Gardening > Grow Your Own... Carrots

Grow Your Own... Carrots

Carrots © Alexraths & Dreamstime
Carrots are a tasty and versatile vegetable. Grated raw into salads, lightly boiled and served with the Sunday roast, eaten young or mature they are hard to beat.

Carrots do best in a light, well-drained soil in a sunny position. If your soil is heavy or stony it may be a good idea to choose a short variety of carrot. Alternatively grow your carrots in a deep, raised bed with a soil ph of over 6.5.

Before sowing carrot seed in the vegetable plot prepare the soil well, digging it as deeply as possible and removing as many big stones as you can. It is better to dig in any properly rotted down manure or compost at least a year before sowing carrot seed to avoid the risk of root forking.

Germination of carrot seed is very poor at temperatures below 7 degrees Centigrade or if the soil is very wet. To get the earliest possible outdoor crop of carrots use cloches to raise the temperature of the soil. Sow a quick-maturing variety like Nantes.

By sowing early and then maincrop carrot seeds it is possible to harvest fresh carrots for several months.

Sow the seeds about 1/4 inch deep in rows. Leave 12 inches between each row. When the seedlings appear thin them out to a distance of 3-4 inches.

Water the carrots regularly and protect them from  carrot fly which can ruin the crop. Use a fine mesh netting as a physical barrier against insects including the low-flying carrot fly. To help lessen the chance of attack by carrot fly sow carrot seeds sparsely. When thinning out the seedlings the leaves get bruised and the smell attracts the fly. Do not leave the thinnings near the vegetable plot. Also plant onions near the carrots as the smell may deter the pest.

As the carrots mature keep hoeing the weeds from the rows. Draw a little earth over the tops of the carrots pushing up through the soil to prevent the flesh turning green and to further deter the carrot fly.

If your soil is light, maincrop carrots can be left in the ground in early winter. If the soil is heavy they should be lifted and stored in a clamp or in boxes of sand in a frost-free shed.

Very Early Crop

Sow short rooted varieties in early March under cloches. Can be lifted in June.

Early Crop

Sow short-rooted varieties in late March/April in a sheltered position. Lift in July.

Main Crop

Sow long-rooted varieties April/early June for lifting in September/October.

Late Crop

Sow short-rooted varieties in August and cover with cloches from October onwards. Lift in November/December.