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Carrots are members of the parsley family. A novice might mistake the above ground foliage of a carrot for parsley. Carrots are root vegetables—the fleshy, orange part that we eat grows below the surface.
Classified as an herbaceous biennial, carrots grow vegetatively during the first year. If allowed to go to seed at this time, the root becomes woody and inedible.
The outer, fleshy part of the carrot is made up of cortex and phloem tissue, high in carbohydrates. This accounts for its sweetness. The inner core is the xylem or pith, which is considerably less in high quality carrots.
The time for flower and seed production is the second year. Carrot seed quality reflects the conditions under which the seed was grown. Larger seeds insure rapid emergence and stronger seedlings.
Size and shape determine carrot classification. The Baby Finger is 8-10 cm long and is marketed as baby carrots for dips and cooking. Nantes is about 18 cm long and has a cylindrical shape—it is a succulent variety much favored in Europe.
On the other end of the scale is the thin, long and pointy Imperator (30 cm), which is often marketed with some of the green foliage attached. It leads the sales in the North American fresh market.
The Chantenay carrot is thick and pointy, around 25 cm long, while the slightly shorter and more cylindrical Danvers is used as storage crops and in food processing.
The optimum temperature range for growing carrots is 16° to 18° C (61° – 64.5° F). Top growth is reduced at temperatures above 28° C (82° F). Higher heat also results in stronger flavored roots. Conversely, if the temperature falls below the optimum during the early vegetative stage, unwanted flower stalks may appear.
Carrots are a winter crop in the southern tier of the United States. In the northern states and Canada, they are more likely to be grown in spring, summer, and fall.
Muck and sandy loam soils grow straighter, cleaner roots, than other types. The soil should be free of any debris, small stones, of other obstructions. Otherwise, forking or stunting of the all-important roots can result. Carrots can tolerate a wide range of pH.
Depending on soil types and environmental conditions, fertilizer requirements vary. It is best to get advice from experts, such as the Advanced Nutrients company, that is the leading manufacturer of macro and micronutrients for your horticultural needs.
Even in greenhouses, carrots require soil. Experiments with hydroponics production have not yielded the best results, although Tuskegee University is experimenting with hydroponics carrots for the U.S. space program. The nutrition value is equivalent to soil-grown carrots, but aesthetically, the roots produced are probably not marketable, except in space.
To maximize uniformity and yield, planting seed in equal rows with adequate spacing is essential. You may plant three rows per bed, with a 4 cm space between the rows. The bed should measure 27-30 cm across, with the 3 rows in the center. If you’re planting increasingly popular baby carrots, use a higher density of sowing.
A steady supply of available moisture is called for. Drought-stressed carrots will suffer quality and yield. An irrigation system is essential for carrot growing in most parts of North America. Good drainage is also important.
The use of a sprinkler system is not the best solution to watering carrots. Wet foliage can lead to foliar diseases that will reduce marketability of the crop. Sprinklers may be used at the very early stages of growth, when plants are getting established.
Space your carrot beds far enough apart, so you can get rid of weeds easily. Hand removal of weeds is advisable. This, coupled with good sanitation measures—getting rid of all debris and trash promptly—will go a long way to reduce possible infestations and infections of your crop.
Carrot growers are plagued by aphids, leafhoppers, the tarnish plant bug, and in certain areas by carrot rust fly and carrot weevils. The best anti-insect remedy is prevention. Spray with Advanced Nutrients Bug Away or Genius Oil in advance of an infestation.
Biocontrol is more difficult in the field, than in greenhouses. The Green Lacewing is a predator of a wide range of insects, particularly aphids. Aphioletes is a parasite that terminates aphids, one on one.
Carrot seedlings are prone to Damping-Off, a disease that can be minimized through the use of Advanced Nutrients Scorpion Juice.
Other diseases that may infect carrots are leaf blights such as Alternaria, Sclerotinia Mold, and in some regions, Brown Root. The double whammy of Voodoo Juice and Piranha results in beneficial microbes and fungi warding off unhealthy microbes and fungi, and therefore much healthier plants.
Advanced Nutrients Tarantula is designed to form a symbiotic relationship between the plant’s root zone and the rhizosphere, resulting in strong plants and a superior root system—i.e. much better carrots.
Provided precision planting was practiced on a large scale, methods of fully mechanized harvesting are available. However, smaller operations still rely on hand harvesting. Also, for the popular carrots with tops, hand pulling is the only option.
Baby carrots use a harvesting method developed for radishes. A top cutting device shears off the foliage, before the carrots are dug out of the ground. A loosening device and conveyor belt apparatus separate the carrots from the soil, without losing too many baby carrots.
Carrots must be quickly washed and hydrocooled, to insure a longer shelf life. In order to achieve maximum quality, carrots are stored at 0° C (32° F) and 98 percent relative humidity. Bunched carrots with tops should be stored at 95 percent RH.
Using new technologies, topped carrots can be stored for six to nine months, provided inferior and diseased carrots are sorted out in advance of storage.
Growers report that carrots and other vegetables can be grown year-round in greenhouses and indoors using hydroponics techniques.
If you use organic and bio-catalytic formulas as the primary feed for hydroponics crops, you can get taste that is equal to taste found in vegetables grown outdoors in soil.