No-Till Carrot Strategies for Spring & Summer (w/ Videos)
I posted the below video of our no-till carrot production, and thought I would expand on it a little—or a lot, because carrots—based on some of the questions we’ve received, because it wasn’t the most thorough thing I’ve done (read: it’s growing season and I’m beat, y’all). So, let’s get thorough here instead!
For these carrots, the only bed prep was adding around 4” to 6” of compost and a brief fall tarping (around one month). Previously the plot had been sweet potatoes. I talk more about that in the below video. No broadforking in this case, though I will broadfork if the bed feels too compacted before adding compost, not after, as it will bring up weed seed which defeats the purpose of the dang compost mulch.
For seeder, I used the Jang with the weird roller with the crosses in it for non-pelleted and the “obviously for pelletized seed one” for pelleted seed. I remove the fabric. Gears are 9 in back, 14 in front. The Jang is extraordinarily more precise than the Earthway to the extent that my Earthway seeded beds yielded about 2/3rds of the bunches on average. This is hard to tally as bunches change size by season, but it’s close. We’re not big on new espensive tools ‘roung here, but the Jang is worth every penny when it comes to carrots on our scale––pelleted or not. We sow five to six rows in non-irrigated patches and seven to nine in irrigated patches. I sow with the Earthway in the below video and talk about some of it’s downsides.
Varieties by Season (zone 6)
Late winter sowing (Feb and March sowing): Atlas, Danvers, Mokum, Nelson
Spring sowing: Atlas, Bolero, yaya, Starburst
Summer sowing: Atlas, Bolero and bolero types, Resistafly, Yaya
Storage: I still struggle with our storage for storage carrots so I’ll let Jackson fill that in.
Farmer Jackson on storage carrots: For storage carrots in z6, I strictly use Bolero (5 rows on 30” bed top, Jang 10/14). Ideally, we’ll do a sowing the first week of August to attempt a solid germination using a lot of overhead irrigation and light row cover to prevent evaporation. If the germination is less than great, it gives us time to do one more sowing mid-August. We’ll harvest once the daylight hours drop below ten, sometime mid-December, cut the tops, wash them and—once drained and dry—go pack them into one-pound bags for market. We’ll pull perfectly good Winter-sweet carrots out of our cooler in late April.
Fall sowing: Mokum
We’ve found the best germination rates when soil is covered with both compost mulch and row cover. Sometimes compost mulch is enough, but carrots must stay moist for 9 days solid to get good germination. Some carrots at some times of year will take 14 days or more. Keep them moist. We have not found tarping to be necessary, generally speaking. It’s more work than it’s worth and then you have to fret that the carrots will also get leggy or too hot. I suggest light row cover if anything, that way you do not have to immediately stop what you’re doing and remove it. In the early Spring, the row cover will also help keep new mulch in place.
We spot cultivate. The weeds are fairly suppressed by mulch and when they do come through they rarely thrive. If they’re not going to go to see before the carrots are pulled, and aren’t competing with the carrots, they’ll get cleaned out with the harvest and next bed prep, so I do not do much preemptive weeding—only when I see issues like when the compost supplier throws in some lambs quarters seed for free. #thanksbutnothanks
Don’t assume that customers want enormous carrots. They just want carrots. The last two years we have sold thousands of bunches of baby carrots and baby-ish carrots—they sell just as easily as large carrots, honestly. I see way too many people leave them in the ground too long and wind up losing profitability and being late to the market. By the time most people start bringing carrots, we have been “the carrot people” for weeks.
Ideally, your carrots would simply pop out when you are ready to harvest. This is mostly true unless the patch gets too dry. If you have irrigation, irrigate the night before harvest to speed up the harvesting process. Otherwise, you may need a fork—broad or digging.
We do not band them in the field. Instead, we have learned that it is easier to clean them before banding, so we wash the bunches, then band. In this case, clean is better than lean.
Tops on or Off?
Carrot tops remove nutrients and moisture from the root, but they also help sell the carrots like crazy. Carrots without tops will not sell as well as carrots with them. At all. It sucks, but that’s the market. I do recommend telling the customer to remove the tops if they plan to store them for any length of time, and same to you. Remove the tops if they will be staying in your cooler more than a few days.
We sell everything on our table at “1 for $3 or 2 for $5”—everything. Half-pints of strawberries, pints of squash, garlic, everything. So, we size bunches of carrots that fit that. For baby-ish carrots, that means around 10 to 12 carrots per bunch. Fewer per bunch as the carrots get bigger. Alex Ekins of Ace of Spades says he sells uniform baby carrots at 50 for $10, which is about comparable though more profitable if you can nail the uniformity.
And one last no-till carrot video, because why not?
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