All About Carrots

Got some time to get outside and finally get all of the carrots in the carrot bed taken out.

This year, I grew two different varieties side-by-side for comparison testing.  The first variety was the Sugarsnax hybrid carrot.  The Sugarsnax hybrid carrot was said to be sweeter and have more vitamins in it than other standard carrots.  The second variety was Scarlet Nantes carrots – which is a standard, open-pollinated variety.

The Sugarsnax carrot seed is about twice as large as the Scarlet Nantes seed – as I found it pretty difficult to only drop one Scarlet Nantes carrot seed into each “hole” when I was sowing them.

The downfall of the Sugarsnax variety is the cost.  I chose to do a comparison using Scarlet Nantes because Fedco Seeds said that in 2010, it was the most popular selling carrot seed – with over 5,000 packets ordered totalling 200 pounds of seed sold.  The Scarlet Nantes seed – when I ordered it in early 2011 – was only 80 cents for a 1/8 ounce (approximately 3.5 grams) package of it – which was much more than I needed to plant.

The Sugarsnax carrot – remember is about twice as large – so you get even less seed.  A 1 gram – yes – a 1 gram – packet of Sugarsnax was $1.40.  Not only was the cost almost twice as much, you are getting approximately seven times LESS seed (1 gram versus 3.5 gram – but the seed is twice as large).

OK – so am I going to be that picky?  Well, we’ll see after the tests.  80 cents versus $1.40 for a packet of seed is cheap – considering you go to the store and buy a pound of carrots for $1.50 or so.

Alright – so I started digging up the Sugarsnax carrots first – and here are some nice pictures of them.

Sugarsnax Carrots

So you see a nice big pile of Sugarsnax carrots above with long carrots and green foliage.  Very healthy carrots.  You can see that I’ve cleared out exactly half of the carrot bed (there is a white PVC pipe that was used to separate the two varities so I knew where to stop).

The Sugarsnax carrots definitely are good-looking carrots with 6+ inch roots that taper to an end.  For the most part, they pulled out cleanly and did not have any knubs or other inconsistencies – except the one below.

Sugarsnax Carrots

Wow – I got two Sugarsnax carrots with one seed!  First time that has happened and both sides of the carrot are in great shape.

OK – moving on to the Scarlet Nantes carrots.

Scarlet Nantes Carrots

Hmm – the carrots are not as orange (meaning they don’t have as much beta caroteine as the Sugarsnax variety) and they definitely – on average – are shorter.  The Scarlet Nantes carrots also had some knubs and inconsistencies in them – but still not too bad.

Now, let’s look at the piles “side by side”.  The Sugarsnax pile is on the bottom and the Scarlet Nantes on the top.

Scarlet Nantes Carrots

Not fully a fair comparison since the Scarlet Nantes are further back in the picture – but they are shorter and the foliage wasn’t as thick.

After getting them all cut up, they looked pretty filthy.


Sugarsnax Carrots

Scarlet Nantes:

Scarlet Nantes Carrots

Both Sugarsnax and Scarlet Nantes are said to have a ready-to-harvest time period of 68 days – so just a little over two months after planting they should be ready.  I found these numbers highly off – and for the 2009 and 2010 growing season, they were planted in mid-April and harvested in early August – with approximately 105 – 115 days before harvest.  This year – we had horrendous heat and almost no rain during the July and August months – that the foliage looked very bad and the carrots were not developing.  Therefore, this year they were planted around April 14th and were just harvested today – September 25th – for a total of approximately 163 days of growing.  I was very afraid the carrots would be unedible and “woody” as I’ve read others say about carrots that were not dug up in a proper time, but they turned out just fine!

And now, for the weigh in data.

There were a total of 122 Sugarsnax carrots harvested (a total of 280 were planted and approximately 152 that germinated)

  • Germination (152) to number planted (280):  54% germination rate
  • Number harvested (122) to number planted (280):  44% success rate
  • Number harvested (122) to number germinated (152):  80% harvest rate

There were a total of 109 Scarlet Nantes carrots harvested (a total of 260 were planted and approximately 150 that germinated)

  • Germination (150) to number planted (260):  58% germation rate
  • Number harvested (109) to number planted (260):  42% success rate
  • Number harvested (109) to number germinated (150):  73% harvest rate

I like numbers and comparing things that way, can’t you tell?  So the above shows the germination rate of the Scarlet Nantes was a bit higher (but those numbers are highly assisted by the fact that I dropped two and three seeds into at least half of the “holes” they were planted in).  But, the success and harvest rate of the Sugarsnax is superior than Scarlet Nantes


How about weight comparisons now.  The numbers are of just the usable portion of the carrots – so they were taken after the foliage was cut off:

  • 122 Sugarsnax yielded 9 pounds, 11 3/8 ounces (approximately 1.27 ounces per carrot)
  • 109 Scarlet Nantes yielded 7 pounds, 9 1/8 ounces (approximately 1.11 ounces per carrot)

Amazingly enough, I’m quite surprised that the ounces per carrot are that close.  I expected the Scarlet Nantes to be under an ounce each based upon the size/length of them.


