Carrots are a herbaceous biennial which are grown as an annual.
|Sowing to harvesting||Early / Forced||10-12 weeks|
|Size||Long||up to 23 x 5cm (9 x 2")|
|Stump rooted||up to 12.5 x 6.5cm (5 x 2.5")|
|Yield||Early / Forced||10kg (22lb) per 10m (30') row|
|Maincrop||11.5kg (25lb) per 10m (30') row|
Carrots are very easy to grow provided that you have first got your soil properly prepared for them. The nutritional value of carrots should not be underestimated they are rich in calcium, phosphorus and vitamin A. In the UK they are generally considered to be a winter crop but with successive sowings and giving protection from the cold it is possible to grow carrots throughout the year giving you a year-round crop.
The Origin Of Carrots
There is a lot of conflicting evidence and debate about the origin of carrots the reason for this is the wide distribution of wild carrot and the lack of documentary evidence. It is currently thought that garden carrots originate from Afghanistan with the orange carrot being a mutant from Asia minor. The more familiar orange carrot was bred by patriotic Dutch growers in the 17th Century. For a more in-depth explanation of the origin of carrots please visit https://www.carrotmuseum.co.uk/history.html
Carrots like beetroot are cropped in two ways, early quick growing crops are pulled quite small and can be used either in salads or cooked. While main crops are left to develop into larger carrots.
A suitable soil and site.
The Ideal soil for carrots is a deep, light, sandy loam. Early crops prefer to be in full sun while maincrops will need some shading from the sun. Because carrots are a root crop they need soil that is both friable and substantial. While carrots will grow on heavy clay soil they will not be able to penetrate the soil very well and you will get misshapen roots. If you have very light sandy soil you will be hard pushed to grow the maincrop varieties but should do well with the smaller early varieties. A high water table is helpful as carrots do not tolerate drought conditions however they also do not do well in waterlogged or badly drained soil either,
If your soil is heavy then start to prepare it in late autumn, else prepare the soil in early spring. If preparing the bed in autumn leave the soil rough to allow the winter weather to break it down and make it more friable at this point you can add some manure or garden compost making sure that it is well mixed into the soil. If your soil is very sandy you can add leafmold or compost in the autumn again ensuring it is well mixed into the soil. Remove all weeds along with their roots also remove as many stones as possible. Do not add fresh manure when preparing the bed for sowing as this will cause the roots to fork. Ideally, the soil should be pH neutral.
About a week before you are going to sow your carrots, you will need to level the bed by raking to create a fine tilth, at this time add a low nitrogen content fertilizer.
How to Plant Carrots - Sowing Seeds
Planting is done by sowing seed. Having prepared the soil mark out the row by positioning a line across the bed so that you will have a straight row. Create a 1.3 cm (0.5") deep furrow by using a cane or the back of a rake, spacing the row at 23cm (9") for early crops and 30cm (1') for maincrops.
Sow maincrop carrots from mid-spring to mid-summer. Early sowings are made at the beginning of spring and continue every two weeks until late summer. It is these sowings that are pulled young and used in salads or can be cooked. Carrot seeds are very small and light with approx 18,000 seeds per 30g (1 oz). The seeds should be sown as thinly as possible to cut down on wastage and the amount of thinning needed later.
Over the years gardeners have created a number of different ways of sowing carrot seeds. A traditional way is to mix the seeds with some slightly damp sand and the sow evenly along the row. Another method is to mix radish seed with the seed then sow thinly along the row, as the radishes mature quicker than the carrots and will be harvested early on in the carrots' growth it is a good way of thinning them out and getting a useful crop at the same time. You can sow carrot seeds by taking small pinches of seeds between your finger and thumb and moving along the row gently rub them together and let the seed fall out. Lastly, you can gently shake the seed out of the packet holding the packet just a few centimetres over the drill, this is the method demonstrated in the video.
Once you have sown your seeds gently replace the soil over the seeds to a depth of 0.5cm (¼"). Then rake the soil level by lightly pulling the rake down the row, never rake across the row or at an angle as this will disturb the seeds. Very gently using the back of the rake, firm the soil down along the row. Germination takes between 14 and 18 days but may take a few days longer in cold conditions.
Carrots grow best in warm conditions so if the weather is cold at the time you plan to sow warm up the ground first by putting cloches or plastic tunnels along the rows about a week before you sow. Leave this protection in place until all chance of frost has gone.
Thinning and Cultivation
Start thinning when the leaves are about 2.5cm (1”) tall, ideally do this after a shower of rain as the water loosens the soils making the job easier. An old gardeners trick is to do this in an evening to reduce the risk of carrot fly attack.
If you sowed your carrots in groups along the row remove the smallest seedlings in each group. Otherwise thin along the row to an initial spacing of 1.2cm (½"). Then at two weekly intervals thin again until you have a final spacing of 5cm (2”) for early crops and 10-15cm(4-6”) for main crops.
While thinning your carrots take care not to bruise or break the leaves as this will release the pungent odour that carrot flies find very attractive. Never leave the thinnings on the ground remove them and bury them into the compost heap. Water the remaining seedlings well, to help firm down the soil, which will discourage the female fly from laying eggs. Keep on top of weeds and do not let the soil dry out during hot spells.
The first one or two thinnings will be tiny but the later ones will be of a size that can be used in the kitchen.