About a month ago, I started to notice signs of life amongst the brown and decayed leaves of last fall. And one of the first things I saw was this tiny, tiny carrot seedling that had taken root in a succulent container on my patio. This tiny ferny thing, poking its head above the rim of a blue ceramic pot that had taken up residence on my patio last summer.
I don't know why I felt so hopeful seeing this volunteer carrot, but I did. I don't actually know how I came to notice it. I am nearly 6 feet tall and the container maybe 8 inches tall...filled to the rim with green succulent leaves that never changed colors. Yet, there it was...and there I was...both of us happy to be alive and to have survived winter.
I love little volunteer seedlings. The unexpected joy of seeing a random bean sprout or lettuce leaf fills me with parental joy. It is one of the main reasons I let some of my plants go to seed, rather than harvest them all, at the end of the season. When you grow multiple varieties of some vegetables, including carrots, the plants can cross pollenate, resulting in unique characteristics and types.
Now, everyone reports that carrots are a biennial. And, I know that technically speaking, this is true. However, I often have carrots bloom and seed the first year. Honestly, this makes me extremely happy...because I happen to think that carrot blooms are absolutely stunning. The reason my carrots bloom in the first year is two fold. Some bloom because they are volunteers (like the one above) and the seeds have already experienced a winter. So for these little guys, it is the second year. The same process applies for carrot seeds sown late in winter. If I sow while temperatures are still fluctuating, the seeds are tricked into thinking winter has come and gone. The carrots still produce edible roots and I get the benefit of the ornamental flowers in my landscape (If you listen to my Good Enough Gardening podcast last year, I gushed about their beauty ad nauseum). I will say that with the second method, the plant will expend much more energy in creating foliage and umbrells rather than a large tap root. If you are growing carrots for both beauty and eating, be sure to sow them in succession for the best of both worlds.