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Why Grow It

No veg seems more classic than the carrot. And growing your own means you will be rewarded with a crunchy, sweet and flavoursome crop. Not only are carrots a delicious veg to grow, they also store incredibly well, are highly nutritious, and if you time your sowings right you could be self-sufficient through most of the year with this classic ‘stockpot’ vegetable.

The GIYer can also try out lots of different varieties of carrots, which, generally speaking, are not on offer in supermarkets. We generally associate carrots with the colour orange, when in fact you can grow carrots of other colours too, such as purple, yellow and even white.

  • When it comes to successfully growing carrots good soil is key.
  • Fresh manure is not very suitable for carrots – the high nitrogen content encourages excess leaf growth, and manure can also cause the roots to fork. However, well-rotted compost is fine.
  • Apply a general purpose organic fertiliser (such as chicken manure pellets) about two weeks before sowing. Avoid general fertilisers high in nitrogen.
  • Before sowing the soil should be worked to a fine tilth (small crumbs of soil), as the seed is small – compacted soil equals poor germination.
  • Carrots are best sown direct in the soil, as they do not transplant well.
  • Carrots can be sown from March through to late July.
  • For large main crop carrots, a sowing in May or early June is best.
  • Sow carrots thinly at 1cm depth, in rows 15cm apart.
  • Be patient as carrots can take up to three weeks to germinate.
  • Carrots need thinning when 2 or 3cm high – thin to between 3-6cm (depending on the size of carrots you want).
  • 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.
  • Keep the seed bed moist until the seedlings emerge, then water the carrots in dry periods.
  • Baby carrots will be ready about 8-12 weeks after sowing (depending on the time of year they are sown) – larger carrots obviously take a little longer.
  • Lift by hand, or ease out with a fork carefully if ground is hard.
  • Early sowings of carrots need to be harvested when mature to stop them splitting or going woody (store in the fridge).
  • Later maincrop sowings, which mature in the autumn, can be left in the ground until required – although dig up and store in boxes of sand or the fridge if they start being damaged by slugs or heavy frost is forecast.
  • Starca F1
  • Early Nantes
  • Autumn King
  • Chantenay
  • Red Cored
  • Ya Ya F1
  • The main problem encountered with carrots is the carrot fly. The most reliable technique to control these is securely covering the carrots with an insect net. This stops the carrot flies laying their eggs. Other techniques are sometimes recommended, such as erecting a 60cm high barrier around the carrots (carrot flies aren’t very good fliers) and using garlic spray, but these are less reliable methods.
  • Carrots will have issues germinating in cold weather – we suggest you grow under a cloche or fleece if sowing earlier than April.
  • The main thing to watch out for with failed germination is seed falling down between clumps of soil and therefore being too deep to germinate. This is why a fine tilth is so important – an even seed bed ensures the seed stays at the right depth.
  • Carrots go green if exposed to the light, so cover any exposed tops with soil.
  • Some GIYers have reported success with sowing carrots in toilet roll inserts – the seed is sown indoors or under cover in an insert full of compost and then when the seedlings have developed, you plant the whole thing (insert and all) into a hole in the ground. Using this method you avoid tampering with the root.
  • If you want prize carrots, you can also try making a v-shaped hole in the soil with a dibber (to a depth of 12cm or so), fill it with potting compost and sow the seed on top. This is very effective, but also very time-consuming.
  • If your soil is poor or shallow, try growing the stump-rooted Chantenay variety.