“What’s up, Doc?” Is this a carrot top or a weed?
Gardens Program Coordinator
Planting carrots was a consistently popular request this season as we, along with Master Garden volunteers and staff from other UF/IFAS Extension programs, provided hands-on assistance at nearly three-dozen school gardens across Sarasota County.
Popular but perplexing, in a way. Because as soon as green shoots push through the surface at the gardens, we get a question.
“Should I be pulling this?”
That is, is that a carrot top or a weed?
To answer this question, I asked Walter Roberts, one of our wonderful Master Gardener volunteers, who enjoys spending time at our school gardens in the North Port areas.You can spot carrots, Roberts said, because they have a “fern-like foliage,” almost “feathery,” and the top grows “vertically/upright and elongated.”
(It reminds me of a cross between dill leaves and parsley leaves.)
To help avoid the confusion, Walter prefers to plant seeds in rows or by dibbling – creating small holes – in the soil. This way, when crops start to sprout, he is more likely to know if the green stuff poking out of the ground Is a weed simply by seeing if it’s sprouting in the row with its friends.
Another helpful way to know if it’s what you planted is by checking the germination information on the seed packet. If it’s supposed to take two weeks for germination and you have a sprout in two days, it’s likely a weed or stray seed of something else.
Our sustainable agriculture agent, Sarah Bostick says: “One of my favorite tricks for knowing when carrots are about to germinate is to plant a few beet seeds at either end of the row. Beets generally germinate two or three days quicker than carrots. So, if the beets aren’t up yet, the weeds that look like carrots are just weeds.”
The best thing you can do to help identify your sprouting plants is to label them. Depending on the size of your garden and the plants, you can use popsicle sticks, tongue depressors, or paint stirrer sticks, just to name a few. You can reuse them when you plant the same item or flip/rotate them to mark a new crop.
I’m a messy planter, and I am working on that. I get pulled into the moment of enjoying the students playing in the soil and watching their faces in concentration as they try to keep hold of something as tiny as a seed. Some as tiny as the size of a pencil point. They can’t believe the food they know comes from something so small. Those are moments I know we are “planting seeds” in more than just the soil. I would like to take a moment to thank the hard-working teachers, Extension staff, and spectacular volunteers that help make the school gardens a growing classroom for so many children in our county.
If you are still wondering if your plant is a carrot or a weed, please visit one of our Plant Clinic locations or email your question with a picture (or pictures) of the weed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Better yet, why not attend one of our upcoming classes about weeds? Join us for “Brown-bag Gardening Series: Wicked Weeds” this Thursday (March 21) in North Port, or find another opportunity at our main Eventbrite listing page.
And if you want to know more about gardening in general, you can find that, too. We have a pair of upcoming classes: “One Seed: Growing Edibles Locally” and “Vegetable Gardening with Fred.” And, our partners at UF/IFAS Extension in Gainesville have put together a nice seed-planting primer, at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/vh026.
Finally, if you are interested in joining a community garden, you can contact me at email@example.com You can find out more about our garden programs, garden locations, and growing vegetables at http://sfyl.ifas.ufl.edu/sarasota/gardening-and-landscaping/gardens/ or by subscribing to our community or school gardens newsletters (http://eepurl.com/clG8Sb)