Carrots are challenging for us to grow here most of the year. If they could talk, they would tell you that their preferred climate would be drizzling, foggy and cool. And yet, in order for us to harvest carrots in fall and winter, we have to plant the seeds in the dry heat of August and September.
Carrot seeds are slow to sprout and the seedlings slow to grow, and require almost constant moisture for the first month. It can seem a little crazy to be trying to keep a field of tiny carrot seedlings constantly wet and cool when it’s 100 degrees out. We run the sprinklers, briefly, about every 36 hours. But if it’s too hot — 105 or hotter — the seedlings generally rot from the combination of heat and humidity.
Most years we lose one round of carrots this way. It’s pointless to try to schedule planting around the weather since the seeds take fully 2 weeks or longer to emerge from the soil and long-term forecasts are not accurate.
This year we lucked out, as the first carrots were pushing out of the ground in mid-August right as the weather was cooling off. We had a few hot days in September, but the nights were chilly and damp and we didn’t have any of the hot, dry wind that is particularly fatal to the tiny seedlings. That means you can look forward to a long and abundant carrot season this winter.
We primarily grow French, or “Nantes” carrots. These are almost a different vegetable than the standard supermarket carrots: tender and brittle due to their lack of chewy fiber and high water content. We have to harvest them by hand using a pitchfork, and carefully wash them to avoid breakage. Even so, some of the roots might break during shipping and handling — you might find a half-carrot or two floating around in the bottom of your box.