdoor patio, lawn and garden supplies.

Shadecloth is a nice extra and can help reduce sunscald and even prolong production or increase production by keeping the plants cooler. However, it certainly isn't essential. I gardened quite successfully for decades without it.

Here is a link that might be useful: Shade Houses & Material at FarmTek

    Bookmark   July 22, 2011 at 11:18AM
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I have been graced by carrots this year. I started them in a container where I worked tirelessly to amend (even blend) the soil. AFter no germ in 2 weeks I gave up and forgot about them. Of course, they fooled me. So, Ilooked up this particular post and thought to bump it for newbies. Carrots really are the "divas" but I'd ratheruse another


    Bookmark   March 18, 2012 at 12:26AM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

Bon, See there, those carrot divas were just taking their good old time and making you wait. Two weeks isn't long enough with the soil temps we were having several weeks ago. My soil temps are warm enough now that if I sowed seed now, which I won't go since I have at least 8 varieties up and growing already. I say 8 varieties because one packet was a mix and I don't know how many varieties are in it. So, I planted 7 other varieties plus a packet that was a color blend.


    Bookmark   March 18, 2012 at 8:37AM
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This is one of my favorites! BTW I did get carrots to germinate in a pot last fall but they never got big. I think the pot wasnt the best choice. But this spring I already got carrots that germinated in my garden. They took about 2 wks too, I had almost given up.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2012 at 7:18PM
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This was excellent advice. Sure enough, the first ones to come were those by tiny radish leaves. A few days later others appeared on stage and that makes me happy. It meant I gave them good soil to work with. The roots should be really happy, too. Nice and smooth. I think there was only about a 30 percent germination rate and the seeds were a year old. *pats self on back I think they're typical Dantes or Nantes or something like that. Much love.

@Tracey Good to know. I read they're sweeter if you pick early? I won't need too many carrots but I hope to have a ground full in a few years. I read they don't like "yardens" so I'll wait until a portion of the "yarden" is well amended and rich for these little "divas".

    Bookmark   March 18, 2012 at 9:36PM
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My spring carrots didn't make it. As my persistence looms I will be attempting at fall 2012 carrots. Therefore, I referred to this wonderful post and thought I'd bump it again.

I am unable to purchase any shade cloth. I suppose I will be attempting to plant beneath tree shadings but not too close to the tree. It's a very large tree. At any rate, I have some wonderful soil in that area, too.

Love to all and special thanks to Dawn.


    Bookmark   July 2, 2012 at 7:32PM
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I actually ended up with very healthy looking, good-sized carrots this spring despite it being my first attempt at growing them. The heat unfortunately killed the flavor of them, though. I'm not sure how much varietals matter with carrots, but they were Danvers and the Nantes/Imperator cultivar 'Miami'. I didn't fertilize much aside from mixing compost into the beds, so I think they did well just because a) I had them in slightly raised beds, b) my soil is very sandy and loose (though only about 6-8 inches deep), and c) we hit the jackpot with well-timed, persistent rainfall this spring. If it were up to me to keep them well-watered, they probably would have failed spectacularly.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2012 at 10:03PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


I'm glad you're giving the fall carrots a try. I think fall carrots taste sweeter than spring carrots since they are maturing (at least theoretically) in cooler weather.

I have a new, deep, raised bed where I'm going to grow fall carrots, but it will have to have shade cloth because it is on the west side of my garden shed so it has to endure full sun from noon until sunset. In the absence of shade cloth, you can rig up a sheet over the carrots if you need to. It will shade them just fine.

Heather, I would think you have perfect (though shallow) soil for carrots. What do you have 6-8" down? Hardpan? Rock? I'm not sure how much variety matters either in terms of flavor because most any carrot I've ever grown has had fine sweet flavor as long as it matured under the right conditions. It is just that with our weather extremes, it sometimes is hard to get the right weather at the right time for the carrots. A fairly new couple of carrot favorites of ours are YaYa and Napoli, and I sometimes grow the short ones like Sweet N Petite, and Short N Sweet in containers. Round carrots like Paris Market, Thumbelina and Parmex also do great in shallow soils or in containers.

I cannot believe we're already thinking of fall planting. Summer just flies by.


    Bookmark   July 2, 2012 at 10:16PM
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I've done tons of research on our soil types here, and my best guess is that it's the sandstone bedrock. There's a steep incline along the back fenceline, so I think the builders scraped all the topsoil from the back to the front of our property to level out the hillslope for the house. You can see outcrops of sandstone along the road near our house, too. It's soft for a rock, though, and I can chip away it when it's moist. The rear-tine tiller I rented for the garden just scraped along the top of it, so I think I just have to build the beds up and live with it. I was very happy to see how productive the garden was despite the soil issues! I'm having a harder time getting trees and shrubs established, especially in the back where it is so shallow.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2012 at 10:36PM
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Thanks, Dawn.

