Will Your Garden Soil Make a Tasty Carrot?

fresh picked carrots

How sweet is your carrot?

To grow the sweetest of sweet carrots, it’s not the only N-P-K (the standard fertilizer ingredients) that counts. Just as wine growers talk about terroir, the way the soil affects the taste of a wine, all the soil minerals in your garden affect the taste and robustness of home grown vegetables. From an article on terroir

The miracle of the plant kingdom is that these complex organisms build themselves from virtually nothing: All the complex structure and chemistry of an oak tree, a daffodil or a grapevine is fashioned from very basic starting ingredients. What do vine roots take up from the soil? Primarily water, along with dissolved mineral ions.

two butterflies land on a pink clover flower

Instead of herbicides, organic farmers use wildflowers to help crops grow.

Some organic commercial growers now allow weeds to grow between the rows of their fruits and vegetables. Not only do clover and dandelions attract pollinators, and shade the soil from drying out; but dandelion, with its long tap root, brings up minerals from deep within the soil. When the dandelion is mowed, those minerals are added to the soil as the plant composts. And it’s the minerals that make the difference in taste and plant health. From a recent Globe and Mail article:

What’s the recipe for good soil? Here are a few elements that can potentially alter the taste of your vegetables:

Calcium: involved in the formation of sugars in root vegetables and encourages bud formation in flowering vegetables, Mr. John, [a local farmer] says. Home gardeners can pick up bone meal or limestone at gardening stores to add calcium carbonate to their soil. Mr. John recommends stone dust containing limestone, which also increases the porosity of the soil.

Think about adding some organic minerals to your vegetable garden this year. You can keep all your eggshells and crush them to sprinkle into your soil, ( I do this, they are almost as fun as bubble wrap to crush) or buy a bag of limestone at the garden centre. Dolomitic limestone—half magnesium carbonate, half calcium carbonate—increases the pH of your soil, meaning it sweetens it. Greensand is another mineral amendment that adds many trace mineral nutrients. You can send away for a soil test at a local agricultural lab. The test is $35 plus HST, and they require about 3 or 4 cups of soil for the test. So remember those minerals, to get your tastiest carrot ever this summer.

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