Every gardener should plant the vegetable that
provides a rich source of Vitamin A. You certainly don't want
to be without those Bugs Bunny delights which recent research
suggests may help prevent cancer. As a good, healthy food and
a great source of dietary fiber, carrots simply can't be beat!
Carrots were originally used as medicines. Seeds
or roots were consumed to cure stomach ailments and used in poultices
for surface ulcers, abscesses and even severe wounds. Carrots
were thought to relieve bladder, liver and kidney problems, and
to aid childbirth. They were even believed to be aphrodisiacs.
Carrots are one of the easiest vegetables to grow
and if you hurry to get your planting area ready by this Monday,
you will be able to utilize the best moon planting dates for November
(November 5-7) as well. Carrot seeds are sown directly into the
soil. There are two major methods for sowing carrots. One is to
plant them in rows in single file; the other is to scatter them
in broad areas up to 12 inches wide. Both work equally well, except
that there is a higher yield with the second method.
Plant seeds less than 1/4 inch deep. Carrot seeds
are small, so be careful to sow them thinly to avoid overcrowding
and rake them into the prepared soil surface to avoid planting
too deep. The seeds usually take 14 to 21 days for germination.
Keep the soil moist throughout germination. Carrot seeds are slow
to germinate, so gardeners often mix faster-germinating radish
or lettuce seeds with carrot seeds when planting, just to mark
the area for watering and weeding. Radishes and lettuce can also
help break up any crusting of the soil surface to produce better
stands of carrots. The faster growing vegetables are then harvested
before they can crowd the carrots, and less thinning is required.
When the seedlings emerge, thin by cutting off the tops of the
weakest, most crowded plants with scissors to avoid disturbing
the roots of remaining plants. When the carrots are about 3 inches
high, thin again to 1 or 2 inches apart for row plantings and
1 to 3 inches for wide rows or beds (depending on what size carrot
you want to harvest).
Carrots can be harvested as soon as they are large
enough to use, so there is no need to think immediately about
wider spacings. Larger thinned carrots, about finger-sized, can
be eaten raw or cooked and are definitely a delicacy. By thinning
and harvesting from mid-season until carrots are mature, you can
have a continuous supply. Continuous harvests can also be insured
by sowing at 2 to 3 week intervals instead of all at once.
A mulch of dried grass clippings, well rotted compost
or other organic or inorganic materials will help conserve soil
moisture, maintain even soil temperatures and reduce weeds. Apply
a 1 to 3 inch layer of mulching materials around the base of the
plants after they have emerged and are growing well, being careful
not to cover up the foliage or stem. As carrots mature, especially
in heavier soils, the roots of some varieties will push above
the soil surface. The exposed part of the root will generally
turn green or purple and develop a green area in the upper core,
which has a slightly bitter taste. To eliminate these "green
shoulders," apply mulch around the base of the carrots or
use a hand tool, such as a hoe, to pull some of the surrounding
soil onto the crowns.
Carrots can grow to gigantic sizes. The Guinness
Book of World Records claims that the largest carrot ever grown
was in New Zealand, in 1978. It weighed 15 lb., 7 oz. Carrots
can be harvested as soon as the roots are large enough to use.
Don't depend on foliage growth to estimate root size. It can be
misleading. To check size, carefully loosen the soil around the
top of the carrot root. Roots finger-sized and larger are ready
to eat raw or cooked, and young carrots are a delicacy. Carrots
are as "mature" and as large as they are going to be
when the expanding root is as dark orange as the rest of the carrot
-- when the growing point of the root is still expanding, it will
have a high orange coloration.
In light or loose soils, harvest carrots by grasping
the leafy crown and pulling straight up. The whole root should
come out easily. In heavy or stiff soils, you may need to gently
loosen the surrounding soil with a garden fork before pulling.
Be careful not to disturb nearby carrots when removing only a
few. Carrots can be stored at 32 to 40 degrees F. or, in fall/winter,
simply by leaving the carrots in the garden until needed.
