Better Luck With Carrots

One frequent complaint I hear from gardeners  is the bad luck they have with getting carrots to grow.  Often they mention that it hardly seems worth it since only a few seeds sprout and they end up with just a couple of carrots in the row.

The problem can be traced back to improper planting; specifically sowing the seed too deeply.

Carrot seeds are fairly small and need to be placed near the surface of the soil in order to sprout.  You need to resist the urge to “dig a hole and cover the seed with dirt”.

All that is needed by carrot seeds is a very shallow row scratched into the surface of a smooth area of your garden.

Place the seed into the row and cover with a little bit of sand, I would say less than 1/4 “.  The sand covers the seed without “smothering” it.  This is especially helpful in gardens with heavy dense soil with a high clay content.

Carrot seeds covered with a shallow layer of sand.

Carrot seeds are most commonly sold as bare seeds but sometimes can be found as “pelleted” seeds. The pelleting process deposits a layer of clay onto the seeds to help them pass through a garden seeder easier.  It also makes it easier to see the seeds in your garden  when planting them.  Pelleting can give you a false sense of security since the seeds appear larger you think you can plant them deeper.

Raw carrot seeds on the left and pelleted carrot seeds on the right.

Keep the carrot area moist until the seedlings emerge from the soil which can take from 1 to 3 weeks.  After that be sure to remove any weeds before they get too big because the young carrots won’t compete well against large weeds.

Sow carrots seeds shallowly and you will have a much better chance of harvesting a bountiful carrot crop this year.


Chickens or Not?

I’ve debated on whether or not chickens should be included in discussions about gardening. Judy and I are into our 4th year of keeping  chickens and have a current flock of  88 including laying hens and young pullets as well as cockerels for meat.

Judy holding one of our new chicks.

Back when I was an Agriculture Agent decades ago, the answer to the chicken/garden question was pretty simple: no, chickens are classified as small livestock, not garden produce.  This is the assumption I have been working under with this blog and so, have not discussed poultry at all.

Times have changed and so many people have asked me about chickens that I have decided on a compromise.  I will discuss raising backyard chickens in another forum and not try to do so at length here in “All things green”.

I plan to post a short blurb here when there is something of interest on our other site regarding poultry related issues.

So if you are intrigued by poultry at all, you may want to check out Yellow Farmhouse Garden.

You can follow the development of our 50 baby chicks as they grow, sort of like Jim Carry’s movie “The Truman Show“.  Right now you can see episode #1.


Chance of Spring Frost Nearly Over

We have arrived at the middle of May and that signals the beginning of the main part of our gardening season here in Southeastern Michigan.

According to records kept by the National Weather Service, the chance of a late spring frost happening at this time of the year is around 10% in the Monroe County Area.

NOAA has developed this map to show the chance of temperatures reaching 32 degrees or lower.

I know that even in the northern part of the Lower Peninsula gardeners are thinking pretty seriously about setting out plants even though it is fairly common to get a frost as late as the end of May in their neck of the woods.

The Upper Peninsula is another story.  For example at Tahquamenon Falls or other places in the UP like the small town of Herman there is still a 10% chance that the temperature will get down to 32 degrees as late as July 11th. Anyone who has camped out at Tahquamenon Falls State Park can tell you that it can get pretty chilly there in the morning.

For us “trolls” living  below the bridge, it is time to get busy gardening.


Critical Fruit Tree Spray Application

Every year I get comments from people saying that they can’t seem to grow good fruit.  I ask if they have done any spraying to control insects and diseases, some say “not really”, others say “a little” and others say “yes, quite a bit”. Digging deeper I find a common thread, they all missed the critical early spring sprays.

It’s too late to spray those dormant sprays of course and it’s past time to apply  the early pre-blossom sprays thanks to the unusually warm weather we had in March. That leaves us with the early all purpose sprays.

Most of the damage to your tree fruit will occur at this time during their growth cycle while the fruit is just beginning to develop.

A tiny apple like this needs your help to fend off pests.

My suggestion is to select an all-purpose fruit tree spray and begin your spraying schedule immediately.  The schedule is simple: spray every 7 to 10 days and after every time it rains.  Mark it on your calendar if you have to.

You can be more lax about spraying later in the season.  Some people even stop spraying all together later in the season and end up with acceptable fruit, but they are the gardeners who are very careful about their early sprays.

Those tiny little growing fruit on the tree need your help to fight off insects and diseases, they can’t do it on their own.  You will be rewarded for your effort at harvest time.


30th Annual Plant Sale

Still not decided what to do for Mother’s Day Weekend? Why not take Mom out to the big plant sale at the Matthaei Botanical Gardens in Ann Arbor.

This is a wonderful chance to see what’s new in the world of horticulture  and purchase some plants that may be very hard to find elsewhere.

Members of the Gardens get to look everything over on Friday evening and make their purchases first before the rest of the public is let in. Here’s a little secrete: if you are not a member, you can show up on Friday anyway and sign up for your  membership right there at the door and they will let you in with full Member’s privileges…just as if you were a 30-year member!

Member’s night runs 3PM-7PM Friday May 7th. Along with all of the plants there will be a Party (members only of course) featuring Grizzly Peak Brewing Company, Sandhill Crane Vineyards, and refreshments by Angel Food Catering (Michigan Radio Network is also a sponsor).  Plus there will be discounts on plant sale purchases and gift memberships that evening as well.

Since the Sale takes place under a huge tent, it will go on rain or shine.

People are encouraged to bring along wagons or garden carts to carry their plant purchases.

The Sale continues Saturday from 9AM to 4PM and Sunday 10AM to 4PM.

Matthaei Botanical Gardens is located at 1800 N. Dixboro Road, call them if you get lost along the way ;): 734-647-7600.

See you out there.