After pulling your potatoes out of the ground, try planting carrots! The ground is nice and soft after removing the potatoes and perfect for carrots. First, spread a thin layer of compost onto the harvested area. You must use compost and not manure! Manures are high in nitrogen and will only result in many green tops and very little root or carrot production. On the other hand, compost is higher in potassium and phosphorus, which is perfect for healthy root growth, and therefore, big carrots!
Rake the area flat after adding the compost and follow that with a nice deep watering. (Sowing tiny seeds on dry soil will only result in the seeds washing away with the first watering.) After the soil is adequately damp, hoe a very shallow line in the soil to place seeds into depth no deeper than 1/4 of an inch. Dribble in seeds, being careful to space every 1/2 inch apart so as not to crowd them too much. I use my fingers like a rake and lightly scratch back and forth across the row. This will cover some seeds, while leaving others to be exposed to the surface. Lastly, I press the seeds very firmly in place with my hand and water them again.
Another method is to mix 1 part carrot seeds into two parts play sand. Shake them together in a cup, and sprinkle the mixture into the row. Again, be sure to press the carrot seeds into the soil. This ensures that most of them will come up, because carrot seeds like to be in direct contact with moist soil at all times and will not sprout in fluffy and dry peaty soils. Help keep them moist during the first days of sprouting by placing a flat piece of lumber over the row. The lumber will prevent them from going dry when their roots start to emerge. If seeds dry out at this time, then that is certain doom for those seeds. Once the first bits of green tops start to appear, remove the lumber.
Some varieties of carrots will winter over better than others. So plant lots of rows to be able to enjoy them in fall and spring. Thinning the carrots when they are about 2 inches long will prevent diseases like molds and ensure larger carrots. Also, the larger the carrot, the better they store.
After the carrot harvest, DO NOT plant any other root crops in that area! You will pull out too many nutrients, and diseases like scab may become an issue. Rotating crops will also prevent insects like carrot maggot and potato beetle from learning where your garden is.
After growing root vegetables, put nutrients back into the soil by growing beans or peas. Even if there is not enough time in the season to collect a harvest from your legume of choice, plant them anyway! Pinto beans and cow beans in bulk from feed stores are great examples of cover crops: that is, plants that are planted simply for the benefit of the soil! Happy soil equals happy gardens!
Photo By Markus Spiske