From Soil to City

Farm Update: Curly Carrots?

Learn more about how carrots grow at Roxbury Farm, NY. They supply 250 of our Local Roots members with organic vegetables each week!

“(At Roxbury Farm), carrots like to grow in sandy soil, with no rocks or other debris.  Carrot seeds are quite small and we place them in the soil about 1/4″ to 1/2” deep.  We seed the bunching carrots on a slightly raised bed.  Once the baby carrots germinate they send their thin, thread-like roots down into the soil.  If the tip of the root hits a rock, or bit of cover crop residue that hasn’t broken down completely, it splits to grow around it or does a right angle to move to a clear growing path.  Our soil is full of cover crop residue.  In addition to that, the fields we use for our early summer crops are quite gravely.

“For our winter storage carrots we make high ridges in the soil to create a deep, loose growing area for the carrots.  The ridge machine pushes the soil into two ridges per bed with a nice flat surface on top for seeding.  After we make the ridges we irrigate them so the soil is moist and then we seed the carrots.  If we irrigate after we seed, the soil tends to form a thin crust on the top which is hard for the tiny new carrot tops to break through.  The moisture from the pre-irrigation is just enough to get the carrots germinating and growing well.

Carrots are very slow germinators which makes keeping the rows weed-free tricky.  Many farmers have a flame weeder.  This is a machine that uses fire, powered by propane, to burn up the weeds that germinate before the carrots do.  The flame weeder doesn’t disturb the soil and bring new weed seeds up to the surface.   We don’t have a flame weeder yet so we used a different machine called a crust breaker to lightly loosen the soil above the carrot seeds so they germinate faster and create a denser line of carrots that can out compete the weeds.

Once the carrots are up we can cultivate the ridges to keep the sides free of weeds.  The carrots have a nice airy, loose mountain of soil to grow down through. We also seed them a bit thinner so they have a larger diameter which helps them to better hold on to moisture during winter storage.  The ridges also drain well so if we do have a wet summer the carrot roots don’t sit in water and rot.   We have been really happy with the quality and taste of our carrots the last few seasons.

The ridge method is a bit trickier for cultivating, requires additional equipment, and we can only seed two rows per bed.  The bunched carrots are seeded on three rows so we get more bunches per foot and the carrots are thinner and better for bunching.  So, your summer bunching carrots are going to continue to be a cast of odd shaped characters. ”
– Farmer Jody