Photo by Mark Kane
Among the crops for fall, carrots have a special spot. Even in Zone 5, full-grown roots can survive the winter in eating condition if they’re insulated with a deep mulch of straw, or (even simpler) bales of straw. Another way is to cover the roots with six or more inches of dry, stiff leaves that will not settle and mat together and then cover the leaves with a light tarp to keep them dry and fend off winter winds. Some winters, here in Iowa, the ground doesn’t freeze under insulation, so you can dig up a few carrots anytime you like through the winter.
Carrots are nutritious. They have lots of fiber, starch, sugar and Vitamin A. Some varieties can develop strong, bitter flavors in hot weather and dry soil. Regular watering helps keep them sweet. The shapes vary like the kinfolk in an extended family, from a narrow cylinder 10 inches long, to stumpy like the variety ‘Oxheart,’ which can be a mere 4 inches long and yet weigh a pound. Since most varieties need more than two months to mature, they can suffer from pests. A good remedy is to plant carrots close together in a square and cover them from the start with row-cover fabric to bar the pests.
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