The Beginner’s Guide To Growing Carrots
Second only to the potato, the carrot is one of the most popular vegetables in the world. For gardeners, the carrot is by far the most diverse and simple root vegetable to grow. Even those without a green thumb can manage to reap a plentiful harvest. Suitable for any British garden, everyone is bound to find a carrot to suit their tastes.
Which Variety Is Best For Your Garden?
We have all been there, standing and staring at countless packets of seeds without the foggiest idea of what to choose. Not at all surprising, as there are hundreds of varieties of cultivated carrot to choose from. Luckily, help is at hand. Below is a handful of diverse varieties, all of which are perfect for beginners.
Adelaide (F1 Hybrid)
The Adelaide carrot is one of the earliest to mature as the roots are very quick to grow into delicious baby carrots. Seeds can be planted as early as February under cloches or indoors. Adelaide carrots do not have a core yet they are beautifully sweet. A well-loved classic and a lovely addition to any vegetable garden.
Parmex carrot seeds should be sown from March to May to ensure a good crop from June to August. The root is characteristically round, short and fat. Their unusual shape makes them perfect for containers, pots or grow bags. It is also possible for them to be planted into stony or shallow soils where longer varieties of carrot would normally struggle.
Tapered, slender and crisp, the Mignon is what comes to mind with the word ‘carrot’. This variety is perfect for those looking to introduce children to growing their own produce. They are quick to mature, taking roughly 10 weeks to fully develop. Sow from April to July to ensure sufficiently warm weather.
Nantes ‘Tip Top’
Although they take 16 weeks to mature, the ‘Tip Top’ is well worth the wait. A hearty, thick and juicy carrot perfecting for storing. The seeds can be sown in March with good weather but it is advisable to wait until April.
Flyaway (F1 Hybrid)
The Flyaway variety was bred specifically to solve the problem of root fly. This variety is extremely resistant to root fly without compromising tapering, taste or texture. Sow from March to July for optimum results.
How To Perfectly Plant Carrots
In most cases, you will buy your carrots inexpensively as seeds. Generally, once carrots are planted they are very easy to maintain. To ensure this, they must be nurtured correctly from the very start. The carrots should, ideally, be kept inside for a few weeks as they begin to sprout. This will prevent them being wiped out by a late frost, especially if seeds are sown early in the year. Carrots will do just fine in a standard compost mix as long at there are no large sticks, stones or clumps. A container will be needed to start off your carrots, preferably with enough space to give each seed a little bit of growing room (approximately 1cm). Take your compost and put about 2-3 inches in the bottom of the container. Simply spread your seeds lightly across the surface of the compost, leaving enough space between each to prevent crowding. Cover the seeds with a thin layer of compost and place by a window for some much-needed sunlight. You should water your seeds every other day but take care to only dampen them, not flood them. Although it depends on your variety, typically carrots will take a couple of weeks to begin to sprout, so do not be disheartened if they do not show signs of life straight away.
Thinning is vital for the young carrots to be able to reach maturity. Usually, this should be done as soon as the plants are strong enough to be handled. If you are planting from a container to the ground, this is when you should make the transition. They will grow best in full sun but partial shade is also acceptable. Be very gentle taking the young plants from the container as any damage may affect further growth. For optimum advancement, the carrots should be at least a thumbs width apart. After roughly a month the plants can be thinned once more with a spacing of 8-10cm. Only water the crops when the soil appears to be dry to prevent rotting.
It is advisable to pull out a carrot every so often during the harvesting period to taste, as carrots should be harvested when they are the sweetest. To harvest the carrots simply grab the visible leaves at the base and pull upwards gently. If there is a lot of resistance, remove soil around the top of the root by hand, taking care not to damage it. Once the crop is collected it is ready to eat immediately (after washing the dirt off, of course).
Getting To The Root Of The Problem
There are a few common issues that may affect your carrots. The most common complaint is an abundance of snails and slugs feasting on the young crops. Many products on the market claim to eradicate this problem, although most gardeners would like to avoid dousing their vegetables in chemicals. Fortunately, there are a variety of home remedies. A personal favourite is to leave out a couple of saucers of beer, which attracts the pests and effectively drowns them.
Temperature can be a big factor in crop failure, also. Conditions that are too warm can cause the seed to not germinate or cause fungal diseases. Too cold, the carrots may return to seed.
It is also possible for roots to twist, fork and split. This can result in roots becoming difficult to lift from the ground. Damage such as this will occur when the crops are planted too close to one another as they are not given adequate space to grow correctly. To prevent this from occurring, take care when thinning out the seedlings.
By following the steps above you should be able to harvest a plentiful crop of carrots. To go that extra mile, there are some additional things you can do;
- Compost used should ideally be rich in potassium to promote the growth of sweet and crunchy carrots. Wood ashes can be used at the base to provide a boost of potassium to the roots.
- Nitrogen-rich soil will cause hairy and deformed carrots. Using compost in addition to the regular soil in your garden can avoid this.
- If you have clay soil in your garden you will still be able to grow carrots. Try mixing in some sand to break up the soil and allow the growth of bigger roots.
- It is common practice to switch growth sites every year. This will prevent the build up of carrot killing diseases in one area.
- If the root begins to poke above the surface of the ground, cover it back up with compost. Exposure to the elements will cause discolouration.
- When growing fly resistant carrots, it is beneficial to plant non-resistant carrots next to them. Carrot flies will be attracted to the non-resistant carrots, providing extra protection for the main crop.