Harvesting and Storing Carrots
Once your short rooted carrots have reached the desired size they can be harvested as and when needed. Water the ground around the carrots you want to harvest the night before, this helps the carrots to be pulled without damage obviously, this is not needed if the soil is already wet.
Although carrots are reasonably frost hardy, it is generally better to lift them before the soil gets too cold. In mild areas, it is possible to leave them in the ground well into the winter provided you give some protection in the form of clean dry straw whenever there is a forecast for a heavy frost.
Carrots are ready for lifting when the outer leaves start to wilt and the remaining leaves begin to curl up. This indicates that they have stopped growing for this year. To lift maincrop carrots choose a dry day and using a fork to loosen the soil from around the carrots and then pull the carrots out by the foliage. Remove the foliage near the crown and put it onto the compost heap. Remove all the soil from the carrot root and check for any damaged ones, put these to one side to be used immediately.
How to Store Carrots
There are several methods of storing carrots, in a clamp outside, in wooden boxes inside or freezing, which one you use will depend on the space you have available and the size of the crop.
To store carrots outside you can either use a hole in the ground or a clamp. Using a hole fill the bottom of the hole with 5cm (2”) of dry sand, then place a row of carrots head to tail cover with a layer of sand and then repeat until the hole in full the last layer should be sand, cove the whole lot with 15cm (6”) of dry straw.
To create a clamp; choose undamaged carrots and pile them up on dry ground in a conical heap with the thin ends pointing inwards. Next cover the carrots with at least 15cm (6”) of clean dry straw, then cover the straw with at least 15cm (6”) of soil leaving a ventilation hole at the top. You can also use this "clamp" method to store potatoes. If constructed properly this method will keep the carrots through the winter and well into spring.
The outdoor storage methods work best with a large crop, however, if your crop is small it is often more convenient to store the carrots indoors. To do this we use the same layering method as the hole in the ground but this time in a box, the box is then placed in a cool frost-free shed or cellar. Using this method the carrots are easy to retrieve for use.
If done correctly the carrots stored in the clamp will stay firm for several months and the carrots stored in boxes will keep for a shorter period of time.
The final method of storing carrots is to freeze them this is done by scraping the surface off of the carrots and washing in cold water. Small carrots can be frozen whole but large carrots should be sliced. Place them into boiling water and boil at a high temperature for 2 minutes (known as blanching) for sliced carrots or 5 minutes for baby whole carrots. Drain off the boiling water ad run them under cold water for a minute.
Drain them well and dry them with absorbent kitchen paper. Pack the blanched carrots in a freezer bag separating usable portions with cling film. Place the labelled and dated bag in the freezer. They will keep for 3 months in a standard freezer.
Forcing for year-round supply
It is possible to have your own fresh carrots to harvest throughout the year, but this does take some effort and relies on the weather being good. To do this you need to create a hot-bed in a frame. To make the hot-bed mix manure with rotted leaves on a bed of straw and build up to about 15cm (6”). Turn this over and moisten every day for a week this will encourage fermentation which is the process that generates the heat. After a week cover with 15cm (6”) of good garden soil.
Scatter the seeds onto the soil and using a hand fork work them into the soil. Water the bed frequently, cover the frame with sacks if there is a frost forecast. Again thin out as the seedlings develop.
Growing Carrots In Containers
Ok, everything I have talked about on this page and the previous page assumes that you have a garden with space to grow carrots in the traditional way. So what happens if you do not have that kind of space? You may only have a small patio area, or a small balcony is it still possible to grow carrots? The answer to that is yes, you can grow carrots in containers. Pretty much any container will do provided that it has a depth of at least 20cm (8”).
The ideal mixture for filling the pot is peat mixed with some vermiculite and some organic fertiliser such as blood, fish and bonemeal. However, there are an increasing number of concerns that the use of peat is not ecologically sound and you may wish to use a good, peat-free compost instead. Fill the containers to within 5cm (2”) of the top, then depending on the shape of your container sow the seed in rows or concentric circles or however the heck you want. If you have kids you may want to get them to sow a pot in the shape of their initials. Now cover the seed with 1cm (½”) of the compost mix and water well.
You will need to water frequently and thin out as previously described. If you have the room you can use more than one pot but leave about 4 weeks between sowing each pot this will then give you a supply throughout the year. Once you have harvested your carrots, replenish the fertiliser and top up with compost and off you go again. You can repeat this for about four sowings before you have to refresh the compost.
I have done so but I don’t see any reason why you couldn’t try growing some carrots in containers in a cold greenhouse or even in the house.
I hope that over these two pages I have given you the inspiration to have a go at growing carrots, whether that is in your garden, or growing carrots in containers