I washed one of each carrot variety and then used the carrot peeler to remove the outer “skin” of the carrot.  My wife then tried them and I told her “A” and “B”.  The first time around, Scarlet Nantes was “A” and Sugarsnax was “B”. Upon first taste, she said that she liked A – Scarlet Nantes – better.  Then after trying a couple more nibbles, she decided that “A” definitely tasted more like a traditional carrot – but “B” was sweeter.

I then went back to get a few more pieces and said Sugarsnax was “B” and Scarlet Nantes was “A”.  She immediately knew that I switched them up because of the sweetness of the Sugarsnax.

I also then tested them and prefer the Sugarsnax over Scarlet Nantes – specifically because of the sweetness (hey, I have a sweet tooth!).  I thought that Scarlet Nantes had just a hint of a bitter flavor because it is certainly missing the sweetness.

Both carrots had the same texture and both were quite crunchy – so no differences to indicate there.


As previously noted, the Sugarsnax carrots have long slender roots that taper to a nice point.  They had very little inconsistencies – except at the end where they reached the bottom of my growing container and started to curve.  The Scarlet Nantes carrots did have more inconsistencies and “warts” growing on the side than the Sugarsnax.  The Scarlet Nantes also were not as long (in general) as the Sugarsnax.

Sugarsnax have more of an orange tint – meaning it has more vitamins.  Here you can see a color comparison after the carrot was washed and peeled:

Carrot Color Comparison

The Sugarsnax is on the left and the Scarlet Nantes on the right.  You can see a difference in the orange hue of each.

Well, that is all about carrots.  Our verdict is – continue growing the Sugarsnax carrots.  Yes, the cost – in general – is about 7 times as expensive as Scarlet Nantes – but by the time we can only plant less than one packet (1 gram) of Sugarsnax yearly for $1.40, it is worth the cost.  If you consider a pound of carrots at the store at an average cost of $1.50 each, it would cost us $25.50 to purchase 18 pounds of carrots (production this year out of the garden) versus buying a packet of Sugarsnax carrot seed for $1.40.

Garden Decline

The garden is slowly in decline.  The weather in Central Illinois has certainly cooled down considerably – so much now that the weather reports that we are sometimes 14 degrees cooler than average for this time of year.

Because of that, the warm-weather crops – like peppers and tomatoes – have slowed to a crawl.  They still have plenty of unripened fruit – but they are not ripening up at all.

Front Garden

The other side of the front garden has been abandoned.  I was attempting to grow some additional Bush Blue Lake 274 green beans – but the bugs completely ate them so I stopped taking care of it – and took down all of the PVC in the area for the watering system.

Front Garden

There still is a few celery plants that are surviving – but it won’t be anything that we can use.

The green beans in the front yard are also in decline as well.  I did get about a pound of green beans from them – but they are not looking too well.

Bush Blue Lake 274 Green Beans

Bush Blue Lake 274 Green Beans

In addition, the Tri-Star strawberries in the front yard haven’t really bounced back either.  I think it is going to be almost time to replace all of the strawberries – which is a shame.  They are about three years old now and I attempted to re-plant the runners to keep a fresh supply of plants, but the very hot summer wiped a lot of them out.

Tri-Star Strawberries

Meanwhile, in the back, a few volunteer potatoes have sprouted.  Of course, they won’t make it through the winter – but it does show that even the smallest potatoes that are left in the ground will come back up.

Volunteer Kennebec Potatoes

The Sugarsnax and Scarlet Nantes carrots have really exploded in the past few weeks!  The carrots have been in the ground for well over 120 days now – so they most likely are woody and unedible – I’ve yet to dig them up!  But, the green tops have really began growing lately.


We’ve finally managed to get a bit of rain over the past few weeks as well – still not nearly where we should be for this time of the year (and our city is on the verge of putting mandatory water restrictions in place).  So, the rain barrels are completely filled up again – but I’ve not had to water the garden lately because it seems we get enough rain so it isn’t necessary.

Onto the lettuce.  Unfortunately I did plant the lettuce seedlings out a week early and over half of them scorched and died out.  So, this is what is left – and at least they still are growing.


We also have a few Anaheim Hot Peppers on the plants.  But, these peppers are just as mild as the standard California Wonder pepper – so I don’t find it worthwhile to plant another pepper type that has the same flavor.  I was hoping it would have just a bit of heat to it to put in the salsa – but no such luck.

Anaheim Hot Peppers

I then did pick the peppers and a few cucumbers from the back garden after taking all these photos.

Garden Harvest

And lastly, a few pictures of the Crimson Sweet watermelon.  The watermelon vines are also in decline as well – although they are sprawling everywhere.

