One Bed


Most of my afternoon yesterday was squandered in devotion to carrots.

I love carrots, and my son loves them, too, but with much of the garden soil composed of a heavy clay loam, a good amount of preparation has to be devoted to growing this humble root vegetable.

You hardly ever see those long, slender supermarket varieties at farmers markets in this area.  We just don’t have the soil for the foot-long types.  A high raised bed filled with compost and sand might do it–but most market growers in this area aren’t growing that way.

The prep-work for growing the stump-rooted versions (Danvers Half-Long is standard in these parts) is more than enough for most: chopping all those clumps of clay and combining with copious well-composted organic matter, removing any rocks, digging and double-digging, and creating fine and lovely tilth is par for the carrot course.

Rocks will make them fork, too much nitrogen will make them hairy, and chemical fertilizer gives them a chemical flavor.  You’d think it’d be simpler–but sometimes the simplest-looking things are the most work.

So, I spent almost my entire afternoon yesterday prepping one bed–just one–for main-crop carrots.  And it’s a thing of beauty.

Part of that time, I’ll admit, was spent pulling a trellis from that bed.  Then broadforking the main part, then widening and removing weeds from the perimeter.

Composted manure was mixed in last fall, but I added more while breaking down the clay on the widened edges.  Most of the bed was in good shape already–happiness is stepping the broadfork into a bed and having it sink effortlessly down to the crossbar–no putting my full weight onto it and jiggling back and forth to ease it down into the clay.

But I wanted a wider bed–wide enough for three rows of carrots.  If I’m lucky, I can harvest hundreds of carrots from that one bed.  And I want to be lucky.

The second carrot bed–the one for the early, smaller types, was prepped a few days before.  That worked out well because the first piece of row cover I pulled from the shed was the perfect length for the second bed–so I seeded that one quickly, laid and fastened the cover, and watered all those tiny seeds in.

The first one–the beautiful bed I’d spent so much time on–didn’t get a row cover, but it did get several heavy wire cages over the top.

I don’t often have little critter problems with my carrots (insects or even rabbits–they go for the beets), but I do have big critter problems–deer love carrots and will sink their long legs right into my perfectly lofted beds and then paw out the roots.  Or just eat the tops.  Or both, if they can.  Protection is key.

Germination is also an issue with carrots–they’re erratic and can take a long time to break through.  The additional organic matter and row cover can keep the soil from crusting and retain the moisture longer–making it easier for the wee carrot tops to break through into the light.

I couldn’t spend my entire day on carrots, though.  By the time both beds were prepped, seeded, and watered, the sun was sinking fast, but I thought I’d get one more task in for the day.

There’s really not much in life more satisfying than whacking the heads off your enemies thistles with a well-placed stroke of a mattock.

Enemies on the field of battle

I think perhaps all those tea-baggers and violent fringe groupies could use to learn this principle–that thistle-whacking is a fairly perfect way to release all that pent-up energy without getting on anyone’s watch list.

I’d invite them out to our place, but who knows what they’d do when they found out about my politics.

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4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Mary on March 30, 2010 at 9:12 am

    Wow, thanks so much for the detail. Now we’re behind the proverbial 8-ball in getting our carrots in. But I figure, we’ll be behind you most of the way cuz you’re our leader for our gardening this year. Thanks for taking the time to detail your garden doings. And yes, thistles. I’m looking forward to torching them with one of those hand-held thingies this season.

  2. Posted by flyingtomato on March 30, 2010 at 6:42 pm

    Oooh! Flame-weeding! Love it. Though nothing’s so satisfying as chopping them in my mind. The flame I reserve for the bindweed. 😉

  3. Posted by Samantha on April 21, 2010 at 1:54 pm

    It looks like you guys are off to a great start. What method of pest control do you normally use? I’m looking for a way to keep insect pests out of my organic garden and came across Safer Brand’s Tomato and Vegetable Insect Killer. Have you heard of this spray? I like that it’s certified organic and is easily broken down by nature.

  4. Posted by flyingtomato on April 21, 2010 at 5:41 pm

    Samantha–

    I use a couple of different methods depending on the problem. For crops that are highly susceptible to insect depredations, I use floating row covers, which is a barrier method. I will also occasionally use diatomaceous earth for insect control. For larger insects like potato beetles, I’ll typically pick them off or crush them. Squash and cucumber beetles have been less of a problem in my gardens since I started planting my cucurbits later, when it has really warmed up. The sprays like the one you describe are very expensive to use in quantity–they are typically more economical to use in a smaller home garden.

    –Rebecca

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