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Winter carrots under mulch.

When planting carrots for in-ground winter storage, you should use varieties that are good keepers. Some carrots do not store well, particularly the baby finger varieties. All varieties of parsnips and Jerusalem artichokes (sun roots) that we have tried are good keepers and will store well in soil even when the ground is frozen all winter. However, carrots, once frozen, are ruined.

The best soil is a light or sandy loam. Carrots will not store well in a soil that holds water; they will rot or be attacked by insects.

When planting carrots for in-garden storage, plant in blocks or beds. A patch of ground is easier to keep unfrozen than a narrow row and you get more carrots per square foot in the bargain. We plant three rows that are one foot apart. The carrots are thinned to four to five inches when the roots are large enough to eat. A solid bed of carrots planted two to four inches apart in all directions will also work well. We plant parsnips close to our carrots so we can cover both of them with leaves. Then in the winter, we start at one end of the patch and dig to the other, lifting carrots and a few parsnips at the same time.

It is important not to plant these crops near grass or an area with field mice or other rodents. They will find your cover of leaves or straw, warm earth and storage of food the best home ever. After feeding a family of mice one winter, we have since planted carrots and parsnips where there will be bare ground around our pile of leaves.

When daily temperatures are below 50[degrees]F and nightly frosts occur, it is time to gather leaves. Make sure you cover your carrots, parsnips and sun roots well before the ground freezes solid. The aim here is to trap the earth's heat. After nightly frosts begin, many carrot and parsnip leaves lie flat on the ground. This is the best time to cover your crops. If you cover too soon the plants will rot. With Jerusalem artichoke, wait until the leaves hang limp and discolored, then clip off the stems and cover the rows. Use straw or large leaves such as those from maple or oak trees.

You should cover to a depth of one foot or more. The leaf pile should extend at least 6 inches out from all sides of your root patch. After putting leaves on the bed, cover the pile with a large plastic sheet and anchor it with rocks. An alternative is to use plastic bags full of leaves. The plastic keeps the leaves dry. Not only are wet leaves poor insulation, they will also compress the water in the pile and will freeze. The frozen mass will be difficult to remove for digging and the ground will eventually freeze. The plastic cover also prevents leaves from blowing off.

When you are ready to dig carrots, parsnips or sun-roots, remove the snow from one edge of the bed. Pull back the plastic and lay aside the leaves, keeping the rest of the pile undisturbed to conserve its heat. One very cold winter we thought we would dig an individual row at a time and because we had to disturb the whole pile and had made it much too narrow, the bed froze. When you have dug as much of the crop as you need, put the leaves and plastic back down and shovel snow on top. (This also conserves heat.)

In the spring you can use all those partially decomposed leaves to plant a great potato patch, make compost, or just till them into the garden to increase the organic matter content of your soil.

CROW MILLER

NEW YORK
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Title Annotation:The garden
Author:Miller, Crow
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2008
Words:631
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