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DEAR AMOR: First year trying carrots. Turned and amended my bed and let it rest for 2 weeks. Then dug my rows maybe 1/2 to 1 inch deep, sowed my seeds and watered them in, kept the soil moist but not soaked, and never let it dry out. It seems only 15-20% of the seeds germinated and even those only got maybe an inch tall and have just stayed that way for probably a month now. Any advice or tricks on what I should do or improve next time? Located in mid-Missouri. — JakeDEAR JAKE: These past few days I happened to stroll around many areas in Missouri. I observed some clay soil composition in many parts of this state. Although I am aware that clay soil is a fertile soil, rich in nutrients that plants will greatly benefit from, I know the water drainage and aeration has to be improved.Clay soil is just too hard, sticky and heavy for most garden produce, especially for carrots, radishes, onions, and many other root crops. These produce plants need loose ground to achieve their full fruit growth potential.Soil amendments can be done by incorporating lots and lots of organic decomposing materials to garden beds each year. The goal is to make our home garden beds 50% organic materials and 50% garden soil, either clay or sandy loam.We can create a desirable 50% organic materials and 50% garden soil composition by taking advantage of our very own unwanted (meatless) food scraps and other rotting materials. They can be turned into a nutrition-rich compost for our garden beds without spending any more money.We can also use leftover garden produce, fall leaves, grass clippings, manure mixed with aged wood chips or shavings from livestock bedding, and old straw that farmers want to get rid of to amend our garden beds.Just a warning: Do not use fresh wood chips or shavings as that would deprive your plants with nitrogen instead and could slow down their growth. It may also cause your tender seedlings to die out. I learned my lessons the hard way on that!Another warning is to not use fresh straw, as it would have weed seeds or wheat growing voluntarily for you. You will hae no use for these plants and they will outgrow your garden plants.Do not forget to till or mix your compost in the ground so it can serve its purpose. However, it is important to not till deeper than 10 inches so we do not disturb the deeply rooted perennial weeds underneath the ground. Perennial weeds will be difficult to eradicate once they come out to the surface without the use of chemicals.Since most materials decay and are used up by the plants, it is desirable that we keep adding that nutrient-rich compost into our garden beds. We can do that every year before spring planting or after fall harvesting.One effortless soil amendment that I love doing is to plant extra daikon radishes, carrots and other root crops on the ground. After I have taken what I needed, the rest will stay unharvested. They will rot where they are and become my next-season fertilizer. I do not even need to till the ground as those root crops already did the job for me.Having gardened for many years, I admit that I haven’t used fertilizers at all. My produce and harvest has always been beyond satisfactory, considering that I have always applied crop rotation from year to year.My carrots are huge, not only because I have chosen the right kind of seeds for a bounteous harvest, but because the plants were grown on ground where roots can easily expand underground without restriction.
Amor Chamness Cook is a Brigham Young University-Idaho graduate and Purdue Extension Master Gardener. Send your garden questions for “Dear Amor” at [email protected]
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