In the Garden:
Middle South
August, 2000
Regional Report

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Planting carrots for a fall garden.

Sprouting Seeds in the Heat

When carrots and beets get chilled the natural way, in soil that slowly changes from warm to cool, they're transformed into culinary wonders, so crisp and sweet they must be tasted to be believed. Now is the time to plant these supremely storable root crops, but there's a catch. First you've got to get the seeds to sprout in hot soil.

Carrots and beets will germinate in soil that ranges between 70 and 80 degrees F, but they need constant moisture. Promoting strong germination means using techniques that turn down the effects of the midday sun.

Sow Thick & Sow Deep

The deeper the seeds are planted, the better chance they have of staying moist. I make 1/2-inch- deep furrows with my finger, drop in seeds one inch apart, and cover them with a mixture of 1/2 compost and 1/2 soil. The compost keeps a crust from forming over the seeds, a crucial factor for skinny carrot sprouts trying to grow. Bagged potting soil works well, too.

Boards & Blankets

Got an old bedspread or thick blanket you can relegate to the garden? After thoroughly watering the seeded site, cover it with a blanket held in place with boards or bricks. Every night when you get home from work, lift the blanket to water. You can water right through some types of fabric, but do check to make sure enough water percolates through to keep the soil lightly moist. Remove the blanket as soon as you see flecks of green, usually 7 to 15 days.

Soaker Snakes

If your schedule is too tight for daily attention, snake a soaker hose over the beds and put it on a timer. If your timer can handle only one cycle a day, set it to flow in late evening, so the soil will remain moist through the night.

Sprinkler Savvy

Okay, so sprinklers aren't the most efficient way to water, but they sure do a great job of coaxing carrots and beets to life in hot soil. A quick sprinkler session in the morning followed by a longer one in the evening often is sufficient, but in really hot weather a couple of fast midday drenches can make a big difference. Before you know it, the carrots and beets are up and growing, and you're counting the days until harvest.


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