The carrot is a plant cultivated for its fleshy roots. Sowing and growing carrots in our organic garden is a choice that can bring many satisfactions but requires some care. It is a root vegetable, widely consumed in our country. The agricultural production destined for large distribution covers vast expanses of land. On the other hand, this vegetable is not only produced for food use but also for transformation in the cosmetic industry. Carrot seed oil and carrot seed essential oil have various beneficial properties for our body.
Unfortunately, as we know, intensive cultivation techniques bring standardized products to our tables, with qualities that we find unsatisfactory. Vegetables grown in this way have nothing to do with the flavor and quality that can be obtained through organic cultivation.
Let’s see, therefore, how to proceed with sowing and growing organic carrots.
The carrot, Daucus carota ssp. Sativus, is a biennial herbaceous plant belonging to the Apiaceae family.
The roots of the plant can have various shapes and lengths.
Depending on the variety, the roots of the carrot plant we intend to cultivate can vary in shape. There are short and round, long and tapered, conical, cylindrical, etc. The coloration can also be different, ranging from the classic and unmistakable orange to more bizarre colors such as purple, red, or white.
As mentioned, we are dealing with a biennial crop, which means that in the first year, the roots thicken. Only starting from the second year of carrot cultivation, if the plant is allowed to vegetate, the seeds mature.
In the first year, the leaves emerging from the ground form a rosette, fringed and pinnate. They also have finely incised and toothed segments.
In the spring of the second year, branched flowering stems develop. These can reach a height of two meters and bear umbrella-shaped inflorescences with many small white flowers.
Carrot seeds consist of an achene, gray-green in color, with a flat-convex shape and a truly pleasant aroma.
Very interesting for our discussion is the wild carrot Daucus gingidium. Obviously, there is no need to cultivate wild carrots. This species does not need to be sown; it grows spontaneously. Moreover, it is widespread in our country.
We mention it, however, because essential oil is extracted from the seeds of this carrot and is widely used in cosmetics.
Carrot Seed Varieties
There are several varieties of carrot seeds that can be used in our garden. They differ in shape, size of the root, and biological cycle, which can be early, semi-early, or late. Let’s see together what these varieties are.
Early Varieties with Short Roots
- Parisian Heirloom: round in shape, with red and tender flesh;
- Orange carrot: conical roots, about twice as long as their diameter, ideal for early sowing.
Semi-Early Varieties with Medium-Length Roots
- Scarlet Nantes Carrot, with a cylindrical root, blunt tip, and intense red flesh. Ideal for spring sowings, with a cycle of 90-100 days;
- Chantenay Carrot, with a beautiful conical-cylindrical root and bright red flesh, suitable for spring sowings;
- Amsterdam Carrot, with a cylindrical root, red, crunchy, and tasty flesh. Quite early variety with a cycle of 80-90 days.
Late Varieties with Long Roots
- Flakker Carrot, elongated and conical in shape, blunt tip, very tasty flesh. Ideal for storage;
- St. Valery Carrot, with a large conical-shaped root. Sweet and tender flesh, up to 30 cm long. It has a very long cycle, about 5-6 months.
If you want to grow Italian carrots, among the main native varieties that you can sow are:
- Carrot from Polignano
- Carrot from Viterbo
How to Grow Carrots
Growing carrots in your home garden is an operation that is within everyone’s reach, provided that you follow the appropriate precautions. If you have decided to sow organic carrots, here are the details to pay more attention to.
In terms of climate, carrot cultivation adapts well to any environmental condition. For example, if they are sown in late summer, once the roots have swollen, they can withstand the cold winter climate well. However, the ideal growth climate is temperate and mild. It would be best to sow carrots in a sunny area of the garden.
If we want to cultivate carrots optimally, we must remember to plan the sowing to obtain staggered harvesting. Therefore, we must take into account the specific variety and its crop cycle.
