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South Williamsport, PA
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Carrots are a healthy choice to plant in your garden. They are rich in beta-carotene, which helps support our eye and skin health and immune system. Carrots are said to have first originated in Central Asia and arrived in America in 1629 with the Pilgrims. We live in grow zone 6A, meaning I can sow

Carrots are a healthy choice to plant in your garden. They are rich in beta-carotene, which helps support our eye and skin health and immune system.

Carrots are said to have first originated in Central Asia and arrived in America in 1629 with the Pilgrims.

We live in grow zone 6A, meaning I can sow carrot seeds directly into my garden starting in April, instead of starting them in pots. Carrot seeds, in the right conditions, will start to germinate in 14 to 21 days. Carrots are usually ready for harvest in 70 to 80 days, depending on the type of carrot and growing conditions. Carrots can tolerate some light frost in early spring, but I still use row covers to be on the safe side.

The short growing time provides the chance to have a second harvest. This past week I direct sowed carrot seeds into my garden beds. I started by adding some fresh compost to the bed, followed by a very light and fluffy soil mix. My go-to soil is Pro-Mix BK25 because it is light, fluffy, organic, and it has a low water retention rate, which is great because carrots do not do well in standing water. Remember, carrots are a root, and if the root is growing in heavy, wet soil, it may end up rotting.

After I place the soil in the bed, I use a garden hose on mist or shower spray to wet the soil. I want the soil wet, but not so wet that puddles form on the top of the soil. The water should reach about three inches down into the soil. This will be the last time you water the seeds until they germinate.

Next, I create 1-inch wide by 1-inch-deep rows in the soil and then scatter the seeds into the rows. I cover the rows with wet soil and lightly pat the soil over the rows to ensure good soil-to-seed contact. The last step is covering the carrots with boards that I cut to fit the bed. I wet the boards on one side and then place over the carrots, dry side facing up. A very good friend taught me this trick — the boards will prevent the seeds from being washed away.

About 7-10 days later, lift the boards and see if the seeds have started to germinate. If I do not see any green poking up out of the soil, put the boards back down and check back in a few days. Once the carrots start to germinate, you should only water them every three days.

Carrots will tell you when it is time to harvest when they begin to rise out of the soil, and you can see the top of the carrot. Once you pull your carrots, you can decide if you could possibly get a second round of carrots.

You will notice a difference in the taste between spring and fall carrots; the fall will be sweeter. Also, fall carrots should be pulled after the first heavy frost.

Not all of your carrots will be picture perfect. You may find some carrots did grow perfectly straight or are split or forked. This happens when they encounter something hard when growing, like a stone or hard soil. This is why it is important to use light fluffy soil. If you can take your hand and push it into the soil at least 10 inches, your carrots should grow straight.

Happy planting!

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