Every year I look through seed catalogs trying to find the best fruit and vegetable varieties for our climate and needs. One of my favorite vegetables to choose are carrots. There are so many fun varieties and home grown carrots taste absolutely fantastic! There are five basic types of Carrots.
- Chantenay develop stocky roots that become sweeter as the soil cools in the fall.
- Danvers make great juice and the sturdy roots store well.
- Imperator are long and need deep, sandy soil to thrive.
- Iniature have small, shallow roots that are often quite sweet and are good for heavy clay soil.
- Nantes are fast and easy to grow, and adapt to a range of climates and soils.
This spring I am going to plant three different varieties from Baker Creek.
Cosmic Purple – 80 days germination. These Carrots have bright purple skin and flesh that comes in shades of yellow and orange. This is a spicy and sweet-tasting root. These carrots are not only pretty, but purple carrots also are higher in antioxidants than orange carrots and they contain anti-inflammatory properties.
Danver Half Long – 70 days germination. The original Danvers Half Long dates back to the 1870s. This is the old standard American carrot that is adaptable, dependable, and productive. Thick 7” roots have good flavor. I grow this carrot for its smaller size and ability to grow in harder soil.
St. Valery – 70 days germination. The Vilmorins of France mentioned this variety in 1885 and said it had been grown a “long time.”A large carrot with bright red-orange roots that are sweet and tender. St. Valery is smooth, 10”-12” long, and 2”-3” in diameter. This is a rare variety and will be a new Heirloom for us this year. It is a traditional carrot that receives great reviews.
We live in Zone 6a where carrots can be grown in the spring and fall. Using a greenhouse or hoop house will mean a third crop can be harvested though the winter. To plant, begin sowing seeds directly in the garden three weeks before the last expected frost; plant again every 2 to 3 weeks after that. Most cultivars take 70 to 80 days to mature, so sow the last planting 2 to 3 months before the first expected fall frost. Sow seeds about a quarter inch deep and 2 inches apart, in rows spaced at least 10 inches apart; carrots do well in double or triple rows. Thin seedlings to 4 to 6 inches apart, depending on the variety’s mature size. Carrot seeds are very small so they can take some time to plant. They also take longer to germinate than other vegetables so do not worry if they take awhile to come up.
For Zone 6a, the frost free date is April 14th so you should plant carrot seeds around March 24th.The reality is that in our area, there is usually a frost right before Mother’s Day. I do not put out any of my starts until after Mother’s Day for that reason. However, because carrots are stared from seed and are quite cold hearty, I feel comfortable planting these in late March is ok.