Future carrots will probably be faster growing,
sweeter and more flavorful. The best varieties to plant now are
Imperator for long carrots or Nantes and Danvers for shorter,
blocker carrots. Carrot roots fork and/or stop growing if damaged
by soil insects such as grubs or wireworms. If such insects have
been persistent in the area where you intend to plant carrots,
treat the planting bed with granular diazinon before seeding.
Follow label instructions.
NOW is the best time to plant one of our most nutritious
garden vegetables -- the carrot. In the past if you have produced
carrots that weren't sweet, it is because you planted in the spring
instead of fall. All of the super-sweet carrots that are a trademark
of Texas are grown ONLY in the fall months. Try it; you'll like
To read more about the history of carrots, see:
For visuals, see:
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS FOR
THIRD WEEK OF OCTOBER 2002
QUESTION: A client has an Italian Cypress planted between Llano
and San Saba. They would like to know how much water it requires.
ANSWER: The Italian Cypress (Cupressus sempervirens)
grows to 80 feet and is hardy from North Carolina to Arkansas
and southward. In its native Southern Europe and Western Asia,
it is famous as a garden subject, having been used for centuries.
Its foliage is dark green and its form is like that of the Lombardy
Poplar. The narrow, columnar variety, stricta, has been extensively
used in California gardens. In this area of Texas it usually grows
to 30 to 40 feet tall and 3 to 4 feet wide with a moderate growth
rate. It is adapted to almost all of Texas but spider mites can
be a problem, as well as extreme winters (fluctuating temperatures
from high to low). This plant is not extremely drought tolerant
but could be classified as moderately drought tolerant. Paul Cox
at the San Antonio Botanical Garden says they have had Diplodia
fungal problems on the ones growing on the Botanical Garden grounds
during periods of wet weather.
QUESTION: I've seen something that looks like grass which hasn't
been mowed in a long time...it's long, and falls over gently.
It blows in the wind, and looks like soft, rolling tufts. Something
like what you'd picture in an English country garden. The best
I can figure from the books is that it may be mondo grass. Is
this correct? If not, I would like to know what exactly to ask
for, and if it will do well in Los Angeles (zone 10 on your system).
Also, I would like to know if it is hearty enough for heavy to
partially shaded areas- with a few patches of sunny areas here
and there. Also, will it withstand medium/large dogs...walking
and running on it, as well as doing their "nature calls"
thing? What would you recommend? I need to cover an area approximately
10' x 30' (and I'm on a budget!).
ANSWER: Check the PLANTanswers site for a listing
of ornamental grasses:
You might also read the descriptions of ornamental
I don't think you are describing mondo grass. Regardless
of what you want, the dogs are going to have to be dealt with.
No grass, with the exception of (maybe) bamboo, can tolerate dog
abuse. If you are on a budget, get rid of the dogs and beautifully
landscape your area!
QUESTION: I am a displaced Texan now residing in Florida. I have
2 beautiful oleanders that are over 20 feet tall. I am fighting
a daily battle with highly destructive caterpillars, apparently
from blue wasps. If left unaddressed, these caterpillars defoliate
the entire plant in a few days. I have sprayed with Sevin and
Malathion. Nothing has any lasting effect unless I can spray directly
on the caterpillars themselves.
ANSWER: You have identified the Oleander Caterpillar,
Syntomedia epilais juncundissima (Dyar), the worst pest of oleander
in Florida. The larva is orange with tufts of long black hairs
scattered over the body.
Simply use a product containing Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis)
such as Dipel, Thuricide, Biotrol or Biological Worm Control with
2 teaspoons of a liquid detergent such as Joy or Ivory Liquid
per gallon of spray applied. This is completely safe for humans
and completely deadly for worms (larvae) of all kinds.
QUESTION: As I begin to research Sumac, I am beginning to wonder
if I am being foolish in trying to locate a plant for my property.
I know almost nothing about it except that it provides food for
many types of birds, and it has brilliant fall color. Can you
tell me more about it? Will it grow well in this area? What type
of care does it need? And, where can I find and purchase it? I
am in Plano, Texas (Collin County).
