Now in the ground, all snug in their beds . . .
How will these precious seeds do in my garden?
If you’ve yet to read my previous post 19th Century French Carrots–Yes, Please!, give it a quick perusal first. I’m a participant in this year’s Member-Grower Evaluation Network put on by the Seed Savers Exchange. My precious little seeds arrived with instructions on planting, evaluating, and reporting my findings. I’ve now sown the seeds in my garden, and will update their progress in just a few weeks.
I’m participating in MGEN so that I can help others learn about these heirloom carrots and how they will grow in a mediterranean climate. I’m in Zone 9b according to the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map, and my soil is pretty gosh-darned terrible. I sowed the carrot seeds into a mix of terrible pygmy soil and imported garden soil that I purchased last year from the nursery down the road.
These four packets of seeds were free to me (always nice!), but boy, I had to sow them thick. The germination rate of Jaune de Doubs, the 19th century French variety, is unknown, and Touchon is only 29%. So, only 29 little carrots are expected to grow out of every 100 seeds I just sowed.
As you can see from the top photo, the packets didn’t contain all that many seeds. I sowed thickly, as per the growing instructions, and only went about four feet in the row until I ran out of seed. I will just have to wait and see how they do. I can’t calculate actual germination (I wasn’t about to try to count those tiny little seeds!) but I will be able to count how many carrots I get at the end of this trial. Patience Jennie, patience.
So, aside from the joy of harvesting bunches of lovely carrots, what are the practical benefits of this trial?
Carrots are GOOD FOR YOU
Low in Saturated Fat and Cholesterol, these veggies are a great source of:
- VITAMIN B6
- DIETARY FIBER
- VITAMIN A
- VITAMIN C
- VITAMIN K
For every pound of carrots there are 195 calories and 134 milligrams of calcium. With my little bed of carrots, it would be nice to harvest about 30 pounds for the amount of seed that I’ve sown. I’m not entirely sure this is a realistic goal, especially given the low germination rates of the seeds. If you’ve done the math, for my dedicated plot of sixteen square feet, I’ll only potentially yield 5850 calories. Pretty wimpy. To give you some perspective, that’s only worth about 20 potatoes (which could be grown in a lot less space). Space in the garden isn’t all about how many calories the soil can produce. I already have my bed of potatoes up and running, so carrots, which fall under the “Greens” category in biointensive gardening, are good to balance out my 60/30/10 ratio of Carbon/Roots/Greens. Read more about this method of balanced gardening HERE.
Less to Spend at the Grocery Store?
Organic carrots go for $1.99 for a two-pound bag in the Northwestern part of the country, according to the Retail Report put out by the USDA. So . . . for my effort I’ll only save sixty bucks? I’ll admit, these carrots will not be a grocery-budget-cutting revelation. For this season, growing carrots isn’t going to be a money-saving endeavor, though year after year, not spending that bit of money on food is an added bonus. No–saving a couple of twenties isn’t the point.
“So, what is your point, Jennie?”
By growing and comparing different heirloom varieties side-by-side, I’ll gain an intimate knowledge of these particular plants, my soil, my growing conditions, my gardening practices, and my own skills and shortcomings. It’s one thing to have a seed packet stashed away; it’s entirely another thing to know how–and what–to grow, and to have the hands-on experience of knowing a vegetable from seed to harvest. There’s also something incredibly satisfying about stepping outside to retrieve a delicious and organically grown ingredient for dinner.
So here’s the carrot lineup:
Carrot 88 ‘Red Surrey’
Carrot 100 ‘Touchon’
While it’s too late for you to take part in the 2014 MGEN trials, you can still perform your own carrot trials at home. Pick a control carrot, like “Danvers,” or another variety you are familiar with, and then choose several types of heirloom carrots you’ve yet to try. Sow all the seeds on the same day, in the same bed, and under the same conditions, and see how they do.
Check back for Part 3 of the Carrot Trials, and if you haven’t seen the first post yet, check it out HERE. Be sure to tell me your thoughts on this in the comments section below.