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growing carrots in straw bales?

Posted by phantom_white (My Page) on
Tue, Mar 6, 12 at 1:16

I've got horrible red clay but I want to grow carrots... I've tried the past couple years with little success. The carrots are either too tiny to bother with or the clay has such a hold on them that it breaks either the stems or the carrot itself. I added mushroom compost and other organic matter to my soil with no luck- it's almost like it turns to clay as soon as it gets incorporated. I'm thinking about trying to grow carrots in straw bales... I've got Red Cored Chantenay, Danvers Half Long, Muscade, Snow White and Purple Dragon carrots. Does anyone here have experience with this method? Is there a certain fertilizer (organic) that I would need to side dress with since the growing medium would only be straw?

Thanks for any help,
Abby


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: growing carrots in straw bales?

Keep amending the soil. Try a bulkier compost like partially composted wood chips. You've really got to make the clay the minority in the soil. Keep amending.


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RE: growing carrots in straw bales?

I have clay soil too and will be trying carrots in Al's 5-1-1 mix in containers this year. Got a thread going in the container gardening forum right now, where I'm getting advice on this. You can check it out if you want.


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RE: growing carrots in straw bales?

I've never done the bale thing, but I'd say adding bone meal would be the way to go.


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RE: growing carrots in straw bales?

I have done the bale thing, and the root area of the bale rots very quickly and caves in. I think the medium would be too lightweight for carrots. Keep working on that clay! My soil is now clay loam, and I fell in love with the Purple Dragons I grew last fall.


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RE: growing carrots in straw bales?

  • Posted by corrine1 7b Pacific Northwest (My Page) on
    Tue, Mar 6, 12 at 12:26

You need more organic matter added to clay to loosen it up. It takes a lot applied over several years to make soil you can dig with hands.

This year: amend a furrow with sand/compost to depth you want carrots to grow. Then plant in that furrow only.

OR plant in raised beds or XL containers rather than the straw bales.

My experience has been that bales are good for larger plants like tomatoes, but not root crops because they're too dense. However, if you use old straw bales the next year the soil underneath will be loosened from the decomposed straw from the bottom of the bales. Even better the 3rd year.

Straw is really good for sheet mulch over manures & then after a few years of adding organic matter topped with the sheet mulch your soil will be much looser & easier for carrot crops & everything else...

I garden along my driveway in a clearing in the woods, so I've used straw + manures to build my soil. In places I can dig with my hands, but in other spots it's still a pick axe job. When digging for Jerusalem artichokes last week I dug out a bucket of rocks & only 2 roots. That's my type of soil.


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RE: growing carrots in straw bales?

Thanks for the responses!
Okay, what if I make a layered bed of straw (pulled apart and loosened)and compost? I really want to grow as much as possible to preserve this year (I have around 1800 square feet) and want to make sure I fertilize and amend when I need to. I can't do raised beds or containers because my parents won't let me and I'm basically on my own when it comes to the garden in general. The tiller broke last year so I have nothing to work the soil with... plus the neighbors trees are shading part of the garden. I need my own place. :P

Abby


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RE: growing carrots in straw bales?

Carrots can take a bit of shade, that's probably a good place to start for carrots you'll harvest this summer. Deep loose soil is best for carrots, so whatever you can do to improve the area they are growing in will be to your advantage. Digging in generous amounts of compost and mulching with straw is an excellent plan. For fall carrots, a sunnier location might be better. If you have an area that will have a summer crop that you can underplant with carrots in August, that should give you a good crop for harvesting and eating later in the year.

Remember that improving your soil is a process that should be on-going, including top-dressing with compost and mulching while plants are growing, and amending (and tilling, if necessary) between crops. If you buy one tool this year, get a really good garden fork. I bought mine from Spear & Jackson... 27 years ago, and it is still among my most used pieces of equipment. Once you have established your garden beds in good tilth, the fork is all you will need.


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RE: growing carrots in straw bales?

You're not going to raise much in the way of carrots in clay soil. Suggestions for raised beds:

1. Use the straw bales to form a bed and fill it with a lighter soil/compost, etc. It might last a year or two before it breaks down and you can then call it "compost".

