How to grow carrots
If you want the best flavour, there is nothing like eating home-grown carrots fresh from the garden. Simply sow seeds directly outside in shallow drills if you have a veg plot, or into planters or containers on a patio or balcony.
For the best results, grow carrots in a sunny position in soil that has a fine, crumbly texture to it and that has not had fresh manure added to it, also try to remove as many stones as possible. Growing carrots in soil that contains a lot of stones or lumps of unrotted manure can cause the single root to split into many smaller roots, as soon as it hits a large stone or fresh manure, causing forking and misshapen roots.
Dig over the soil and remove perennial weed roots and all stones and other debris. Add some well-rotted compost or similar material to improve the soil structure, plus a light sprinkling of general plant food. Rake the soil to give a level, friable surface. If your soil is stony, prepare a long V-shaped trench at least 20cm (8in) deep and fill this with sieved soil mixed with about 50% of compost. If your soil isn’t really suitable for growing carrots, you can grow them in large, deep pots of multi-purpose compost or compost recommended for growing vegetables.
Growing the best carrot varieties
Different varieties are available depending on whether you want an early crop, main crop or even a shorter growing carrot for stony soils.
There are also sweeter varieties to tempt kids.
Growing carrots from seed
The seeds need to be sown where they are going to grow. When the soil is warm enough (March or April) take out a shallow drill 1cm (1/2in) deep. After sowing the seeds cover with fine soil and water in.
Sow carrots thinly in short rows every 3 weeks from March until the end of June. Sowing regularly will give you a continuously growing supply of vegetables through summer and autumn.
How to care for carrots
Carrots need roughly a 4cm (11/2in) gap between each seedling to grow well, so if you have sown too thickly they will need thinning out. Don’t compost the larger thinnings as they make a delicious addition to salads. It is better to sow thinly, rather than having to thin out seedlings, as handling and bruising the plants can attract carrot fly.
Keep your carrot crop well watered in dry weather - aim to keep the soil moist without cycles of drying out and flooding, as this can lead to the roots cracking.
To prevent carrot fly laying eggs, that will eventually tunnel into the roots and ruin them, you can completely cover over the crop with very fine mesh, fleece or similar material.
Carefully lift carrots as soon as they are large enough to use. Don't leave them to grow very large or you’ll sacrifice flavour. Small and stump-rooted carrots may be pulled by hand, whereas larger ones should be lifted carefully using a fork.
Carrots may be susceptible to the following problems:
- Carrot Fly