why is he talking about carrots?

I am a big carrot eater, so have become the default carrot grower in our household. If you have ever grown carrots yourself, you may know that one of the challenges in sowing the seed is to spread them thinly yet evenly over the soil of the growing area. In our case this task is complicated by the fact that we raise our vegetables in raised beds instead of rows. The seed is tiny, and in broadcasting them over the soil surface it is all too easy to end up with some areas without any seed, and others with way too much. The bare patches become the perfect medium for weed growth, and the oversown areas produce carrots about the size of toothpicks. So the ideal is to either sow the seed very meticulously (I never seem to succeed at this), or to repeatedly and mercilessly thin the patch until the proper spacing is reached, allowing each carrot ample growing room.

Tired of growing spindly carrots, one year I decided to transplant them individually onto uniform, wide spacing (6″ apart), and achieved some (at least for me) unprecedented results:

giant carrot

So I wanted to share this story for two reasons: 1) I wanted an excuse to post this photo, which I love—quite proud of that monster carrot; and 2) because when I talk to landowners unversed in the art and science of silviculture (the theory and practice of guiding forest establishment and growth), I often use the story above as an analogy— for a basic lens to use when viewing a forest with the intent of growing bigger, healthier trees. Because of the scale, we don’t often think of it this way, but trees—whether or not they benefit from any human intervention—are a crop, albeit a massive one, with a much longer maturation cycle. And whether or not you as a landowner (or recreational forest user) have any interest in woodland management for timber harvest, don’t we all want to see our forests becoming healthier, more diverse, bigger and taller?

3 Comments on “why is he talking about carrots?

  1. Nice pic of the carrot! How did you do the transplanting? Did you start the carrots in smaller pots or transplant trays? How big were they when you transplanted them, and what time of year did you do it? I love fresh carrots but I usually have the same luck as many times our interns are the ones seeding them and they are a spindly mess…..

    I would love to start them indoors and let them get to be a good size and then transplant them outside as soon as the weather is good so they can get a little more growing in. Is your soil sandy or more loamy out in Ithaca…

    Okay, this is getting to be a nightmare comment but hey, I have questions! I am looking forward to getting your next post….

    • Hey buddy, what do you think this is, a garden column? Kidding. I’ll try to answer your questions in order, Ricardo. I transplant carrots with a narrow gardening spade, but an old butter knife would work as well. I start the carrots right in an area of the garden bed, then transplant them to another area, or just rearrange them in the original spot. This saves all the additional steps of starting them in trays or pots. It also allows the taproot to grow good and deep without bottoming out. I find the survival rate is better if I transplant them when they have grown to maybe 1/4″ or so wide at the crown–where the greens meet the root. In my experience, carrots are best sown early spring and after mid-summer for a fall crop (especially if you want to store them). As for my garden soil, it is a silt loam–Middlebury is the actual type (my forest land is on Lordstown silt loam). Drainage is good, organic matter is fairly high, but the soil is naturally quite acid (5.5 or so).

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