This is why some carrots split before you can harvest them
"Fielding Questions" columnist Don Kinzler also answers questions about non-hardy cyclamen and wrapping arborvitae.
Q: I was harvesting carrots recently and ran across the one in the photo. What causes carrots to split like this? I seem to get some like this every year. My carrots also get quite large by the time I want to harvest them. Do they split because they get so large? — Lyle E.
A: You’re not alone. I find a few carrots like this almost every year in our own garden and luckily, I've never had the whole row split open. Some years are worse than others.
The most common cause of carrots splitting is a quick flash of moisture following a dry spell, which causes the carrot to burst from the internal pressure as it absorbs water. Heavy rain following weeks of dry weather is often to blame.
Why do some carrots burst and not others within the same row? A row of carrots can act like kids in a family, each having individual strengths, weaknesses or susceptibilities. The tendency of carrots to split can be reduced by keeping soil uniformly moist. Mulching the soil between rows can reduce wide moisture swings.
Carrots sometimes do become larger in diameter than we’d prefer, especially since many of us like to leave our carrots in the ground as long as possible. Cool fall temperatures promote sugar buildup, creating a sweeter, tastier carrot.
Carrot varieties recommended by North Dakota State University from home garden trials include Baltimore, Bolero, Candysnax, Cupar, Goldfinger, Hercules, Imperator 58, Laguna, Mokum, Napoli, Naval, Negovia, New Kuroda, Scarlet Nantes. Many of these aren't on local seed racks, so they need to be ordered from seed catalogs.
Q: I ordered Cyclamen hederifolium bulbs from a reputable source this summer. Supposedly, they're hardy so I'm willing to give them a try! However, they just arrived, so do you think it's too late to get them in the ground? If too late, any thoughts about how to store them over winter? — Nancy S.
A: Cyclamen hederifolium is listed as winter hardy only to zone 5, which is a considerable distance south of North Dakota and Minnesota. Since you’re located here in zone 4, these zone 5 cyclamens would be very difficult to coax to survive winter outdoors. This species of cyclamen does have more cold tolerance than its cousin, the potted cyclamen sold in floral shops.
“Hardy” is a very relative term. A plant termed "hardy" in a garden catalog might be winter-hardy in Memphis, but not winter-hardy in Fargo. There’s certainly no harm in trying, and you could plant them now and mulch with at least 24 inches or more of leaves, straw or other mulch. Or you could try storing them in the refrigerator in a plastic bag and plant in spring.
Q: I planted several arborvitae evergreens last year and wrapped the trees in burlap last November to prevent winterburn on the young trees. Would it be advisable to do it again now that the trees are all about 5 feet tall? — Charles C.
A: We never know when we'll get a winter during which evergreens suffer burn, which is caused by sun, wind or a combination. It's certainly more devastating when these evergreens are small, and protecting with burlap is a good security measure.
Most of us, though, don't wrap arborvitae, and they do fine. But there is a risk, and every so often we get a winter when all the wrong factors align, causing reddish-brown dead foliage.
If one opts to protect arborvitae, instead of wrapping the burlap in contact with the foliage, it’s recommended to create a frame around the evergreen with stakes or fence posts, and wrap the burlap around the posts. This provides screening from wind and sun, while preventing potential problems of burlap being in too close contact with the foliage.
Of even greater concern than winterburn are rabbits and deer, which can devastate arborvitae permanently in just one winter. A circle of chicken wire, hardware cloth or other fencing is the best deterrent. Repellents to try include Liquid Fence and Plantskydd.
If you have a gardening or lawn care question, email Don Kinzler, NDSU Extension-Cass County, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Questions with broad appeal may be published, so please include your name, city and state for appropriate advice.