How to motivate a carrot

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I showed up at the farmers’ market last week a little later than usual, and could not find a single carrot. Everybody was sold out before 9 a.m. How could this happen during prime carrot-growing season? It seems that I am not alone in experiencing unmotivated carrot plants. Even though I have several rows of carrots in my own garden, I needed to buy carrots. This is because my plants have stalled out with ring-finger-sized carrots. A size too small to harvest, given how hard it is to get a carrot growing in the first place. But my crisper drawer is empty. How do I motivate a carrot to grow bigger?

I have been regularly irrigating my carrots, but I suspect lack of rain is part of the motivational problem. It’s monsoon season, so some relief from the drought is at hand. However, we have yet to receive our share of the bounty. The clouds have delivered rain to Mancos and Dolores, but they have been shy about venturing further north or west. Rain delivers more than water to plants. Remember plants are “made of ” air, sunlight, and water. They don’t draw much from the soil, which acts as a foundation for plant roots and the associated water and nutrient supply structure. For example, soil-less hydroponic growing systems are preferred operations for commercial tomato and marijuana growers. Raindrops bring nitrogen and other nutrients to plants. Truly, clouds carry manna from heaven for plants and people.

One obvious solution to replace or supplement the missing rain is foliar feeding or spraying the leaves of the plants with fertilizer. This can get pricey unless you make your own manure “tea” or other odiferous concoction. Right now, it seems like a lot of work as I am feeling as unmotivated as my carrots when it comes to extra garden work.

I need a more “fun” solution that quenches my thirsty soul as well motivates my carrots. Looking to some of the original farmers in our region, the Hopi, they say the most important thing you can do for your corn is to sing to it. Now that sounds like something I can get behind. I am not above doing a rain dance or shaking a rain stick at the gathering clouds. So far, I have met with little success. But I am learning. I believe that the clouds would prefer to be welcomed rather than begged. Seduction, not desperation, is needed here. Looking at rain dance recordings, a cloud welcome-mat seems to involve singing, dancing, and water-sprinkling. What if I teach my carrots a rain song so they can entice their own rain clouds? Now, that would be a big improvement over my elaborate battery-powered timer and hose manifold. I believe this is how the Hopi grow their beautiful blue corn in a sand trap. They teach their corn to sing.

We could all use a soothing song. One that carries love and magically turns bullshit into a nurturing tea. We aren’t the first society to face trying times or even a pandemic. Dust Bowl farmers faced much harsher conditions than me and my unmotivated carrots. But that doesn’t mean we don’t need a little help to get through this and keep growing. I am underwhelmed by the advice offered by the internet influencers on how to thrive in a pandemic by eating the right foods or doing the right moves. My soul cries out for something more. I need to compose my song of hope.

The opening will highlight the micro-seasons, to overcome the feeling that this pandemic will never end. Look! the first spotted fawn is scampering through the field of ripening wheat. Then my song will celebrate small victories. Hey, you lazy carrots! The green beans are producing a basket a day. Are you intimidated by the softball- sized beets? For the big finale, my song will envision a future of health, bounty, and peace. Ho! That song just might motivate me to get moving every day. Maybe it will work for my carrots.

Carolyn Dunmire is an award-winning writer who lives, gardens and cooks in Cahone, Colo.

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From Carolyn Dunmire.