Phil’s Dancing Carrots

Reader Contribution by Ilene White Freedman

Ever try growing carrots, only to have them lost in weeds? Or you harvest tiny little strings because you didn’t thin them? I would sit for hours and try to move along my row, determining the miniscule carrot greens from other fuzzy little weeds. No surprise we stopped growing carrots for our CSA.

There are reasons growing carrots organically is challenging. Carrots germinate slowly. Weeds germinate fast. What if you could plant the carrots into the weed-free soil after they are already germinated with green tops? They would be weeks ahead of the weeds yet to germinate. It’d be like a five mile head start in a marathon.

Carrots are delicate. Their foliage is delicate, and early on it is barely discernible from the weeds. By the time the tiny lacy greenery is substantial enough to see, the weeds are taller and bigger.  Weeding them is painstaking.

Carrot seeds are tiny. They easily wash away in the rain. They are nearly impossible to plant in three inch spacing, and then aggravating if there are big gaps where the one seed didn’t germinate. So people usually plant the seeds heavier and then thin. But you are in for painstaking thinning along with your painstaking weeding. In summary, I find growing carrots painstaking.

What to do? There are expensive seeds that are coated with vegetable matter so they are bigger and have some weight to them. It’s a solution to over-seeding, making less thinning possible. But it won’t help you win the marathon with the weeds.

Partners in a Dance

We found a counter-culture solution (our favorite kind). We transplant carrots. What? Transplant carrots? Isn’t that against the rules? It is true that transplanting carrots is not recommended in gardening books, but we thought we’d give it a try anyway.

Now, we pop little carrot seedling blocks of soil into the ground, pre-thinned, not washed away, and germinated weeks ahead of the weeds in the row. We did discover the likely reason you are instructed not to transplant carrots. They grow multiple tap roots early.

You get twisty, four-rooted, gnarly, bendy carrots. You get Phil’s Dancing Carrots! They wrap around each other, partners in a dance. They are fun. They are carrots with arms and legs. They are Phil’s dancing carrots.

When Phil first saw them, he said “they are demented.” I said, “No, they are dancing.” It’s all in how you market it. Now of course, Phil’s Dancing Carrots are not (yet) marketable in stores. But for CSA members, they work! Kids pick out their favorite twisty combos. The crazier the dancers, the better. They all still taste great. And for CSA or your home garden: functional, tasty carrots are what matter most. Sometimes it takes an explanation about how things grow, but explanations about how things are grown is what CSA is all about. So that’s just fine by me.

If you avoid growing carrots, you might consider growing some dancing carrots by transplanting a tray. Get em going for a late fall crop of carrots or plan for the spring.

See my post aboutGrowing Early Corn. It’s another crazy transplanting story!

Ilene White Freedman operates House in the Woods organic CSA farm with her husband, Phil, in Frederick, Maryland. The Freedmans are one of six 2013 Mother Earth News Homesteaders of the Year. Ilene blogs about making things from scratch, putting up the harvest, gardening and farm life at Mother Earth News  and, easy to follow from our Facebook Page. For more about the farm, go to