Q. I have planted carrots several times with no luck. Why won't they come up?

A. Do not plant them too deep. Sow the seeds on top of the bed and gently rake them in, covering the seed only about 1/4 inch. Germination will increase as soil temperatures decrease. Keep your planting area moist. Don't crust or harden the soil on top of the bed with direct sprays of water.

Q. What causes the top of my carrots to be green rather than orange?

A. Greening of the top of the carrot is caused by sunlight. Heavy rain can wash away the soil from carrot roots exposing them to the sun. An off-flavor is often associated with this green color. Remove the tops before consuming or canning the carrots.

Q. Why are my garden carrots short and stumpy instead of long and slender like those in grocery stores?

A. The problem is probably variety selection. The Nantes or Chantenay varieties, which are genetically short and thick, are recommended for home gardening. Those sold at grocery stores are the Imperator type and inherently long and slender. Carrot length can be affected by excessive moisture during growth.

Q. What causes my home garden carrots to be tasteless, woody and often bitter instead of sweet and tender?

A. These problems are associated with growing and environmental conditions during the maturing period. Carrots grow best and develop highest sugars when temperatures are between 40 degrees and 80 degrees F. The best carrots are planted in fall for early winter harvest. Carrots are cold hardy, but should be planted so they mature before temperatures drop below 20 degrees F. as damage or death can occur. Plantings can begin in late summer or early fall and continue until about 90 days before temperatures are expected to average 85 degrees F.

Q. Each year my spring-planted carrots send up a seed stalk. What am I doing wrong?

A. Carrots are biennial, growing from seed to flower-producing plants over two years. Carrots or many other biennial crops, such as cabbage, will produce seed stalks the first year if young plants are subjected to cold weather. Carrots which produce seed stalks often lack flavor, are woody and have poor texture.

Q. What causes my carrots to be pale yellow instead of the typical orange color?

A. Although there are varietal differences in root color, this problem could be caused by environmental conditions. Carrots maturing under warm temperatures or high moisture conditions lack good root color. These carrots also have poor flavor and texture. Plant carrots so they mature under relatively cool temperatures that average less than 80 degrees F. Avoid excessive soil moisture.

Q. The foliage of my carrots is infected with brown lesions which cause the leaves to decay.

A. This is a leaf blight of carrots and is caused by two fungi. This can be controlled by spraying with chlorothalonil. Begin at the first sign of the disease and repeat at 10- to 14-day intervals. Extended periods of high humidity caused by dews and intermittent rain contribute to the development of leaf blight of carrots. If not controlled, leaf blight can reduce the yield. Discontinue when weather conditions change.

Q. When I dug my carrots, I found galls or swelling on the roots.

A. These are root knot nematodes. Root knot is a species of nematode which causes galls or swellings on plant roots. It restricts the uptake of nutrients from the root system to the foliage, resulting in a yellow and stunted plant. Root knot lives in the soil and can survive on a number of weed and vegetable crops. It is best controlled by planting a solid stand (close enough for root systems to overlap) of marigolds three months before the first killing frost of fall and/or planting cereal rye (Elbon) for a winter cover crop. Cereal rye should be shred and tilled into the soil 30 days before planting a spring crop.

Q. The foliage on my carrots looks yellow with multiple sprouting at the crown of the root. The roots have numerous small roots on the main root.

A. This is aster yellows, a virus disease of carrots which is carried by leaf hoppers. There is no control for the disease other than a good insect program coupled with removal of the diseased plants once the disease symptoms begin.

Q. My carrots are rotting at the soil line. On close examination, I find the top of the root covered by a white fungal mat.

A. This is southern blight of carrots. It is a soil-borne disease and can be controlled by combining a good foliage fungicide program, deep burial of organic material so undecomposed leaf tissue is not in the upper zone of the garden soil and rotation.

Q. My carrots die rapidly during the warm months.

A. This is cotton root rot and is caused by a soil-borne fungus. It attacks carrot roots causing rapid death of the carrot. On close examination of the root system, you will find it to be completely decayed. The only control for this is rotation. Plant carrots so they will mature in cool months. Cotton root rot requires a hot soil to develop and grow at its rapid stage. Planting carrots in the fall and winter months to mature before the soil warms up will reduce losses from this fungus.

Q. Once I harvest my carrots and place them in the crisper, they soon deteriorate into a slimy, foul-smelling mess.

A. Most often this is associated with bacterial soft rot which enters the carrot at harvest time through cuts and breaks. To control this, wash carrots thoroughly. Broken or damaged carrots should be consumed immediately. After washing, place them in a crisper and keep them at a cool temperature.

Q. What causes my carrots to be forked or double?

A. Damage to the growing tip of a young carrot. Common causes include soil insects and nematodes which feed on the growing tip resulting in branching of the carrot root.

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