Value in Gardens: A Tiny Pile of Carrots

Want a great way to make yourself feel crazy? Grow a home garden and expect the returns to pay for themselves the first year. “We’ll grow things from seeds,” I thought. “We’ll only need dirt and sun and water, so surely enough will grow to make THAT worth it.”

In my recent post, The Jungle in the Garden, I may have sounded very optimistic about the yield of my garden. Surely, it’s going to be more than the dry desert of wizened weeds I was originally expecting, but let’s get serious here. A bag of carrots cost 1.49 at the grocery store. I expected grocery-store-like carrots, not that weird little-man carrot I featured in a recent entry. and I definitely didn’t expect this pile of small, shrimpy, twisty carrots.

This pile, while far better than the sad carrot yields of my childhood gardens, shows that home gardening is HARD. I was so excited to pull my root veggies out, feeling them hesitate like reluctant children having to get up for school. But every single one of them was smaller than I expected, having fought for sunlight with the recently mushrooming tomato plants.

I will write later about the delicious, warming chili I made with that pile of small carrots, but basically, I am learning and truly enjoying how much gardening is humbling. The things that farmers do, no matter how you feel about big-scale farming, ARE AMAZING. Consistent, huge carrots are an amazing thing, even if you want sustainable practices in that big scale process.

The other thing it teaches me is hope and patience: I’m leaving some of my carrots in the ground because it turns out carrots are biennial – they’ll grow and flower next year, yielding me carrot seeds! While I know I cannot recuperate time, energy, or even the money it takes to grow a garden, I’m so thrilled to continue using the “children” of this year’s small carrots as I grow as a gardener.



13 comments on “Value in Gardens: A Tiny Pile of Carrots

  1. Randomness of a Mother's Mind says:

    Can’t wait for the chili recipe! I remember my mom’s struggle with her garden. She truly treated that plot of land like a child. Great article.


  2. I don’t have the space now, but I loved my allotment in my garden. It provided therapy for me as well as fresh veggies and something to learn about. I could lose myself for hours up there 🙂 I miss it.


  3. nannygrannie says:

    Such a realistic post. I totally feel you…my carrot seeds have been in the ground for so long and they are the size of a tiny little needle! So frustrating.


  4. nancyruth says:

    Even though little I bet they are tasty!


  5. Tilly Frueh says:

    You are so right about how hard gardening is. Whenever I think I’ve learned all there is to learn, reality smacks me upside the head and reminds me I know NOTHING. Just enjoy the process and celebrate the rewards, no matter how small they might be. Most important though, don’t get discouraged. I need to practice what I preach here, but it sounds great on paper.


  6. I just planted a simple home container garden myself and am reminded from this post to have little expectations this year. Thanks 🙂


  7. catpelicano says:

    Agreed, farmer’s deserve so much more credit for what they do! I tried to grow container carrots a couple summers ago and got exactly zero carrots out of it. 😀


  8. Art to Feed says:

    I too admire what it takes to grow the perfect produce we see in stores! Love our famers- what we are all founded on and pray that small farms are better supported in the future


  9. Just a word of advice about next year’s carrot crop; one reason we gardeners start off with tiny, twisted carrots is that we don’t till deeply enough before planting. Carrots are basically one long tap root so they need REALLY deep loose soil to grow. Even now I sometimes find myself with a carrot or two *cough* that is wide and lush at the top but short. To paraphrase – go deep, Young Woman!


  10. Yes, pile on the praise to our humble farmers. Not your conventional grocery store’s chemical-laden agribiz, but your organic farmers at the town market. They deserve that slim profit, so maybe we can dig a little deeper in our pockets if we can’t dig that deep in our own garden.

    I just moved to Texas last month and am starting with seeds indoors after clearing out the weeds in a small backyard (but my first ever! So much potential produce!). It feels very strange to have to wait until September to plant, coming from Minnesota “summer is a blink”, as it does feeling strange to have to wait at all, coming from yearround farming in Colombia.

    I look forward to seeing our odd-shaped harvests and relishing in the joy of our baby carrots, however ugly baby they may be!


  11. Gardening is not really about getting your money’s worth. If it was, I would have quit years ago. 😉 My carrots look pretty good this year because the evil neighborhood squirrels didn’t manage to dig them all up as seedlings. And the seeds actually came up which takes some doing here in arid Colorado.

    You garden because it’s fun not cost-effective. Oh sure, someone will say “I can X jars of tomatoes and freeze Y pounds of beans and I definitely get my money’s worth.” My sense is the time you spend is way more expensive than going to the supermarket. Still, it’s worth it because it’s pretty amazing to head out to your yard and pick beans for dinner. And, I think it gives you an appreciation for how darn hard it is to grow our food, as you observed.

    Thanks for following my blog!


  12. I have had a terrible year in the veg garden, but don’t give up because every year is different and next year will be better and worse in different ways – bit like life really !!


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