Carrots require a deep, light, stone free, fertile soil to do well. But if you get the soil right, you will be rewarded with a crunchy, sweet and flavoursome crop which will store well. Two or three well-timed sowings of carrots should see you self-sufficient in carrots all year round in this classic stockpot vegetable (which is full of vitamin A). Growing it yourself means you can grow lots of different varieties of carrots that you’d never see in the supermarket. We generally associate carrots with the colour orange, when in fact you can grow carrots of other colours too.
Carrots are best sown direct in the soil as they do not transplant well. Choose an open, sunny space in your veggie patch. Dig the bed well to make sure there is about a spade’s depth of good, crumbly soil. Compacted soil equals sad, stunted carrots. Apply a general purpose organic fertiliser (such as chicken manure pellets) about two weeks before sowing.
Carrot seeds are tiny, so this is one situation where you will really need to get soil to a “fine tilth”. If you don't, the seeds can drop down in between the clumps of soil and they will then be too deep to germinate. Make sure there are no stones that will cause the carrots to fork. And watch out for the wind, they’ll literally blow away.
Start sowing From mid April. Sow thinly by sprinkling the seeds along the row at 5cm deep, in rows 15-20cm apart. Keep the seed bed moist to encourage germination. Carrots are slow to germinate so don’t be alarmed if nothing seems to be happening! It could take 2-3 weeks.
Thinning out; Carrot seeds are too small to sow individually so it makes more sense to thin them out once they’ve germinated. This means removing some of them so they are about 5cm apart when the seedlings are large enough to handle. Dispose of the thinned out seedlings far away from your bed or container as they will attract the carrot root fly; dastardly foe of carrots and GIYers!
There is another school of thought that taking the time to sow them really thinly is worth it to avoid thinning out later, purely so the carrot root fly can't sniff them out and eat your carrots.
Carrots grow beautifully in containers and size doesn't matter a container is the perfect place to grow your carrots. Make sure your container is good and deep and sow your carrots as you would in a bed. Thin out once the seedlings are a few weeks old and keep them moist. Remember anything grown in a container needs a little more attention where food and water is concerned because of the limited soil and space.
You can sow carrots for storage in June and sow again in August for a tender winter crop, covering them with cloches after October.
Carrots dislike competition from weeds so keep the bed weed free. Use a hoe along the rows and hand-weed around the carrots. Once the plants get established the leaves provide a thick canopy which will keep weeds away. Carrots don’t need a lot of watering, but in very dry weather water every two to three weeks.
Baby carrots will be ready about 7 weeks after sowing, and you can leave the rest behind to grow more (maincrop varieties take about 11 weeks). Ease out with a fork carefully so they don’t snap. Lift carrots rather than leaving them in the ground to grow too large, they are not as tasty when very big.
Store your maincrop carrots from an October harvest in boxes of sand to preserve them. Before storing remove the foliage, leaving a 5cm stump on the carrot.
1. Before the 1700s most carrots were purple or white in colour the orange carrot was developed relatively recently to honour the Royal House of Orange in Holland.
2. The urban legend that eating large quantities of carrots helps us to see in the dark was developed from stories started in World War II. British gunners were shooting down German planes at night and to cover up the fact that it was the effective use of radar technologies that was achieving this, the RAF circulated a story about their pilots' high level of carrot consumption.
3.‘Honey Underground’ is what the Celts used to call carrots because of their natural sweetness.