I realize that there is still a lot of the season left, but keeping fall crops on the screen is important. So much of the success of a carrot crop is a result of preparation, giving them the best chance to effectively do their work. Time spent planning and prepping now can make a huge difference in the harvest.
Preparing Carrot Beds
I still use a rototiller to make my finished beds. I do have a right angle cultivator set up with spring loaded shanks that I use before I make my pass with the tiller. I run them about 10-11” deep, and they break up any pan that is being formed by the tiller. The less the carrots have to work to grow down, the straighter and less stressed they will be. I know some people set their chisels to run directly under the seeded rows, but I set mine to cover the whole bed, and run 7 shanks. It takes all of my tractor’s power to pull them, and I’ll occasionally run a few times.
If you can manage it, running a stale bed will help with weed control. I try to make my beds 7 to 10 days before we seed them. Using the stale seed bed technique, I am dependent on a rain event to get the weeds to germinate, but if the bed can get watered it will help to get a good flush of weeds. A shallow, blind cultivation or flaming will take down the young weed growth and leave an open bed for the carrots to come up.
In prior years, I have used an Earthway seeder with a custom plate that I had made for pelleted carrots. It worked okay, as long as there weren’t too many seeds in the hopper. It did, however, limit my varieties to the ones I could get pelleted.
I recently got a Jang seeder and I love it. I use the Y-24 disc and gear it to the 1/2″. I have had great results. I spend a little time with the brush adjustment, and make sure that it is sweeping the disk. Using this method, I don’t have to do any thinning. I like the level of precision that the Jang seeder brings, and the price wasn’t really a barrier when considering the cost of thinning and value of a good stand.
Help with Emergence
In the past, I have had mixed results getting a good stand. My soil is susceptible to crusting over, and the caliber of rains that we have been getting recently has created a challenge for emergence. The carrots were germinating fine; they just couldn’t make it up through the soil surface. I started putting down row cover after I seeded them, and it has made a big difference. When the rain comes too hard, the remay softens the blow and reduces compaction. It also helps hold in some moisture when the world is a little dry and helps with germination. The weeds love it too, so incorporating some kind of stale bedding is important if one takes this approach.
Looking ahead to Harvest
My goal is to be harvesting my fall storage carrots in September and October. Following this timeline, I have found July 7th is that latest that I can plant a varieties like Negovia F1 or Dolciva and get the size that I want.
I start planting around June 4th. I know that by the calendar that seems early, but it gives me the chance to recover from a bad stand. If a seeding takes two weeks to really express itself, then I have two chances to re-till and seed before I need to look to a shorter DTM variety, like Miami F1 and Resistafly F1. My experience is that the carrots will hold in the ground pretty well into the late fall, even at full size, and I would rather have them be ready a little early than be smaller than my customers want.
The real benefit of planting later is that I can focus on keeping up with the weeds in other places on the farm, and come to the carrots later. Planting them earlier often means that weeding gets a little crazy at times, and occasionally we are rushed and the carrots need a weeding 2.0. At my scale, the benefit of having a good stand is worth a little extra weeding.
Properly prepping your carrot beds, giving them the best chance of emergence, and managing your time and planting schedule in a way that will encourage a good stand are all important in a successful fall carrot harvest.