Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Growing Carrots - The Little Sprouts way

Growing Carrots is tough.. perhaps one of the hardest vegetables  for us to grow.  The seeds are tiny, light, flat, and need to be planted right at the surface of the ground, not buried, but kept moist constantly until sprouted and established.

Hmmm... that's a tall order! especially in this southern oregon intense dry heat.

So, we have come up with a method I'd like to share.. works for me. Seems odd, sure... but it works!

There are a few steps to this plan:

1. Finely tilled soil - if the soil is too rocky, the seeds cant stay near the top surface. The seed bed must be pretty flat, fine, even soil.

2. Lightly covered seeds - I have tried the "sprinkle on the top" and it doesnt work as well as "lightly covered". On our seeder, we do not dig a trench for planting, instead we let it drop the seeds on the ground untouched, then the chain dragging over the seeds do enough to cover it.  Think of it as lightly mixing the top surface of the seedbed, not truly "planting".

3. Cover the seeds with toilet paper -  actually 2 ply works best! Toilet paper is unique because it is so thin and light that it will "stick" to moisture to stay in place, it will allow air and light through, but hold moisture along the surface... effectively evening out the water / moisture applied.  2 ply is the perfect thickness to accomplish this but then "dissolve" into the dirt as the seedling emerge in a week or two.

4. Water frequently but lightly - We use drip irrigation for watering, so I set the timer to a short time, frequently in the beginning, and as the sprouts emerge slowly change to a deep watering less often.

   To arrive at these times I do a test.. see how long it takes for the water to fill the empty drip tape lines with no end cap on.  For 80 yard lines at 10 PSI fed by 40PSI, that equals about 10 minutes. This time needs to be at least tripled to arrive at the length of water cycle.  tripling allows for the time needed to fill the line between watering to become a negligible part of the overall water time, thus watering evenly from end to end.

Next set the frequency at the time required for the ground to almost dry out during the daytime sun.  Right now, this is about 4 hours.

So, the timer starts at watering 30 minutes every 4 hours, from sunup to sundown. (not overnight).

After a couple weeks, the sprouts are strong enough to have slowly migrated to watering for an hour every day. If the weather turns colder, its every 2 days.

When the plants are reasonably big and strong, this time shifts to 3 hours, every 2 to 3 days. This gives a good deep watering, with enough time for the surface to dry out in between.

The trick here, is the toilet paper.  We even built a tool out of PVC pipe  that holds a roll of paper at the bottom, has a raised handle, and an arm with a guide at the top. This way... we can lay the seeds in, lay the drip tape on top. Then we use this tool with a roll of toilet paper on the bottom roller, place the drip tape between the guides at the top, and simply walk. The arm with the guide hold the drip tape in position over the seeds are you walk, the paper rolls out along the ground directly underneath, and as the drip tape falls on the rolled out paper, it is "cemented" in place by the little drop s of water left in the drip tape from initial firing.  This way, as fast as you can walk you can lay out a straight single line of TP across the seeds, lay the drip tape in the center of the top, and ready to go!

Who knew... Toilet Paper is the answer to growing carrots! At lease... our answer.

The rows to the left were laid by hand, before the tool

The last row on the right was with the tool perfected.

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