Blog : tips and tricks

Stop planting carrots. Please.

Look I get it – you like carrots but you really don’t like carrots after you start planting them.

In my first year of doing garden installations I was so excited to go outside and help people install a garden they could harvest and hopefully learn how to grow and harvest their own food. In the business world of things it wasn’t the most thought out plan due to the fact that eventually my clientele won’t need me – but I don’t care about that.

One thing I always asked people was ‘what do you want to grow’ and then I was hit with a truck load of wants and needs and wow….we’re off running.  I never considered that I can not ask that question any more.  Due to many facts but one is that I was installing a garden and the ‘know how’ was left on me and yes I gave people this cute little printed/laminated hand off to learn quickly about their veggies and fruits but I was finding that many people did not read them – at all.

To experienced gardener carrots, beets, tomatoes, and so on always seem easy.  But if you can remember growing your first carrot – it probably didn’t go so well and if it did you only grew it once that year.

Most cold weather crops IE lettuces, alliums(onions), salad green(mustards, beet family), and carrot family need a few things to happen for great success.  One is succession and the other is thinning.  There are many other factors but those come first in my book.

Now if you’re a root vegetable lover of carrots and beets you know the pains of thinning.  Imagine you plant thousands of seeds and then in about 10 days you come back and have to ‘thin’ them out.  It’s the polite term for killing or making room so to say for the others.  Beets and carrots both need this process.  So that’s your step 2, step one was planting in the first place.

Step 3 – this step happens 10 days after you plant.  It’s call ‘succession’ growing.  You see unlike planting a tomato seed whereby you get lots of tomatoes if you plant a carrot seed you only get one carrot and there is no multiplicity to that seed.  In the long run one day well after we are gone we’ll have to consider plants and vegetation that is efficient and less time-intensive – carrots I feel won’t make that list.

So now do you still want carrots?  Is it really worth it?  Plant, thin, re-plant.  Oh and hope you’re soil is good enough due to their sensitive nature of hitting most other forms and deforming in the soil and add to that timing – these are cold weather crops that once temps stay about 60-65 day and night begin to bolt(go to seed) or full on remain in a vegetative state.  I’ve had beet seedlings grow throughout the summer and only until september they finally began to bulb out.

Yesterday I bought decent little bushel of carrots for $1 and was just discouraged for the farmer wishing he would never plant them.   Just doing the math was discouraging for me and to think I paid a dollar – for someones efforts over 40 days a dollar!

I never tell people to plant carrots because it is not worth it.  Just like lettuces.  A small discussion came up at our house yesterday about lettuces and I feel the same way about lettuces as I do carrots.  You need to have coordination, a bit of know how, and lots of lettuce to fill the shelves of your fridge and at the end of day are you really eating that many salads to want fresh lettuce every time?  I will say that fresh lettuces last longer than store bought ones and if you’re planting kales – I recommend getting your hands on some asian flowering kale.

We’re coming out with a small book in the spring of 2016 about what people should be planting in their first garden to make it worth it.  I have about a dozen books on gardening and in the back is an A-Z list of what you can grow.  Awesome, great, and who is about to do all that?  We need to show generations having a garden can be productive and life changing – and it’s not going to be with carrots.  In my garden alone I grew over 60lbs of food and I have only 60 square feet of space and that is roughly 1lb/square foot.  I feel accomplished and sure if you’re growing the big squashes you can smash that number due to overall density – I did it with tomatoes, beans, zucchini, and cucumbers.  And we never recorded herbs because that’s just takes forever.

Stay tuned, stay in touch, and lets turn a generation around by telling them the truth.

Tell me your thoughts, confessions, and triumphs and trials…I want to know.  I’d rather hear from someone who has failed as opposed to the success stories because often we learn our best from where we fail and we seem to only revel in success than learn from what we did right.

Radish Days to Harvest | 30-40 Cold Weathering crop Space 2-3" apart Succession at sign of true leaves.

A radish is a good example, the only photo I had, to give an example of why these species shouldn’t be grown by the amateur.  This radish is grown on a soil block and it took about 30 days.  1 radish 30 days.  If I planted 1 tomato I get dozens of tomatoes.  The math is better and we need to create success and not stress.  Radishes need to be sown early on to prevent bolting, and spaced out properly, and given plenty of water since its’ small roots don’t root out like tomatoes.  Still want radishes now?

The real heroes of plants – Roots

Roots are one of nature’s silent partners.  We walk all over them and never notice their large role in a plant or trees life.

After doing this time-lapse I realized by the moving of the root they might also be the brain.  Just watching it choose where it’s going almost leads you to believe there is thought or consciousness behind these white creatures!IMG_0591

Roots need everything! Water, air, nutrients, and most of all – space!

Seems kind of hard to find underground but they do enjoy space!

Ever brought home a plant that is root bound?

Ever wondered why even though you water your plant is dying?

It’s not so simple is it!

Looking to give plants air? Instead of just plopping the plant into any container consider putting stones or small rocks into the bottom.  This trick helps roots breathe at the bottom(tips) where they need it most.  Without that they tend to sit in stagnant water and how would you feel if you slept in the same water every day?

Water is just as important to roots as air is! Do you know what’s in your water? Most city watering systems apply chemicals to make water ‘safe’ for us from microbes – all microbes. Good or bad are being killed off by chemicals in our city water systems.  For us – it’s not ok but our bodies seem to handle it.  For roots that use microbes to convert nutrients and minerals this is not good – they’re buds are being killed off.  Ever had rotten tomatoes on the vine?  Blossom end rot can be caused by chlorinated water killing off beneficial microbes that assist in the calcium uptake to plants and calcium deficiencies cause blossom end rot.  You can also get plant burn! Yup! Chlorine can just plain burn the roots!  What to do….wait about 30 minutes before watering your plants if you live in the city – most of the chlorine should evaporate and you’ll be ok!

Nutrients – surprisingly I feel this is where most people get confused.  Plants are 95% water so above anything else – they need water! Plant nutrients has sky rocketed in sales no doubt with grow stores and many suppliers who come out with plant food?  Have we forgotten about compost?  We now have an industry that is all about feeding the plant and giving it what we apparently are not!  Maybe if we knew more about air & water we’d use less of these chemicals even the organic ones!

Space                      plants love                space.(see what I did there).  I use a soil blocking method with gives roots the ability to go outside the walls because there are none! But most plant buyers go out and buy a plant that is in a container or small plastic thing(waste) and you pop it out and it’s entirely wound up onto itself! That’s root binding! Unless broken apart you could plant that and expect it to die.  The generic trick is to break the roots a little bit, water, and plant!  Roots don’t like doing that – by the way.  And if you don’t transplant right – they will get what is called ‘root shock’.  Shock can definitely set a plant back and or kill it entirely.  If you didn’t grow from seed then you don’t know the feeling of having your small baby plants die in your arms! Ever want to try to start from seed?  I sell my soil blocks(case of 40) and it’s the best way to start plants…tons of nutrients, easy to water, and plenty of space and air for the roots to breathe! 

So now…if you see a plant try to consider what’s happening below! The roots – and although we don’t get to harvest and enjoy them we should know they are just as important as what’s above!