It’s true that there are few insects that bother carrots above the ground. In fact, carrots and other plants in their family (cilantro, fennel, celery) actually attract “beneficial” insects that eat a number of pest insects. Having them growing on your farm tends to reduce bug problems on other crops.
Carrots are also amazingly, incredibly productive. An acre of carrots produces more weight of crop than an acre of potatoes, for example. Because they are narrow, straight and grow vertically, you can pack a hundred of them into a square foot of soil. And yet they do not require lots of fertilizer; in fact, excessive amounts will make the carrots hairy and unattractive.
On the flip side, carrots are exceedingly weak plants when young.
The reason our carrots are late this year is because our first fall planting, done in mid-July, was wiped out by the heatwave that month. We also lost most of our third planting, done in mid-August, during the heat over Labor Day.
As I mentioned last week, mechanized carrot harvesters are expensive, hard to come by, and impossible to justify for a farm like ours that grows just a few acres each year. So when it comes time to dig our carrots, we do it by hand — with a pitchfork. It’s a painfully slow task, although not a particularly difficult or unpleasant one.
Even if somehow we came across a mechanical harvester, we couldn’t use it. The French carrot varieties that we grow are too fragile and the tops aren’t strong enough to withstand the rough treatment. In fact, we can’t even wash them with the machine we use to wash beets, leeks, and potatoes. Instead we wash them with a hose, one a bunch at a time. Enjoy.