2. Not all raised beds are framed. If you could come up with a lighter soil combination, maybe purchased potting soil + compost + some of your natural clay (good source of minerals and helps retain moisture), form it into a free-standing raised bed on top of the clay. (see link)

3. Talk to your neighbors and ask if you could build a raised bed in their yard for a share of carrots? Maybe a nice crop of sweet,juicy, crunchy, super-fresh carrots would change your parents' minds!

Sue

Here is a link that might be useful: Unframed garden bed


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RE: growing carrots in straw bales?

If I pile on really good compost, ect. on top of the clay will that cause the roots of the plants to be shallow or will the good stuff in the compost leach down and the roots follow? We get some pretty awful storms throughout the year here and I don't want my plants falling over because their roots don't go far enough...

Abby


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RE: growing carrots in straw bales?

Piling compost on top won't have enough effect in lightening the texture of the soil without really digging it in, but over time (3 years, maybe?) you will have soil the way you want it, because your native soil fauna will dig it in for you. An alternative is to grow smaller carrots, that can handle dense soils more easily, like Parmex, Chantenay Red Core, or Shin Kuroda; or round varieties, such as Thumbelina, Atlas, or Parisienne. The round ones are particularly prized by chefs lately, as well as the non-orange varieties. The round carrots were traditionally grown in window boxes in Paris, and are very well suited for shallow soils. For the longer varieties you have, there is really no substitute for deep, light soil. Leaf mold is my go-to amendment for carrots. If you have woods nearby, rake off the upper, still intact leaves and you will find a layer of spongy, moist, mostly decomposed leaves. If you collect some of that and mix it in the clay, it will last a few years (certainly longer than compost) and make a huge difference in your soil texture immediately. Don't take too much from any one area, it is an important part of the forest ecosystem.

(This is why I love my garden fork - it is much easier for digging in clay and mixing in amendments. Don't you have a birthday coming up?)


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RE: growing carrots in straw bales?

I was planning to incorporate compost into the soil as well as making one of those non-enclosed raised beds in the link that was posted. I was going to get a few other soil additives from a list that's in another topic on this site and try to mix those in too. I've got woods in front of my house but you have to hike a wicked hill to get to them. Maybe I can take my wheelbarrow and make it part of my workout routine.
I *do* have a birthday coming up... so now I'll have to choose between a Mantis tiller, a few books, or a garden fork. Decisions, decisions...

Abby


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RE: growing carrots in straw bales?

gypsum will help to make your soil more pliable as least for a year.


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RE: growing carrots in straw bales?

I am quite new to gardening last year was my first time but I have a couple ideas for you as far as amending the soil goes. I save all my leaves from the trees and spread them in my garden over the winter. Than I go to my local landfill and get free topsoil from them and put it on top of the leaves than tilled it in this spring and am pleased with the results as my soil was also a very heavy clay. I also hunted down some local tree cutters doing right of ways and got them to dump me a load of their ground up branches and used it for a mulch around my plants last year for weed control. Look on Craigs list for someone who will do some tilling for you for a fair price or look up a local tool rental place or HomeDepot or Lowes to rent a tiller. You can also take a soil sample to your local county extension agent to get it tested and they can tell you what to put in your soil for about $10.
I grew some carrots last year myself and even with tilling the ground it wasn't deep enough. As the carrots grew they hit the harder untilled dirt underneath and either stopped growing or bent as did my sweet potato's. So this year I'm going to till that area rake that soil back and till again for deeper loose soil......hopefully that will help.
Good Luck.


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RE: growing carrots in straw bales?

I've heard gypsum was good for the soil so I'll pick up some of that on my next trip to the supply store.
I have a number of small farms near me so maybe one of them will let me haul their manure away... some of these place have had horses on them for years but I never see them cleaning the stalls. Surely they do, right? I'll have to borrow a truck to get it though.
I think there's been some trees cut down in my neighborhood so I'll ask them if I can have the chips that were left over.
These are some very good suggestions! Thanks for the replies!

Abby


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