Crimson Sweet Watermelon

As you can see, there is one watermelon in the front – and an even larger one in the back (not seen here).  I did pick one of them just before taking the picture above – and somehow it split on it’s own.  It wasn’t nearly ready for harvest – so it was thrown on the compost pile.

Crimson Sweet Watermelon

Well, that is all for this blog entry.  As you can see, the number of posts have been slowing down since there isn’t much going on.

Finally Got Some Rain!

Wow!  We finally managed to get some rain!  We have not had a good rainfall for over two months!  On Saturday and this morning on this Labor Day weekend, it seems we got about 3/4 an inch of rain.

My 660 gallon rain catchment system is about 3/4 full.  Of course, it is getting to the end of the season now and probably half of my usable gardening areas have been harvested and cleaned out.

Not a very good picture – but this is a photo looking inside the first barrel where all of the water first comes in from the gutters.  It looks like it isn’t too terribly full, but it is about 3/4 filled up.

Rain Barrel System

I haven’t made a post in quite a while.  Things have been quite busy here lately so I’ve not had the chance to sit down and get all of the picture compiled and added to the site.

We’ve harvested two Crimson Sweet watermelons thus far.  They definitely have a lot of seeds in them – but they are not hybrids so you can save them and re-plant them next year.  I’ve read where the watermelons get up to about 24 pounds – but one of them was around 8 pounds and the other at 13 pounds.

Crimson Sweet Watermelon

Crimson Sweet Watermelon

There still are at least three watermelons on the vine of decent size.  This shows two – but one of them is small and the other is fairly large.  They are growing on the driveway.

Crimson Sweet Watermelon

We also have been receiving a plentiful supply of cucumbers.  I certainly do like the Little Leaf Pickling cucumbers now that we are getting them – it just took quite a while!  The cucumbers are very small and after I get home from work, it is nice to cut one of them up with a little bit of ranch dressing for a snack.  The Burpee Pickler cucumbers are smaller than regular cucumbers – but they are twice or three times the size of the Little Leaf Pickling cucumbers.


The cucumbers are still growing in the back garden.

Cucumber Plants

Last weekend I decided it was time to get the lettuce seedlings planted into the patio garden.  I got the tiller out and fluffed up the soil a bit and then planted them in.  Before doing that, I had to thin out the seeds to one per cell – which yielded us some “micro greens” that we ate with a salad the same night.

Lettuce Micro Greens

After they were all thinned out, they looked pretty good.

Lettuce Seedlings

Then they were planted in the patio garden.

Lettuce Plants

Then, this week, the temperatures got up into the high 90’s and low 100’s for four days!  That unfortunately did some damage to the lettuce.  Luckily I still have three Simpson Elite plants still in the trays as backups – since I didn’t have room to plant them.  Just in one week and those hot temperatures, I lost about seven plants – if not more.

Lettuce Plants

Can you believe that I still have not picked the carrots?  In years past, I would have picked them a month ago.  I bet they are going to be no good now.. as one person told me – they will most likely be woody.


Heck, even on the very far right corner of the carrot bed, there are two of them that have flower heads on them and may produce some seeds!

Carrot Flower

The Anaheim Hot Peppers have finally had a few of them get fully ripe and turn red.  Unfortunately, half of them were wilted up and left on the plant too long – yet again.  I just can’t seem to figure out these peppers – and I very well may not grow them again.

Anaheim Hot Pepper

The California Wonder peppers in the front seem to finally be putting on some peppers of their own.  I did spread some epsom salt around each of the pepper and tomato plants a few weeks back – not sure if it helped any.

California Wonder Pepper

Last week, we harvested a big bounty of green beans and basil.  We finally got about six pounds of green beans as the temperatures had been cool over that period and caused the plants to put on a second set of beans.

Bush Blue Lake 274 Green Beans

And for the basil:

Sweet Basil

Down near the road, the green beans are producing – but they seem to be dieing at the same time.  The bugs have really obliterated them.  After the corn was all taken out in the front, I put in two more rows of green beans there – of which about half of them germinated.  Now there is nothing left of the plants – except the stem – because the bugs ate everything off of them.

Bush Blue Lake 274 Green Beans

And for the last few pictures – the front garden looks a mess with all of the tomato plants.  We were getting over 10 pounds of tomatoes everytime I went out there a few weeks ago – now we are lucky to get a pound every three-to-four days.

Front Garden

Notice the Ventura celery to the left?  I took out all of the celery over a month ago – but yet some of them didn’t want to stop producing and actually started putting on a bushy-celery plant.

Ventura Celery

Well, that is all for this blog post.  It is finally nice that the temperatures have went down and that we got some RAIN for once in over two months.  The cold front that came in will keep the temperatures in the 70’s over the next week – at least that is what the weatherman says.