Carrots and Kids Make a Great Pair in San Diego
By Leslie Nelson, community gardener at San Carlos Community Garden
It’s carrot season, and the most rewarding time for kids to plant carrots in San Diego. Carrots take awhile (from seed to final carrot takes about 90 days or more in winter). But when planted in this wet time of year for our region they will grow plump quickly once they come up. They do take patience, but this is a key reason they are great for kids to plant. They help kids learn patience and that when you work hard to help something grow, the results can be very tasty. In the end, they really sell gardening to your kids because home-grown carrots are sooo delicious. When families grow carrots from seed, which I highly recommend, use a calendar to mark out 20 days from when you plant. This makes it fun for kids to anticipate the coming seedlings popping up.
Tip: You can also purchase and have kids plant radishes at the same time as the carrots. Then the radishes will nearly be ready to pull by the time the carrots just get started. Cherry belle is a radish on the sweeter side. If you and kids don’t have the patience to wait, you can always buy some carrot seedlings at the garden center.
Keep the soil moist during the first few weeks. Have your children join you in the garden or take turns watering the carrots. Every other day is fine this time of year or every day if the soil feels dry, and if it rains, skip the watering. Just make sure that your soil has a good amount of mulch worked into it so that carrots can push their roots down into it without rocks and hard earth getting in the way.
Make sure to keep chicken wire around your raised beds if they are low enough for a rabbit to get into. My pet rabbit likes carrot greens just as much or maybe more than the carrots themselves. Then, when your seedlings are about an inch tall, you are going to cut off the water for a couple of weeks. This will encourage your carrots to grow deep into the soil and get nice and long. If it rains at this point it’s fine, but you’re just training them to get nice and long during this period as they seek out water below.
When you plant carrots too close together, they can twist together which can be fun. You can let the kids decide if they want to spread them out or keep them closer together. Plant about 2 inches apart if you prefer straight carrots. Good varieties for our area include Nantes and Chantenay. There are also some multi-colored mixes you’ll find at garden centers which can provide a rainbow of colors to your harvest.
Remember not to plant carrots in the exact same place two years in a row. Once I did this by mistake and ended up with root weevils. There is also a pest called carrot fly. Carrots are also prone to fungal diseases too, but you can avoid these problems by watering every other day.
Now’s the perfect time to read some of the books listed below
For kid’s reading ideas, there are some great stories about carrots. Check out these two books:
Creepy Carrots by Aaron Reynolds and
The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss. There are also Read Aloud versions of both books on YouTube.
There’s more than one way to enjoy a carrot but cooking with them is one of the tastiest!
Healthful, Tasty Carrot Recipe for Kid Cooks
Carrot Raisin Salad
2 cups of shredded carrots
¾ cup of low-fat or non-fat vanilla yogurt
½ cup of black and/or yellow raisins
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
¼ teaspoon of ground cinnamon
Shred carrots with grater. Kids may want to wear cleaned garden gloves or be supervised while shredding to keep fingers safe. Mix all ingredients together and let sit in the fridge overnight or you can choose to eat right away if desired. The time in the fridge helps plump up the raisins.