Any special treatment for fall broccoli? That is the only thing I feel I absolutely must have because even my children love broccoli. I know. They're weird but it's great and boy do I just love beef broccoli. My broccoli from spring continued to grow until just two weeks ago when I finally pulled them up. I guess they like the soil but faired better on the east side of the house in raised beds. No flowerettes - just 2 foot tall lean stalks.

Heather, I'm glad you've had a productive year. I'm still picking marble and nickle-sized tomatoes rich in flavor. In fact, A few just rotted as I have too many for salads.

I'm going to try a bit of everything but only a "bit" until I become more familiar with growing them and test my new physical limits. At least I have the raised beds prepared.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2012 at 1:12AM
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I second the broccoli tips. I've been lurking here since we moved to Oklahoma three years ago from Louisiana...thriving on all of Dawn's advice (you should really write a book). The one thing I haven't managed to work out yet is broccoli. And seriously Dawn, make it an e-book. I would buy a copy. :)

    Bookmark   July 4, 2012 at 5:02PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


Let me start a new thread for fall broccoli because otherwise we won't be able to find the broccoli thread later in a search unless we remember it is a part of the carrot thread.

If you'd left the broccoli stalks in the ground (if they still had any life in them at all), and kept them watered in July and then fed then in mid-August, they might have come back for you. Last year, my Piricicaba broccoli, which is very heat tolerant, survived after I stopped watering in July and produced broccoli from about September through December. Broccoli doesn't usually survive the summer, but it if it hot enough to make it more or less dormant, it sometimes will made heads before it bolts in fall.

jacksonmom, I'm never going to write a book, sorry. There's already so many great ones out there and I don't feel like I have anything new to add to what so many others already have said, and much more eloquently that I ever could. However, thanks for the lovely compliment.

Even if I wanted to write a book, I just don't have that kind of time.

Now, I'm going to go start that new thread on Fall Broccoli as soon as I finish a canning project in the kitchen. You know, when the kitchen timer rings, you must go answer the call. : )


    Bookmark   July 4, 2012 at 6:18PM
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My carrots and my beets sprouted in the spring but never grew taller than 2 inches. They stayed stagnant like that for a couple of months and then died. I've never seen anything like that.

Having last grown either in San Diego, I was completely surprised. I guess San Diego was just the ideal climate and Oklahoma is the worst climate.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2012 at 9:34PM
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I have carrots maturing in my planter. I could not resist and harvested three a few days ago. They were edible, but small. Given the cooler temps, they are very sweet. They seem a little bland. I suspect my soil might not be agreeable with sufficient minerals and such given the enormous amount of moisture this spring.

Thank you, Dawn. I almost cannot believe it.


    Bookmark   June 21, 2013 at 2:36AM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

Yay Bon! Congratulations on getting a carrot harvest. I think that just-picked carrots are just so tender and sweet.

It is hard to figure out why carrots are bland sometimes, but often it is the heat. However, it can be any condition that is considered a negative, so it could be poor soil, air or soil temperatures that are too low or too high, too little or too much moisture, crowded growing conditions or insufficient light. At least you got some carrots this year. Now, the next time you grow them you can aim for better flavor. Just keep tweaking what you're doing until you are getting carrots that have the size and flavor you think they should.


    Bookmark   June 21, 2013 at 5:12PM
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What a treat to read through this post and ponder my successful carrot harvest last year. They were so fresh and kept so well in the frig. I think it took us four months to eat them all. I'd love to have more this year.

Now that I have a planter and soil they like, is it possible to winter sow carrot seed?

    Bookmark   December 24, 2013 at 6:46PM
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I got it. Soil temp.

    Bookmark   December 25, 2013 at 5:50PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


lol. Yep. With carrot seed germination, it is all about the soil temperatures. While they grow well in cool weather, they don't germinate in cool weather. It drives me up the wall some springs because the carrots can be slow to germinate when the days are reasonably warm but the nights are very cold. Sometimes you can cover the planter with black plastic so it soaks up heat all day and helps the carrot seeds sprout more quickly, but you need to watch the moisture level of the soil-less mix in the planter very carefully because the seed can rot if the soil is too hot at the same time it is too wet.

Or, you can pre-soak the carrot seed in water for a few hours, then either (a) wrap them up in a coffee filter or paper towel and put them in a zip-lock bag to pre-germinate indoors, or (b) sow the pre-soaked seed into the soil-less mix in your container and throw a blanket over it at night to keep the cold night temperatures from preventing the seed from germinating. If you pre-germinate the seeds, just check them every morning and night and then carefully transfer them into the soil-less mix as soon as they germinate. You need to transfer them to the soil immediately once they start germinating so they will grow straight down and you won't have deformed carrots.

Or, you can just wait for warmer weather to arrive. I'm thinking that, based on our December weather, 2014 might not be a good year to attempt planting anything too early. Usually we can tell by early to mid-January if the weather is going to allow us to push the limits and plant early or not. In 2010, it was readily apparent in early January that we could plant early, and I sowed warm-season seeds indoors earlier than usual so I'd have plants ready to go into the ground earlier than usual (the first week of March instead of latest March/earliest April). Last year it was pretty apparent that we shouldn't plan on getting too much in the ground too early.

