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Labor-Efficient Carrots : You Don't Need a Lower 40 to Grow This Crop; a Half Whiskey Barrel Will Do

November 16, 1986|BILL SIDNAM | Bill Sidnam, who lives in Orange County, tends an extensive vegetable plot

To grow 100 sweet, tender carrots, simply devote 60 feet of garden space to rows, dig and cultivate the soil to a depth of 18 inches, add organic materials and fertilizer, moisten the soil, and plant the seeds. Total labor time: about three hours.

Or, you can add potting soil and time-release fertilizer to a half whiskey barrel, and plant your seeds. Total labor time: about 15 minutes.

Growing these betacarotene-rich vegetables in a barrel also will save you many hours of weeding and other garden-maintenance chores, and the finished product will often be superior to garden-grown carrots. Why? Because the prime object of a carrot is to grow its root, and the loose, easy-draining potting mix used in containers is usually far better than garden soil for producing strong, straight roots.

The barrel can be located on a patio, where the light-green foliage makes it an attractive item, or it can be placed conveniently near the kitchen door, only a step or two away from culinary use. So condominium or apartment dwellers, and others with limited garden space, also can take advantage of barrel-grown carrots.

The first thing to do is to buy a half whiskey barrel with at least three one-inch drainage holes drilled in the bottom. Most local nurseries and garden centers have them in stock. Put the barrel in a sunny area of your yard or patio. It's absolutely necessary that carrots receive at least six hours of sunlight a day--the more, the better. Place four bricks under the barrel to help drainage; then fill it with about 2 cubic feet of a commercial potting soil (most potting soils are sold in two-cubic-foot bags).

Next, mix three cups of Osmocote 14-14-14 time-release fertilizer (or a similar time-release fertilizer) into the potting soil and moisten with water.

Good carrot-seed varieties include 'Danvers Half Long,' 'Nantes,' 'Lindoro,' 'Imperator' and 'Short 'n Sweet.' Using about half of a standard-size seed packet, lay the seeds on the soil surface. Then cover them with a 1/8-inch layer of moist potting mix, and press the soil down with a trowel.

After planting, keep the soil surface moist by sprinkling it very lightly with a watering can. When the young seedlings emerge and become established, begin a systematic program in which you water every three days (when no rain occurs, that is). The soil in the barrel should always be kept moist; never allow it to dry out. Once a month, feed the plants with a balanced liquid fertilizer containing the vital trace elements (Miracle-Gro or Terr-O-Vite are good choices), following the label directions carefully.

As the carrots mature, harvest them as needed; carrots, unlike other root crops, store well if left in the ground. When all of the carrots are pulled up, add more time-release fertilizer to the barrel and plant more seeds. In the Southland, carrots may be grown year-round.

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