Plant With Your Head as Well as Your Gut

Courtesy of Wally S., Wally’s Urban Market Garden, Saskatoon SK

“Go with your gut” is sometimes good advice. But if you want to succeed in business, you also have to use your head. Over the years I have developed strategies for each of my crops. Having a cropping strategy is especially important for crops that are pretty common or low value, such as carrots, garlic, onions, potatoes, tomatoes, and even greens because you have to differentiate yourself at market from other growers, and you have to turn a low value crop into a high value one. That means having a crop available when others don’t, offering different varieties from others, or targeting different markets, like restaurants.

For instance, carrots have always been a top money making crop for me. But a carrot is not a carrot is not a carrot. There are different sizes of carrots. There are rainbow carrots. There are novelty carrots. Each one has a different place and time throughout my marketing period.

DDG4 photo 15

Carrots are an important crop because they provide steady cash flow. This year I am growing 10 segments. I sell them steadily throughout the season starting with scallion and then progressing to onion bunches and dry onion in the fall.

Leafy greens are another important crop to think through because there are so many options – chard, collards, kale, lettuces, salad mixes, spinaches. Fresh herbs, such as basil, cilantro and parsley can also be included. And then there are micro greens, orach, purslane and other novelty crops. My greens strategy is based on having anywhere from 100 units to 500 units of some combination of greens throughout the season, especially early on before other producers have them.

Knowing why you are growing a certain crop is as important as knowing how to grow it, and having cropping strategies is what turns growing into a business.


A Carrot By Any Other Name

Courtesy of Wally S., Wally’s Urban Market Garden, Saskatoon SK

When people ask me what my favorite crop is, my answer is always the same. It’s whatever is selling best at market that week. Carrots are always among my best sellers, so I aim to have early carrots by the first week or two of July, and then have them to sell every week, right into the winter. But I change it up throughout the season, and even within the season. With so many varieties to choose from, that’s easy.

Right now I have about 1,000 lbs. left in my cooler. It’s not a huge amount, but it’s enough to give me cash flow into March. These are the varieties, and each is guaranteed to bring a different type of customer.

SF photo Wally Carrots

The purple carrots are an imperator type, Deep Purple, or Purple Rain. Their long roots make them difficult to harvest, but it’s worth it because customers come asking me for it. They appreciate its high nutritional value and consider it a super-food.

The middle carrot is Bolero, a Nantes type. It has good storage qualities. and is traditional looking, so it’s easy to market as a staple crop, good for cooking and kid’s snacks.

The third one is the Paris Market carrot. It’s a good novelty carrot that has developed a cult following. It’s dense texture and intense flavor makes it ideal for stews and is favored by foodies. I have been offering it for several years, and many customers buy only this type. I will be making larger plantings of this type this year. This type an really distinguish you at market .

Carrots come in all shapes and sizes, just like customers. The only trick is to match ’em up!

Check out more tips on selling carrots in  SPIN’s Dig Deeper guide # 4  on rainbow carrots.  

Season’s First Carrot Harvest

Courtesy of Wally S., Wally’s Urban Market Garden, Saskatoon, SK

This back yard plot will provide my first carrot harvest. Due to the late spring, I’m a bit behind. These should be ready in a week or two. I will relay these 4 beds, which are 50 feet long, to spinach.

SPIN photo carrot planting

I will sell through this planting in about 2 – 3 weeks, and the revenue target is $1,000 gross.

Here are more carrots I have planted  at my peri-urban plot. These  2 row beds are about 100 feet long, slated for a late Aug/ early Sept.harvest. I have not watered, and don’t think I will need to.  Carrots are a good crop for non-irrigated areas, as long as you get rain every week or two.

SPIN Photo carrot planting periurban

My storage carrot crop will be coming from a plot in a small town called Pleasantdale. This season I am an urban/suburban/rural farmer. Always did hate to be pigeon-holed.



Carrot Production for Early Spring Sales

Courtesy of John Y. John’s Backyard Garden, Missoula MT
Wally’s garlic experiment sounds like our carrot experiment. When I looked at last year’s overall sales I saw the best opportunity appeared to be more carrot sales earlier in the season. So I planted seeds in 128-cell trays a few weeks ago and are taking them outside this weekend. Our winter was pretty mild and temps last week and this week in the 60’s F so hoping the transplants will make it.

Like Wally, we had left-over carrots from last fall. We left about half a row in the ground  over the winter. When prepping the garden last week, we were surprised to find that about 90% of the carrots were not only good, but great! Sweet, juicy, and delicious.

I think combining fall plantings with spring transplants might be the answer to improved carrot production and increased sales for our garden.

Crop Profiles carrots 9


Early Spring Market

Courtesy of Wally S., Wally’s Urban Market Garden, Saskatoon, SK

I upgraded my refrigerated storage capacity, so now I can offer great looking/in good condition storage carrots for sale at early spring markets. They were harvested late Sept./early Oct. and were not washed. They were stored in the commercial cooler, with temperatures consistently between 35 F and 40 F.

Right now at our market there is a carrot shortage, so premium prices of $3.00 to $5.00 per lb., are the rule, at least for me. I’m washing a batch right now for sale this week. Storage potatoes are also giving a big boost to my early spring sales. I sold several hundred pounds of storage potatoes this week at about $2.00 – $3.00 per lb. Storage crops are what can get a SPIN farmer to $1,000+ market days in early spring.