Project to work with 200 farmers growing carrots – Georgia

Following is an email dialog I had this evening with Charles Specht, director of a fine humanitarian organization in the Republic of Georgia, in which we give him some suggestions on helping 200 carrot farmers have greater success in their planting this year.

C.S. “I have quick question for you about carrots. We want to help about 200 farmers plant carrots using MM. The place is at high elevation, very similar to what you have around Gyumri. These are serious carrot growers, so they want to make good use of their available space. As we understand, the following version of the MM would be appropriate:

1. 100 or 150 cm beds;
2. laying-out the rows perpendicular to the ridge; and
3. mixing seeds with sand to control seeding rate.

Fertilization, we understand to be standard MM with the fertilizer quantities adjusted for bed width.”

J.K Jacob often planted in 1.5 meter-wide beds in his early years, but over time came to believe 1.2 meters was a better width, because it was difficult for people to reach the center of the wider beds. They also planted across the beds as you are planning, but watering had to be done by hand. Many commercial growers who were trained this way by Dr Mittleider still grow this way with great success.

In Colombia we had many “double beds” of 1.2 meters, with four rows of vegetables running lengthwise, and they seemed to work very well. We were not there long enough to see the carrots mature, but they were growing very well.

We plant carrots and other small seeds using one part seed and 100 parts sand, thoroughly mixed. They are sprinkled carefully in SHALLOW furrows, and then covered with about 1/8th” of sand.

There are supposed to be about 19,000 carrot seeds in 1 ounce (28.5 grams), or 667 per gram. Planted 3 cm apart it would require only about 333 to plant a row, but our experience with family growers has been that there is some attrition.

I usually plant 2 1/2 grams of carrot seed per 10 meters. This gives more than needed, and sometimes some thinning is still required. It may well be that your commercial growers can refine that to a better number.

I normally recommend bed widths of 1.2 meters, rather than 1 meter. If you plant 4 rows in that width you can plant each row 30 cm apart, starting just inside the outside ridges, and have a small aisle down the middle for taking care of the plants, harvesting, etc.

Again, this is structured for a family garden, and in those situations you can’t plan on always having the same plant varieties planted from year to year, so we make the beds wide enough that most of the smaller plants can be planted 4 rows to a bed in that width.

Perhaps your commercial growers will want to try it in one meter and eliminate the center walking aisle.

We use just double the fertilizer in a 1.2 meter-wide bed that we do in a half-meter bed – because we’re dealing with 4 rows of plants instead of two.

I am so interested to hear about your tomatoes! I hope your people are doing the recommended pruning of leaves as soon as they start to overlap. This shocks the plant a bit, stops the growth for a few days while the plant makes its stem thicker and stronger, and makes for a much stronger and healthier transplant into the garden. That pruning needs to be done at least twice, and when plants go into the garden they should be pruned again.

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