Friday, October 3, 2014

Kitchen Scraps Garden Part Two: Carrot Seeds

Queen Composter has been doing some gardening experiments.

Most kitchen gardeners grow carrots, and I am no exception. My daughters love eating them, and generally I find them easy to grow. While seeds are not overly expensive, I find I go through a great deal of them each year because of having to sow so many then thinning the seedlings to allow for adequate growth.

I have been experimenting with growing food from kitchen scraps, and I saw a post somewhere about planting the tops of carrots to produce seeds. As a novice gardener I am delving into seed saving, which has so many benefits. This seemed like a perfect fit.

In the early fall last year I did just that and I was excited to see what would happen in the spring. Carrots require several weeks of exposure to cold, or vernalization, for the flowers to produce later in the year, and planting them at this time was one way to do it.

Carrot flowers: Image source

Carrots are biennial plants, meaning that their life cycle is over two years. In the first year the carrot root grows, which is the part that is the most familiar to us. In the second year, if left to continue to grow, the carrot flowers and produces seeds. 

In the spring I forgot about the carrots and when I was tilling my garden beds I pulled up many of the carrots, which had started to regrow. In the end this might have been a good thing as I had an entire area overgrown with flowering carrot plants.

The carrot flower buds are fascinating close up.

Over the summer I was impressed with how many pollinators my carrot flowers encouraged, and I spent many happy hours watching the insects and taking macro photos with my Olloclip lens and iPhone. 
A soldier beetle hunting for food and pollinating my flowers.

By early September the flowering tops had dried sufficiently enough to cut and save. This is the part that I found the most interesting. Using gardening gloves, I rubbed the dried tops between my palms to release the seeds. What I found resembled an alien insect more than a seed because I wasn't expecting the spiky chaff surrounding the individual seeds.

A quick google search informed me that commercial seed companies remove this for packaging purposes, but it was fine if I left it on them.

The seeds are now stored in a paper bag in a glass jar in my refrigerator (to control for humidity). 

Another thing that I learned about carrot seeds is that if they are planted near Queen Anne's Lace they will cross pollinate and not produce true carrots. Also, if the seeds are from hybrids they will not produce carrots either. I planted a variety of hybrid and heirloom carrots last year and because I did not know that hybrid seeds will not produce and I do not know which kind of carrot tops I planted last fall, I do not know if my seeds will produce carrots next growing season. In the coming weeks I will be sure to only plant my heirloom carrot tops.

So the carrot seed experiment will continue.

1 comment:

Green Bean said...

Interesting. I did not realize that about Queen Anne's Lace. I've got Queen Anne's Lace and wild carrots all over so I guess I won't bother saving carrot seeds.


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