In particular, we must remember that:
To grow early carrots, we must sow between February and March, and remember that they need protection from frost. For this reason, it is important to plant them in a sheltered position, in protected cultivation in a greenhouse, or under a bellows tunnel. Early varieties are harvested in late spring.
Semi-early carrots are sown from April to June, to be harvested from summer to autumn.
Late carrots are sown from May to July for autumn harvest. They can also be sown in August for harvest expected between the end of winter and the beginning of the following spring.
Soil and Organic Fertilization
The ideal soil for carrot cultivation should have a medium texture, quite loose, and possibly tending to sandy. It should also be soft and fresh. To achieve better results, it is important to prepare the soil with careful processing.
With this type of soil, the roots have the possibility to develop without suffering and, consequently, without deforming.
Obviously, the soil must have a good content of organic matter, possibly derived from previous composting. The organic matter, in fact, must be in an advanced state of decomposition.
Sowing carrots is one of the most delicate phases of cultivation. It is done broadcast, using about 7-8 g of seeds per an area of about 10 square meters.
It is essential to note that carrot seeds have very slow germination. At a temperature between 8 and 12 degrees Celsius, for example, these vegetables need 20 to 30 days to germinate. During this phase, the soil must always be kept moist.
The seeds should be buried at a shallow depth, covered with no more than 1 cm of soil.
Once the seedlings have sprouted, it may be necessary to thin out the plants. It is important to leave at least 5-10 cm of space between each plant.
For summer sowings, it is advisable to always check the soil’s moisture and possibly water more than once a day. It may be helpful to shade the area of the soil where the carrot seeds are planted.
The proper irrigation for growing carrots
Irrigation is also essential during other stages of cultivation and contributes to the balanced development of carrots.
Water imbalances can cause problems in one way or another. Excessive drought, for example, can lead to root deformations. On the other hand, waterlogging can cause rot.
Therefore, carefully evaluate the season and the precipitation situation. In particular, intervene during the summer with supplementary irrigation.
The main cultural operation to be carried out in carrot cultivation is weeding, that is, cleaning from weeds. This operation can be limited by using natural mulch.
The harvest of carrots is carried out gradually by selecting well-formed roots. These are easily identifiable as they protrude from the soil.
If carrot cultivation extends into the winter period, for example, with late summer sowing, it is necessary to protect the plants from frost by increasing natural mulching or using tunnels.
Uses of Carrots
Carrot roots are appreciated for their nutritional properties. They are sweet and tasty, highly nutritious, dietary, and rich in vitamins A, B, and C.
They also contain beta-carotene, a precursor of vitamin A, which is very useful for skin care and can help prevent aging.
Carrots can be eaten raw, grated, or thinly sliced, or they can be boiled and seasoned with oil and salt. Carrot juice is also widely used, concentrating its active ingredients, and its oil is prepared by macerating dried and ground carrots.
We will delve into the nutritional aspects and beneficial properties of this vegetable in a future article.
Biological Pest Defense
Regarding biological pest defense, it is worth mentioning that cultivating carrots does not present particular problems. However, this is true only if the right conditions for organic cultivation are respected.
The greatest risk is the presence of water stagnation, which can favor the onset of fungal diseases such as alternariosis or stem rot.
As previously mentioned, good soil drainage, combined with natural mulching, prevents the development of these diseases.
Keep an eye out for soil parasites like the bulb and stem nematode Ditylenchus dipsaci, which we have already talked about in the past. If this parasite is present in your soil, avoid cultivating carrots unless you have carried out a brassicacea cover crop.
Other problematic pests are the Carrot psyllid, Carrot moth, Carrot rust fly, and Chafer beetle. To prevent attacks from these pests in organic agriculture, you can use natural products such as nettle macerate and garlic infusion.
By following these techniques and suggestions, you can cultivate natural and healthy carrots that will give you great satisfaction. We hope to have been helpful, and as always, happy organic cultivation.
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