The next two weeks are prime time for planting carrots. The carrot (or Daucus carota) are members of the Apiaceae family, also known as umbellifers. Like an umbrella, the flowers rise from a central stem ending in a round or flat-topped arrangement of flowers. Carrots were first brought to America around 1609, but have been grown as a food crop for more than 2,000 years.

Carrots are considered biennial, storing up food in the root the first year. If we allow the carrots to stay in the ground, they will flower and die the second year. Carrots are rich in Vitamin A (beta-carotene) and sugar.

Carrot varieties which are common here are Chantenay, Scarlet Nantes, and Danvers. They now also grow in a variety of colors.

When planning to plant carrots, soil should be loose to a depth of 8 or more inches and should be well-drained. The soil in the Community Garden is ideal for carrots. To plant our carrots, we create a small trench cross-wise to the bed. We plant two or three carrot seed every 4 inches, water the trenches and then cover with ¼ inch of soil and re-water. Germination may take up to two weeks.

Wait until the carrots are several inches tall before attempting to weed to avoid pulling up small carrots. Unless other vegetables, carrots require very little fertilizer, particularly nitrogen. If over-fertilized, the carrots will become “harry” when harvested.

Carrots should be ready to harvest in 2.5 to 3 months. Gently dig around the carrot before removal. Often, a digging fork is useful to help remove stubborn carrots. Once harvested, cut off the top of the carrots, wash them and store in a sealed bag in the refrigerator. Before the era of refrigeration, carrots would be buried in sand in a root cellar.

The wild cousin of the carrot, Queen Anne’s Lace, is a wildflower that blooms from July through frost in meadows and roadside banks. The flower was named for Queen Anne of England who apparently won an embroidery contest with beautiful lace. From my childhood, we called this flower “Kiss me and I’ll tell you”. Our friends would be pranked by asking: “Do you know the name of this flower?”, followed by “Kiss me and I’ll tell you”. This would result in several repetitions (much like “Who’s on First”) until the other person became exasperated and left.

Other cousins of the carrot are celery, fennel, parsnips, coriander, cilantro, cumin, dill and parsley. All of these are host plants for the Black Swallowtail Butterfly. The Community Garden is host to a number of these each year.

Coriander is mentioned in the Bible in Exodus 16:31: “And the house of Israel called the name thereof Manna: and it was like coriander seed, white; and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey.” Seeds have been found in ruins as long ago as 5000 B.C. When coriander seed is planted, it produces the cilantro plant. The strong aroma of cilantro may have given this plant its name. When cilantro goes to seed, the tall stalks resemble dill and fennel plants.

Almost all of the carrot cousins are planted in the Community Garden. If you are curious or want to learn more, stop by to visit between 9:00 and 10:30 on Tuesday and Fridays.

Marjorie Stansel is a UGA Douglas County Master Gardener Extension Volunteer. Additional information/publications on gardening can be found at the University of Georgia’s Extension website, http://extension.uga.edu/. In addition, the local UGA Douglas County Extension office is available to assist uge2097@uga.edu or 770-920-7224.