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Swainway Urban Farm: Growing Carrots, Prepping Raised Beds

Joseph Swain on his farm

Raising Carrots In Raised Beds

Swainway Urban Farm is located just north of downtown Columbus, Ohio. This place specializes in growing a rare gem of summer farmers markets: fresh-from-the-garden carrots.

"If you only have one or two farmers at your market who are selling carrots, you can pull a pretty good penny," says farmer Joseph Swain, "because people absolutely love fresh garden carrots. They're simply delicious, and (taste so much better than) a carrot sent from California."

Of Swain's 3,000 feet of growing space in his backyard farm, 25 percent is dedicated to growing carrots.

If You Build Them, They Will Grow

The dozen or so raised beds take up the majority of the garden.

He has a long list of reasons why building raised beds for your garden is so beneficial. First of all, you have control over the quality of the soil by adding amendments, compost, and organic material directly to that specific growing area. For the raised beds that house his carrots, he created a potting soil of sorts, which includes peat, perlite, green sand, kelp and general fertilizer.

Raised beds also provide a lush 6-8 inches of growing depth for the plants, which is key for a successful carrot crop. This way the plants can spread their roots farther down before hitting hard pan. As a result, you can plant your crops closer together because the roots then aren't expanding horizontally.

He hopes to be selling his first batch of carrots by the middle of June. He'll then plant two new rows of carrots every two weeks, so he should be well-stocked for the rest of the summer market season.

Gardening Like Your Grandparents

"If I was to come out here and grab my tools and start prepping this bed, I'd probably be done by the time you got your tiller out, filled it with gas, and finally got it running after messing with pulling on it for five minutes," says Joseph Swain, an urban farmer who lives in Columbus, Ohio.

"This goes back generations. These are tools our grandparents used to garden with."

  • Step 1: The digging fork has four, four-inch tines. Cram it down into the ground and pop the soil loose.
  • Step 2: The Garden Claw has four, six-inch tines that are bent and angled. Churn the soil with with this tool to break up the large clumps.
  • Step 3: The Garden Wiesel has a number of two-inch tines on a roller. Run it over the soil to create an even yet loose soil bed.

Swain makes a point to mention that during this process, he is only disturbing the top few inches of soil. "There are different things going on in your soil at two inches than at six inches, so we really want to keep those areas doing what they're doing."

After cultivating the beds, Swain then scatter plants his seeds and runs the Garden Wiesel over the bed again to tuck them into the loose soil. He then covers the beds with some straw to help the beds retain moisture, but not too much straw that it suffocates the seeds.

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