This year for the first time in a long time I was able to get a good germination from notoriously hard to germinate carrots, and the key to my success was using floating row cover. Tacked directly onto the soil, the cover provided just enough moisture to allow the carrots to sprout without drying out between waterings.
If you don’t know about row cover and its multiple uses in the garden, you should. Essentially spun polyester, floating row cover is both translucent (85% of the light) and water permeable. Which means you can, with aide of flexible lengths of bendable PVC water pipe, create mini quonset huts for your plants that exclude insect pests. Your beets stripped every year by miners? Your squash wilted and bored? Your Swiss chard munched to the core? No more, no more, no more! The only caveat here: if the crop you’re covering requires pollination, you need to remove the covers when the plants begin to blossom. Generally by that time the plants will be established enough to provide a decent harvest without spraying. Otherwise, keep covered until harvest.
Row cover is available in rolls of varying width and length from many garden suppliers, and there’s even a new version out from Veggiecare that is supposed to last 8 years, though I rarely have much problem reusing my cover from season to season – I simply toss it in the old basement washer with a little detergent and bleach, and it returns almost magically to its original snow white.
One last tip to keep in mind: row cover provides about 4 degrees of thermal protection, so on those marginal early and late season nights where temperatures dip to 30º, row cover provides just enough mitigation to get plants though a light frost.
See? Truly a gardener’s best friend!