Updated: August 6, 2010
Maine farmer Eliot Coleman has written not one but several books on using season extending structures and protected culture for year-round vegetable gardening. He grows a wide variety of vegetables at his farm (Hardiness Zone 5A) in his unheated hoop houses (a.k.a. polytunnels). But winter carrots are his most celebrated crop.
Sweet winter carrots, as he calls them, are harvested in the coldest part of winter. Keeping them in the ground through the cold of winter sweetens the carrots so that they transcend store-bought or even fresh, summer-grown varieties from your garden.
The late February harvested carrots are even sweeter than the ones pulled earlier in the winter. But once the crop starts growing again in March, they lose their flavor.
So how do you grow carrots in winter? The trick is to start them in the middle of summer and cover them with a hoop house just when the weather starts to turn cold. This keeps them from freezing solid in the ground during the winter.
The cold weather forces the sugar from the carrot greens into the roots. The result is the sweetest carrot you’ve ever tasted.
Kids like these carrots better than candy. Hard to believe. I know.
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Coleman has even experimented with using insulation to extend the WINTER in his hoop houses so that the cold harvest season will stretch into March.
Can you imagine that? Making winter longer so you can harvest more carrots.
Unfortunately, it didn’t have the desired effect. The carrots and the surrounding ground froze, harming the flavor of the carrots.
Eliot Coleman’s method for growing carrots
If you would like to grow carrots in winter, here’s how he does it:
Variety: Grow Nelson carrots, a frost hardy variety that results in better tasting winter-harvested carrots.
Planting Dates: Sow seeds during the last week of July or first week of August in hardiness zone 5A. If you are in a different zone, adjust the planting date as necessary.
Hoop House: Cover the carrots with an unheated hoop house in late October.
Harvest: Pull carrots in December, January and February. As carrots begin to grow again in March, they lose their sweetness.
One word of caution for when you grow carrots in winter. If you have voles or mice, they will certainly eat these carrots right out of the ground. So you have to get rid of the varmints first.
- Better Tomatoes with Walls-O-Water
- I Shopped for Hoop House Kits. A Review of the One I Bought
- Book Review: Eliot Coleman’s Four-Season Harvest
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