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How to Grow Carrots: Easy to grow carrots are the perfect health food
The humble carrot (Daucus carota) is a root vegetable often claimed to be THE perfect health food. Rich in polyacetylene antioxidant and falcarinol they are crunchy, tasty, and highly nutritious. Carrots are part of the Apiaceae or Umbelliferae family, along with dill and fennel.
In the kitchen both the tops and bottoms of carrots can be widely used. A friend of mine recently used carrot tops to bulk out a fabulous pesto while basil was limited during the Coronavirus lockdown.
These days carrot roots come in a rainbow of colours, sizes, and shapes, they’re also quite simple to grow with the benefit of not having too many pests and diseases to worry about.
How to Grow Carrots
Where to Grow Carrots. Carrots are not really fussy at all, you can plant carrot seeds in the ground, within raised beds or on the patio in tubs – carrots can be grown just about anywhere.
Carrots taste best when they are grown really quickly and good soil preparation is paramount here. Compost is good and, depending on the carrot varieties you going to grow, a nice deep topsoil layer is important.
Best soil for carrots
Carrots, in common with all root crops, are most successfully grown in a deep, rich, light loamy, or sandy soil, which has been well manured for a previous crop. In the Home Garden it is not always possible to secure a piece of ground as recommended and should the soil be poor a dressing of well decomposed stable or farmyard manure (or where this is not obtainable, Bone Dust and Superphosphate Mixed) should be thoroughly worked well down into the soil some weeks before the seed is sown. Never place fertiliser less than a foot from the surface or forked roots will be the result. Work the soil up very fine, and if in a dry state or very loose, press hard by stamping after the seeds are sown.
Planting carrot seeds
Planting Carrots. Carrots need a location that receives full sunlight, though they can tolerate partial shade. Soil must be loose, sandy, and airy so that carrot roots can easily push down through the soil. Sow seeds outdoors every 3 to 5 weeks. Sow seed thinly, in rows for early varieties and later varieties. Thin out to 3 in. apart as soon as the plants have four leaves or are about 10cm high.
The Early Horn, Chantenay, Guerande, and other stump rooted varieties are best suited for Autumn planting in the Home Garden as they mature quickly. For general planting it is immaterial whether the long or stump rooted varieties are used.
Sow the seed in drills 12 inches apart for the small varieties, such as Early Horn and Chantenay, 15 inches apart for St. Valery, and from 18 inches to 2 feet apart for all larger growing sorts.
Successful sowings of Carrot can be made, almost throughout the year, and where watering facilities are available, seed may be sown right up to late Autumn. The earlier sowings will be ready to pull about the start of Summer and where seed is sown up, Carrots can be obtained right through the late Autumn, after which time the plants will run to seed.
Growing carrots in pots
How to grow carrots in a pot. For growing carrots in containers choose a pot that are at least 300mm deep and 400-600mm wide and position in a sunny spot. Fill with a decent Potting Mix and lightly sprinkle carrot seeds on top. Cover, firm down and moisten. Water regularly to keep soil moist and thin seedlings out so the roots don’t get too cramped.
Growing Carrots outside in the garden. Plant your carrots in rows that are 1 to 2 feet (30-60 cm.) apart. Seeds should be planted about a ½ inch deep and 1 to 2 inches (2.5 to 5 cm.) apart.
Carrots grow better if planted as seed where you want them to grow, but you can grow them from seedlings, too. Make sure you sow early! Successive sowings may be made right up to mid year as there is always a demand for tender young carrots in salads. When the carrots are a little bigger than radishes, pull out every other one for early eating in salads and stir fry then leave the others to come to maturity.
General Carrot Care
Keep the ground loose on the surface by working frequently with a hoe and should it become caked, draw a rake or harrow across the rows to break or open it up. When seed is sown in cold weather, and is not likely to germinate before hoeing becomes necessary, a few seeds of Radish or Cress should be sown at the end of each row to mark the position.
When seedlings are well above the ground, thin out with a narrow draw hoe, and finally single the plants by hand. The Early Short Horn and similar varieties should be left 4 inches and the larger sorts, 6 inches apart in rows. Dig the late crops at the beginning of Winter and cut off the tops, afterwards pitting either in sand, in a cellar, or covering with earth in the open ground. Carrots left too long in the ground without being lifted are in danger of being· spoiled by starting into fresh growth or being attacked by pests. Keep the ground between the rows well cultivated whilst the crop is growing so as to allow air through the soil and also to conserve the soil moisture. Be careful to cultivate shallow for fear of damaging the roots. Early Short Horn, Guerande or Oxheart, Chantenay, and Summer Favorite, are stump rooted varieties. James Scarlet Intermediate, and St. Valery are long varieties; all these sorts are suitable for the Home Gardener. Carrots, such as Large Red Altringham, White Belgian, and Yellow Belgian, are Field Carrots, grown solely for feeding cattle and horses.
Top Carrot Growing Tips:
- Try growing purple carrots or different colours – to make gardening fun for kids
- Thin your carrots in the evening to avoid carrot fly
- Good drainage is key so be sure to add sand to your soil mix
- Plant Companion plants to deter pests like spring onions or chives, to act as decoys
- Water often and you carrots to grow big and healthy
- Avoid fertilizer – or you’ll end up with some unconventional carrot shapes!