We've been getting all these Arctic cold fronts this month because of the way the jet stream is dipping down really far south, so if that pattern continues in January, there won't be much point in trying to rush carrot seeds or anything else into the ground until the jet stream pattern changes.

I was out in my garden for a little while yesterday, and self-sown seeds of chamomile and Laura Bush petunias are sprouting. I can't help thinking they are ahead of themselves and that those tiny little plants are going to freeze back to the ground, and probably sooner rather than later.


    Bookmark   December 26, 2013 at 3:38PM
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Thanks for responding, Dawn. Thoughtfully contemplating the prior posts often reveals the answer since your diligent with responses.

I appreciate the germination tip. I didn't realize it was possible with carrots. I think I'll try a little of everything: pre soaking, pre germinating and some early in ground. It can't hurt and I'd learn a lot more than just sitting here thinking.

You mentioned the sprouts in this warm weather. When the sun came out I ran quickly outside and set up my winter sowing jugs. I thought about the issue of warmer weather on seeds and decided to wait until it cools down again.. maybe Saturday afternoon.

It gives me something to do besides turn composts. My neck is getting stronger. Even with my lower back giving me fits I'm not just itching to garden, but to get moving and being stuck in the house is driving me nuts. The outside furries are happy, though. Cleaner and happier than ever as I'm much more capable. Can't wait to get outside for longer stretches.

    Bookmark   December 27, 2013 at 6:06AM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

Bon, With gardening, I take the approach that anything is possible until I have repeatedly tried something and failed multiple times.....that is when I decide it isn't possible here, in my conditions, with the weather and soil that I have. It is the same way with plants that people say won't grow here. I always try them anyway. After trying and failing three times, I decide that those people were right and that those plants won't grow here.

All my life I heard you couldn't start carrots from seed indoors and transplant them. One year I decided to try it. I saved up the cardboard tubes from toilet paper, paper towels and Christmas wrapping paper. I cut all of the longer tubes to the same length as the toilet paper tubes, lined them up in a plastic storage bin, filled the tubes with soil-less mix, and sowed carrot seeds indoors when the weather still was much too cold outdoors for them to sprout in less than 30 days. What happened? The seeds sprouted and soon we had little green carrot tops growing up out of those cardboard tubes.

By the time the carrot seeds had sprouted and we had tiny green plants, it was warming up outside, so I transplanted the plants, cardboard tubes (they decompose in the ground) and all, into the ground. It probably was early March when I did that. We were harvesting carrots in May, and they were so sweet and tender.

So, of course, the next year I had to try pre-sprouting them indoors in paper towels and then transplanting them into the ground, but I waited until late March or early April. They sprouted, I stuck them in the ground, and they grew. We had carrots to harvest in June. The carrots from pre-sprouted seeds were a bit slower to grow than the ones started indoors in cardboard tubes. I didn't try them both at the same time in the same year, so it is possible different soil temperatures and other weather conditions accounted for the difference in performance. It also is possible the pre-germinated seeds didn't like being pulled off the paper towels and being dropped into the soil, but they did survive and grow, albeit more slowly.

Do I routinely raise carrots using either of the methods above? No. There's no reason to do it since they will sprout just fine later in spring. I just wanted to see if I could do it.

I am glad you are feeling better and itching to get out into the garden. Pretty winter weather always does that to me too. We still have a lot of winter ahead of us, but onion-planting time is rapidly approaching, and I need to work on my grow lists. I was so busy with home-remodeling and re-decorating projects (we still aren't done with all the downstairs rooms, but I am starting to feel like we eventually will be done) from late summer through now that I haven't made my grow lists, haven't purchased any seeds, etc. It is time for me to take a couple of days to work on my grow lists, check my seed supplies and order anything I need. I feel like I am behind because usually by now I've done all those things.

However, I also know better than to be fooled by a few warm days. Yesterday it was gloriously sunny and warm in the afternoon, and today and tomorrow will be even better. Our forecast low was 30 degrees....and we dropped down to 20 degrees. That probably was a good thing. When I was outside feeding and watering the animals just before sunrise this morning, I was mumbling and grumbling to myself and saying "20 degrees! This is so much colder than they said it would be...." and I wasn't happy. It is good to be reminded, though, that sometimes weather doesn't behave as predicted and that I have to be ready to protect any plants if I start them too early. It seems like all winter long I have to fight my urges to start seeds too early!


    Bookmark   December 27, 2013 at 9:41AM
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We've been saving up toilet paper rolls for months. I like to stuff them with lint and use them as helpful fire-starters. I rare do and the excess would be perfect. :D

Yesterday I started a bunch of wheat grass indoors. I don't really eat it, but like to watch it grow. There's not enough light inside to really grow anything beyond seedling stage. It's nice to see a little green growing on the kitchen counter. Bill walks by when it stands 3" erect and says, "Ma. It's time to mow the lawn." . I'm thinking about doing the same with some extra veggie seeds.. maybe brussels

    Bookmark   December 27, 2013 at 10:46AM
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