ANSWER: Sumac is the common name for most members
of the genus Rhus, which comprises numerous trees and shrubs,
many of them familiar natives of North America. Most of the sumacs
have compound leaves which assume brilliant scarlet colorings
in the fall. Many of the native varieties grow well in dry, poor
soil and are useful for massing on barren hillsides. Sumacs are
increased easily by seed sown in autumn, or stored at freezing
temperature or by root cuttings. They grow in any soil except
damp soil. Some of the species sucker so readily that they become
a nuisance in shrubbery borders. Cultivated sumac may be troubled
with a powdery mildew, which, if severe, can be cured with benomyl
, bayleton, or sulphur dust.
Rhus lanceolata (Prairie Flameleaf Sumac, Prairie
Sumac, Texas Sumac, Lance-leaved Sumac, tree Sumac, Limestone
Sumac or Prairie Shining Sumac) grows to 30 feet in height, usually
on limestone or neutral clay, sand, and sandy loam soils, although
at times it grows on acidic igneous soils. It inhabits the Blackland
Prairies, the Cross Timbers and Prairies, the Edwards Plateau,
the Rolling Plains (Palo Duro Canyon in Armstrong and Randall
counties and the higher mountain Escarpment (Interstate Highway
35) and west and north of the Balcones Escarpment. To the east
of these two geologic divisions the tree will graduate into Shining
I checked the GREAT BOOK OF ALL KNOWLEDGE to find
a source. For you, the closest source listed is:
Rt. 7 Box 43
Opelousas LA 70570
You might also want to try:
King's Creek Nursery in Cedar Hill
Heard Natural Science Museum
QUESTION: Out in Hondo, I own apartments with broad-leafed vines,
like grapevines, which grow uncontrolled all over the fences.
It's very beautiful, but a constant maintenance headache! What
can I use to kill off this vine and where can I get it? I tried
some stuff from a home improvement center, but this vine is VERY
persistent. (It has a pinkish-colored flower when it blooms and
is very common to these parts.)
ANSWER: One person's trash IS another's treasure!!!
You are referring to the Corral Vine which is a native of Mexico,
and is widely cultivated in Texas and the Gulf south for its striking,
lacy pink flowers. Like many of our popular heirloom plants, it
has at least several common names, such as 'heavenly vine' and
'rose of Montana'. It is a vigorous vine, with heart-shaped leaves,
that needs the support of a trellis, fence, or tree. The first
hard freeze of autumn kills all the top growth, but established
plants return readily the next year from sweet potato-like tubers
that some sources describe as edible. It is generally root hardy
in the southern half of our state, and can be easily grown in
Coral vines are easily grown, but must have good
drainage and at least a partially sunny exposure. It is very drought
tolerant, and really begins its landscape display after the first
good rains of late summer and fall. A white form is sometimes
available. Propagation is by division or seeds. It is best to
start the seeds early in the spring so that the vines will grow
and develop tubers before frost.
A. leptopus is an integral part of many southern
gardens. At its best, it graces a garden like fine lace. The foliage
is attractive and sufficiently dense to provide summer shade on
trellises and arbors.
But since this vine is bothering you, simply begin spraying the
new spring sprouts with a glyphosate herbicide such as Roundup,
Ortho Kleanup or Finale as soon as they emerge, and then every
2 weeks. Use the highest recommended dosage or mix on the product
label. The application of this systemic (taken into the plant
and kills root and all) weed killer should eradicate this beautiful--
I mean pesky-- vine. You could shorten the kill-time by digging
out as many of the "sweet potato-like tubers that some sources
describe as edible" as possible and giving them to someone
who has space enough to allow this plant to grow.
QUESTION: I have a bed of dwarf Indian Hawthorns in my backyard
that, in my opinion, have never quite matured. My guess is that
the soil was not conditioned properly when the plants were planted.
I live in the Lockehill-Selma / Huebner Road area of San Antonio
and want to know what fertilizer or soil conditioner I can use
to get the Hawthorns to grow "fuller."
ANSWER: The only reasons Indian Hawthorns are not
"fuller" are because they are in an area where the growing
conditions are too wet and with too much shade. Unfortunately,
no soil conditioner or amendment exists which will solve these
QUESTION: I live in Kerrville and have 2 large pecan trees in
my front yard. I would like to find out how and when I need to
fertilize them. Also, they need to be pruned, and I'd like to
know when is the best time to do that.
