Thinning the carrots

The first planting of carrots actually looked good from the start, and have been ready to use for three weeks or so (or earlier if I wanted baby carrots.) And so when the second planting, shown below, was coming along, the foliage looked so nice that I hadn’t really bothered to check them up close. Rather like the amount of attention a second child gets compared to the first. But I had neglected to mix in radish seeds with the second sowing, so they ended up being too crowded. Reluctantly, I decided to thin. I don’t like to thin. It seems like such a waste of seed, of the growing time and care already given.

Carrot succession planting # 2…a little over-crowded, and not by their neighboring shallots.

Yes, I know I COULD turn the green tops into a pesto, but I much prefer basil pesto. I could have chopped the entire plants and made a soup, but when it’s as hot as it has been, who wants soup? I procrastinated for a few days, and when there was rain in the forecast, I prepared an area in a bed that has nice, loose soil. Remember several weeks ago, when I was so excited because we had rain? Think far back (or revisit the “A Welcome Rain” post) because that the time period we’re talking about here. It was actually May 29!

I waited until the rain came, because I wanted that soil to be really muddy soft. And as soon as the storm passed, I was out there gently slipping those babies out of their crowded situation. Just look at that handful of beautiful, tiny (and some not quite so tiny) carrots.

A handful of baby French Bolero carrots.

I’d already dug a trench, choosing a spot where peas had just come out. You can see the pile of vines at the top. It’s the potager’s creed to replace one crop with another as quickly as possible, usually within minutes! Spacing the carrots out and pulling soil over them took only seconds. They barely knew they were out of the ground!

All spaced perfectly and ready to be covered…but notice how dry that soil is getting already. It wasn’t much of a rain after all!

A quick sprinkle with the watering can to settle the soil gently around them,and they looked quite happy.

Standing up nice and straight in their new home.

A canopy of my little green harvest baskets to give them some shade and protection from the wind for a few days, and I had high hopes that they would become “planting number three.”

Transplants always need a bit of protection until they adjust.

I wish I could report that those babies really did thrive from the get-go, but apparently they’d lost more “hair” roots than I’d thought, and they did indeed go through a rather rougher period of transplant shock then I’d expected. Of course, the skyrocketing temperatures since that moving day has not helped at all. The baskets have had to remain, except at night when I hoped the bit of dew that occasionally occurs, and the kiss of the moon might help. It has been a slower and longer process than I’d expected. There was some loss of leaf, and times that I was sure this post would take a different turn, but I can now report that it was definitely worth the effort.

Still looking a bit tired, but perking up and growing! Hopefully there’s good sized carrots ahead.

There are 33 little, evenly spaced carrots standing in a row and beginning to perk up and grow. 33 little carrots that more than likely would have been tossed into the compost pile. 33 little carrots that will become nice, husky carrots…and that’s a really good thing, because so far succession planting #4 is not germinating! Probably it’s the heat, because there are three varieties, so I doubt it’s the seed. Notice how the tomato at the bottom, and the leeks far left have grown. The row of “Little Gem” lettuce needs to be used, and a row of rutabaga has already been sown in the center! No wasted space in the potager!

So, what could have been a waste is instead a crop. All it took was a bit of preparation, a bit of faith, and a lot of PATIENCE! In past times, as soon as some of those babies started looking sad I more than likely would have pulled them out and replanted with something else. But, I am working on being more patient, and this time it’s paying off! Now, if it would only rain!


About carolee

A former professional herb and lavender grower, now just growing for joy in my new potager. When I'm not in the garden, I'm in the kitchen, writing, or traveling to great gardens.
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16 Responses to Thinning the carrots

  1. Patience, along with carrots, you can cultivate. Alas, the same is not true for rain.


  2. Peg says:

    I am like you, I hate to thin plants. My Little Gem lettuce plants are all on top of each other but growing well. Your plants all look so good and big, mine still seem to be in a holding pattern. Patience!


  3. bcparkison says:

    Thinning does seem to be wasteful unless you have chickens.


  4. Jo Shafer says:

    My Walla Walla onions have been in a holding pattern since I planted them in late May! Or was it early June? Another tray of onion sets is waiting in the wings, in the shade of a large sage plant. But I do have one nice-size green Brandywine tomato! And a couple of infant cucumbers. Patience is paying off after all.


  5. I haven’t heard of mixing carrot seed with radish before – is the idea that the radish swell first between the carrots, then when you pull them the carrots have room to spread? It sounds like a really good idea.


  6. Going Batty in Wales says:

    I don’t grow carrots – too much carrot root fly to be worth it but I have often wondered if the old advice that roots don’t transplant was really true. I have started to sow beetroot and parsnips in modules and plant them out once well germinated and it seems to be working.


  7. Artisan says:

    My big problem with carrots has always been uneven germination – whatever I do the carrots have a tendency to come up in bunches with gaps in between. I don’t like thinning them, because it seems to attract every carrot root fly for miles around, and some of them always seem to get past even the finest-mesh netting. So I just let the carrots grow in clumps. This isn’t as much of a disaster as you might think. Most of the carrots in a clump grow to a reasonable size eventually, even if they occasionally twist round each other. And I don’t like big carrots anyway.

    Your carrot rows look beautifully even and regular. What’s your secret?


    • carolee says:

      I make a pretty deep narrow trench using my Cobrahead, then fill it to the top with a fine seed starting mix. Water it to settle it down, sprinkle the carrot seeds (also mixed with some of the seed starting mix and usually radish seeds) and sprinkle as evenly as I can manage down the row. Cover with a sprinkle of the mix, and cover with overturned web plant flats to help keep moisture in and light shade until they germinate. Knock wood, not much trouble with carrot fly maggot, although I will observe more carefully the transplanted carrots to see if there is a difference in damage. Thanks for reading and commenting.


  8. You did a good job with those carrots, and I like the ingenuity to cover them with the harvest baskets. They were perfect for the job and easy to store until they’re needed next. ๐Ÿ™‚


  9. msjunkin87 says:

    Last year I didn’t thin…ended up with a bazillion crazy looking carrots, very hard to clean and peel. Learned my lesson. ๐Ÿ˜‚


    • carolee says:

      I don’t mind a few odd shapes, but it does make slicing and dicing harder, too. Since I find it so hard (emotionally and frugally) to thin, I just try to make myself seed more slowly and carefully so most thinning is eliminated. But, you should see my row of beets…old seed that I thought wouldn’t germinate well, so of course it did! Fortunately, I have a good friend who can’t garden right now that loves beet thinnings, so I’ll leave them on her doorstep!


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