Monday, July 29, 2013

Starting summer carrots

In descending order, here is when my sown carrot seeds work best:

1. First thing in the spring when the soil is wet and moist
2. In the fall (yeah some of mine wait until spring)
3. Second thing in the spring before the seedling eaters are out in force
4. Fall when the ground cools slightly and the rain falls. 
5. Summer - sporadically.

So yes, summer is not a no-fail time for me. Partly it is due to way I culture.* I don't irrigate because we are on a well and my gardens are not all at house distance anyhow. Soil in most of the garden plots is sandy too which is great for root crops generally but crummy for germination when it is dry like in the height of summer. As well, earwigs are in their prime right now patrolling the ground for any juicy seedling foolish enough to break dormancy. 

I have considered pre-sprouting carrot (parsley and other umbillifer) seeds before but the oft' talked about germination board just sounds like an earwig B&B. As my spring sprinkling of carrots is showing weakly, I figured I'd try and grow more using some new techniques:

They can be broken down into ways to a) speed germination and b) pre sprout.

Speed Germination

a. Shock seeds into growth: freeze or boil. One assumes that this breaks the seed coat to allow in water and therefore germination rather than apocalyptic temperature changes being enticing.
b. Imbibition (or soaking in plain speech)

 photo 20130715_104438.jpg
Hot water and regular water. The hot water is coloured like tea. Cool!


a. Baggie Method followed by The starch bowl: pre sprout on paper towels then make seed pudding for planting. Yes, seriously. Go check it out.
b. Fluid seeding (similar to starch bowl)
c. The cardboard tray - 'stiff' baggie method.
d. Carrot sprout or jar technique - More imbibing.

Easy Planting:

a. Seed Tape - toilet roll sized: I've not had luck with this but I haven't tried it very much either and I'm a shallow planter.
b. Seed Tape - Newspaper sized: This guy uses sheets of newspaper
c. Plant Deeper: After I thought of this all on my little lonesome, I've read several references to it. Dig until the soil is damp. I'm planning on making a trench, watering and covering with vermiculite.
d. Pelleting. This is done commercially to aid in machine sowing. The seed is also partially germinated so that it will sprout quickly. Perhaps something akin to a seed bomb would work.
e. The paper seeder: An origami seeder just for fun

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Two jars and two cardboard backed paper towel.


What I tried

I split my seeds into two groups. The first was shocked with hot water. The second was placed in regular tap water. Next, these were split into two groups. As I decided to try the cardboard tray technique, I put two lots of seeds on them, one with seeds from the hot water shocked lot (HC) and one from regular tap water (RC). The other half were placed into two jars for sprouting (HJ and RJ).


RC: First to show roots after three days.
HC: Followed the day after

I tried to lay them carefully in the garden. The promptly fell off their paper towel and cardboard so I sprinkled them carefully in rows. Seedling rate in garden: poor.

Long pause

HJ and RJ: After another week, they started to sprout at about the same time. I try to make pudding with them to gel seed. It turns out unevenly gloopy. Seedling rate in garden: unsure still.

Additional row: I also put a long row of seedling tape down with deeper spacing. Just checked and outside of the area that the chicken scratched up, germination has commenced.... better than the other methods. I did plant a bit deeper then sprinkle with a bit of straw.


Questionable methodology aside, I'd say that I still haven't found the formula for summer carrots though most promising is deeper planting and a sprinkling of mulch overtop.

Further Investigations:

Next I'm going to try deeper planting, sprinkling with a green mulch like cut grass to seep moisture and chicken exclusion.

* And by culture, I don't mean my knowledge of fancy paintings or where my parents came from. Instead, I"m referring to how one gardens, often called variations of cultural methods, cultural techniques or cultural controls. I'm sure there's an interesting historical reason but I'm insufficiently cultured to know. Okay, I just don't have time to research. Feel free to do so and leave it in the comments. Thanks.


Patricia Wallinger said...

Interesting as always! Thanks for sharing.

Bev said...

My best carrots come from summer seeding, but I don't have particularly sandy soil. I water by hand from my rain barrels, but only til I see some seedlings, and only when I think of it. I usually have straw or grass clippings on top, but I don't plant deep. In fact, I sprinkle seeds on the surface and rake them in, so they are at varying depths. I pat them down pretty firmly so that they stand half a chance to wick up moisture from below.

Ottawa Gardener said...

Yeah, I seem carrot challenged here. Could be the heavy seedling predation too as I used to just sow them and I seem to remember in my memory that I had to thin... anyhow, my old method was broadcasting and stamping but it doesn't work here. :( I'll try it again with a bit of grass clippings. All the rain we have been getting can't hurt ;)

Anonymous said...

OG, I plnt them with radishes. Usually the radishes 'break ground' for the carrots, and help hold in moisture. Bunkie.

Ottawa Gardener said...

Worth a try!

Ottawa Gardener said...

They do grow well with the peas. Actually I think I'd like to start some peas for pea sprouts too. Fleabeetles usually come this time of year again but they have yet to cause that much mayhem even letting seedlings grow and such. Wahey! I did some tanglefoot trapping early on though perhaps the weather is just not ideal for them and last year's drought followed by a normal winter might have diminished numbers

Ottawa Gardener said...

Update: I'm not convinced by various gel methods and just did the clippings thing from Beverly. Worked the best.

Ottawa Gardener said...

Update: I'm not convinced by various gel methods and just did the clippings thing from Beverly. Worked the best.