ANSWER: The cultural information you are looking for is outlined
at the following Plantanswers location.
Usually we do not prune mature pecan trees except
to remove limbs that are in the way or which have broken or died,
etc. You can remove the lower limbs to improve air drainage underneath
the trees. Prune in late January, removing such limbs at the point
of attachment to the trunk.
QUESTION: I am a Master Gardener in Ellis County (Waxahachie).
I've had calls about large limbs breaking off and falling from
large, old pecan trees. Some of the limbs I have seen are 2 to
4 inches in diameter, and 10 to 15 feet long. I have been told
this is stress damage--wet spring, lots of new growth, lots of
nuts, limbs breaking and falling, or just hanging in the tree.
It would seem to be a structural stress problem, like, too much
weight on the limb? Most of the damage seems to have run it's
course in the area. There was a lot of it. What do you think?
ANSWER: I believe this problem is due to a combination
of factors. For one, the drought the last few years has been tough
on trees and it is hard to know the full effect of such weather.
Also, trees that are neglected for whatever reason, gradually
over time deteriorate and the limbs become weak in nature. This,
coupled with heavy loads of leaves and nuts along with wind storms,
results in such limb breakage. Trees that are well cared for and
watered usually have less limb breakage. So, over time, trees
can be restored to a healthy condition unless they are too far
QUESTION: My mother has a pyracantha and since she is 92 years
old, I take care of the house and yard. This bush is growing in
the back yard and needs trimming. How and when do I prune this
ANSWER: Broad-leaved evergreens such as gardenias, camellias,
azaleas, pyracantha, hollies and photinias require very little
pruning. Lightly thin broad-leaved evergreens which are grown
for their showy fruit, such as pyracantha and holly can be trimmed
during the dorman season (January or February) if needed, for
shaping. Remove old or weak stems. This group can go several years
without pruning to keep them neat. If too much wood is removed
from these plants at anytime, summer or winter, the amount of
fruit is reduced the following season.
When these plants become old and straggly, cut them
back 6 to 8 inches from the ground before spring growth begins.
Don't cut them back too early, however, because a flush of growth
could freeze and set them back. Prune only after the danger of
the last killing frost is past. Such pruning stimulates the growth
of new shoots from the base of the plant. Many gardeners prefer
to remove only about one-third of the branches at one time and
retain the general contour of the plant. Be sure to wear thick
gloves when thinning pyracanthas or you will discover why these
plants are sometimes referred to as fire thorns. The thorns or
fruiting spurs contain a substance which causes scratches on the
skin to be extremely painful. A word of warning is sufficient
to the wise. PLANTanswers salutes you for continuing to take care
of the house and yard for your 92 year-old Mama -- she and we
love you for it!!!
By the way, did you know that pyracantha fruit is
edible? Find a recipe at the PLANTanswers website:
QUESTION: Please tell me the requirements of 'Pride of Barbados'.
I've been eyeing this shrub with its vibrant orange and very intense
red at the corner of 410 and Callaghan on the grounds of the Texas
Department of Transportation. So, yesterday I stopped, and after
about 30 minutes, got to talk with Marvin Hatter, who manages
the grounds there. He promptly gave me about 20 seeds from that
plant and sent me on my way. Before I left with my seeds, he said
it is a xeriscape-type plant.
ANSWER: "PRIDE OF BARBADOS" (Caesalpinia pulcherrima)
A beautiful, heat-loving tropical shrub with red, orange and yellow
flowers. Hardy in zone 9. Here is more information:
Flowers - Beautiful, orchid-like, red, orange, and
yellow. Blooms from summer to frost.
Exposure - Hot sun.
Water Use - Low
Habit - Upright, vigorous shrub with soft prickles on stem. Grows
3 to 5 feet in height.
Uses - Container, As a specimen plant, a bedding plant, in containers.
A tender xeriscape perennial or long season annual.
Note - By far, this is the most talked about plant at nurseries
and garden centers during the heat of summer. Spectacular!