Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Carrot Surprise! Using Milk Jugs to Protect Your Find


Wait... what?  How?!

I was dumbfounded.  I stared at the patch of soil in which I had grown lettuce and spinach, only to discover healthy green leaves that had burst out of the soil at some point.

green, healthy mystery leaves

Carrot leaves.

full and vibrant green carrot leaves

Carrots in a patch of soil that I had planted spinach and lettuce inside?  After a few freezes and temperatures that never left the range of 20 to 50?  In November???

How could this be?

"Oh, yeah..." I remembered.

Back in July, I had planted a few carrot seeds in that patch, having completed my run of greens.  My daughter loves carrots, and I'm pretty enamored with them, as well.

Of course, soon after planting them, I completely forgot about their existence... and we had a nice little drought in the area.  They were left on their own to do what poor little carrot seeds do when they're neglected and un-watered.

Apparently, there were a few survivors.  Not many... just three.  They continued to grow against all odds in an area that was simply covered with leaves and forgotten.

Clearly, the carrots sprouted much later than they would have if I had been paying attention to them.  Judging by their size, I'd say they sprouted at around the middle of September (maybe earlier... they had it rough, after all!)... long after I had stopped paying attention to that particular area.

So what do you do in a surprise situation like this?

Well, I brought out a couple of the plastic milk jugs that I had been saving to have another go at winter sowing, of course!  I cut off the bottoms, removed the lids, and placed them in the soil over the struggling carrots.

Plastic milk jugs pressed into garden soil

The milk jugs act as a mini cold frame, gathering heat from the sun and keeping the soil a bit moist.  While not quite as strong and protective as a true cold frame, they worked quite well, when last I used them.

Normally, I'd cut a few ventilation holes along the edges of their tops rather than simply removing the lid, but it was around 3:00 pm when I found them, and the sun sets early around here, so I didn't have a whole lot of time.

After staring at the milk jugs for a while, I realized that I needed to do more.  Milk jugs alone are a great way to protect the carrots, which do well in cold climates anyway, but I have critters.

Squirrels, rabbits, a shrew, and who knows what else?  

They'd knock over the plastic if they got curious.  Even if all they did was nudge the jugs a bit, wind would do the rest of the job, blowing away the mini cold frames, and leaving the carrots vulnerable to frost.

That's where the never ending leaves in my yard came into play.  

Not long after my Autumn Purge, the wind kicked up again, and I had more leaves in my yard than I did when I was first inflicted with the need to tidy it up.  Naturally, even after a second go, I had plenty of leaves to spare.

I shoved them into place around the milk jugs.

plastic milk jugs surrounded by dry leaves

They'd provide a sort of bumper against the critters, and just enough of a barrier at the base to stabilize the milk jugs against the wind.  Theoretically, anyway.  Let's cross our fingers!

I'm still baffled that these carrots managed to pull through against all odds.  Indeed, if I can keep them protected for just a little while longer, I may have carrots from my garden... in December!

Have you ever had such a wonderful surprise appear in your garden?  What was it?  What did you do to nurture it once it was discovered?

And what should I do with my three garden fresh carrots when they're ready?

Excuse me while I head off to do a little happy dance... again.  It's just so exciting!!!

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