Carrots are an iconic vegetable thanks to their striking colour. They are rich in beta carotene that is reputed to help boost the immune system and fight infection. And if you eat lots and lots of them it is possible to turn your skin orange!
Perhaps the best reason of all for growing carrots is that children seem to love eating them. Their natural crunchiness and high sugar content help make them one of the most accessible vegetables to introduce into a child’s diet.
- March to July
- Planting depth: 1 cm
- Planting spacing: 7.5 cm between plants, 15 cm between rows
- May to November
- Unblemished carrots can be stored in a box filled with sand or fine soil
Home grown carrots also taste much more of carrots than the larger, more watery carrots available in my local shops – at least I think so!
Unfortunately, there is a dark side to growing carrots. The dreaded carrot fly that attacks the flesh, creating black vein like sores. I have put together this guide to growing carrots in the hope that you have more success than I have with thwarting carrot fly.
It may be that your allotment is relatively free of this affliction. You may also stand a much better chance of success growing them in your garden vegetable patch, which may be an unfound oasis away from other carrot flies. And there are ways of mitigating the problem – as described below – if you are prepared to take the risk.
The best time to sow carrots is in the spring when the weather starts to feel warmer – do not start too early as the seed will rot in cold soil.
I like to dig the soil over well, to create a loose structure to help the carrots grow straight. It is also advised not to heavily manure the soil where you will be growing carrots as this can make them ‘fork’.
I then mark the end of the rows with canes, and tie twine between as a gauge, to create a shallow trench with my hand trowel. I like to liberally sow seed into the trench as I find carrot germination not to be as reliable as other vegetables, and carrots don’t seem to mind growing in close proximity to each other.
Once the seed is in the soil I then loosely cover with earth. At my allotment the soil is sandy. For this reason I prefer to water the soil well before I sow the carrot seed. I have found that watering after sowing carrot seed risks washing the seeds out of their trench or dragging the seed too deep into the soil. I avoid sowing carrot seed during hot weather as in my experience carrot seed germinates best in wet soil.
Carrot tops are easy to distinguish from weeds due to their feather like appearance. I leave at least 25 centimetres between rows to enable hoeing.
I find that my carrots grow best when I water regularly to prevent the soil drying out. This may be because my soil is very light – other people recommend growing carrots in relatively dry soil to give a sweeter flavour.
It is possible to scratch away the top of the soil to see when carrots are ready to be picked.
Ways of preventing carrot fly include creating a barrier of fine mesh around them. A similar idea is to create a raised platform of at least one metre high to grow carrots on. Both methods work on the basis that carrot flies stay close to the ground. Companion planting is another technique – perhaps using strong smelling onions to mask the location of your carrot bed. Planting in mid or late summer is another approach, at a time when carrot flies are less active.
Of all these approaches, my recommendation would be to grow carrots in some kind of high container. If you are attempting to grow carrots at an allotment it may be worth checking with other plot holders what techniques work best in your local environment. Good luck!
Carrots come in a variety of different sizes and colours:
- Early carrots go in the ground earlier in the year (protect with cloches or a growing tunnel), they mature quickly, but are often smaller than main crop carrots
- Main crop carrots take longer to mature than earlies, but usually end up bigger
- Rainbow carrots (skin colour ranges from white to purple)
- Coloured flesh carrots (not just the skin)
- Round carrots
- Carrot varieties that claim to offer resistance to carrot fly