Gardening Articles: Edibles :: Vegetables

A Calendar of Carrots

by National Gardening Association Editors

It's fall, and gardeners' thoughts turn to the wealth of colorful carrots maturing underground, in anticipation of the sweet flavor brought on by the warm days and cool nights. With planning, however, you can dig fresh carrots through much more of the gardening season -- year-round, in fact, in some areas of the country. From the new, early, full-size varieties that develop good flavor in midsummer's heat, to the large, late types that keep their flavor and quality in the ground for months, to the smaller, fast-growing varieties that you can plug in for quick crops throughout the season, there's a carrot for every month.

No matter where you live or where you garden, you'll get the best carrot crop if you make staggered plantings of several different types. Choose varieties according to use and when you want to harvest. Carrots grow best in temperatures from 40 degrees F to 85 degrees F, so you can plant anytime you have 65 days or so in this range. Later crops will mature more slowly, however, because the days are shorter and the light is less intense. Temperatures in the low 20s will kill the tops, but the roots keep in fine shape as long as the soil doesn't freeze. That means that in southernmost regions, you can plant nearly year-round.

NGA consulted with university vegetable crop specialists and seed company experts to compile this list of high-quality carrots. Nantes and Amsterdam types, good for fresh eating and juicing, are cylindrical and blunt-ended. Chantenays are wide-shouldered, tapering to a point, so are recommended for heavy soils; the smaller, similarly shaped Danvers have more dry matter, so store well.

All Season Long (quick growing; good for succession planting)

'Baby Spike' (50 days): matures at 3 to 4 inches, and holds its size well past maturity; fresh eating.

'Baby Sweet Hybrid' (49 days): 3-inch baby carrot with rich color inside and out and strong tops.

'Minicor' (55-60 days): 3 to 4 inch-long baby carrot that stays tender in the ground; fresh eating and canning.

'Suko' (55-60 days): 2-1/2 inches; good for window boxes and containers, heavy or shallow soils; fresh eating and freezing.

'Thumbelina' (60-70 days): round, with very smooth skin; flavor is good at 1/2-inch long and holds up to golf-ball-size, good for heavy or rocky soils and containers; very good for baking; All-America Selections winner for 1992.

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