Carrots (Daucus carota) are popular cool-season, root vegetables to grow in home gardens. But the longer varieties – which can grow up to 8 inches long – are hard to grow in heavy, clay soil conditions.
If you have clay soil, consider ‘Paris Market’ (aka ‘Tonda di Parigi’) carrots, which I discovered last year. The round French heirlooms from the 19th century grow only 1 to 2 inches in diameter.
These carrots thrive in containers and can handle clay soil (although you’ll want to add organic matter like compost regularly to improve your garden soil quality.) Shown are some carrots we harvested in fall 2010. A bit strange looking, aren’t they?
This early variety ripens in 50 to 68 days. What these small carrots lack in size, they provide in flavor. You’ll love the sweetness of this old French favorite.
Growing Carrots: This root vegetable is difficult to transplant, so sow carrot seeds directly into your garden about 3 to 4 weeks before the last spring frost … or as soon as soil can be worked. Carrots tolerate light frosts, and once established can often overwinter in garden soil.
Carrots prefer full sun, but tolerate light shade. Plant carrots in light, fluffy soil that isn’t too rich. Avoid adding too much nitrogen. The optimum pH level for the soil is 6.0 to 6.5. If your soil is too acidic, add lime.
As the seeds are tiny, they can be hard to handle. Consider making a seed tape. Plant seeds 1/4 inch deep and 1/2 inch apart. Carrot seeds can be slow to germinate, so be patient. Keep soil moist while seeds are germinating.
Thin new carrots as they start to pop up, so they are spaced 2 to 4 inches apart. Toss carrots you’ve thinned from the garden into your salads.
For multiple harvests throughout the growing season, sow seeds every couple weeks until midsummer. Good companion plants for carrots are alliums (e.g., onions, garlic, leeks) and tomatoes.