Easy to grow in a container or in your garden, carrots are a fun and rewarding crop for adults and children alike.
Varieties of Carrot
There are lots of different varieties of carrot, but they come in two main types – earlies and maincrop. Early varieties are smaller, sweeter and tastier, while the maincrop varieties are larger and better suited to storing. There are heritage varieties available now in different colours – you may think of them as orange, but they used to be available in purple, red, yellow or white! Now these unusual colours are coming back into fashion.
If you’re going to be growing your carrots in a container, look for one of the stubby varieties that are better suited to container growing.
Early carrots will grow best if they are in full sun, whereas maincrop varieties benefit from partial shade.
Preparation for Growing Carrots
Growing carrots is all about getting the soil right. They don’t like too much compost, and they won’t do well in soil that is clay, full of stones or chalky. The perfect ground for carrots is sandy and well-drained. If your garden isn’t suitable, try growing carrots in a container or raised bed.
If you are growing in a bed, make sure you dig it over really well to get the soil nice and fine. You can add some sand to the soil to improve the texture, but don’t add any manure – it will make the soil too rich for the carrots. Two weeks before you want to sow your carrot seeds, dig some bonemeal into the ground.
If you are growing in a container, fill it with a mix of sand and topsoil, avoiding using compost.
Sowing Carrot Seeds
You can sow early varieties outside from mid-February if you have cloches to protect them from frost and help warm up the ground. Maincrop carrots can be sown from April to July.
Make a narrow drill about 2-3cm (1”) deep. Try to sow the seeds as thinly as you can. This isn’t easy as the seeds are very small, so if you have trouble with it, try mixing the seeds with a handful of sand. This will enable you to scatter them more thinly. Cover the seeds over and water sparingly.
Tips for Growing Carrots
Once the seeds germinate and have grown their first proper leaves (not the initial, smooth leaves), thin them out so that there is at least 5cm (2”) in between plants.
Keep your carrots well-watered while they are growing, otherwise you will end up with coarse, chewy roots.
You can start to harvest your carrots from June or July, depending on when you planted them.
When you start to harvest the young carrots, make it a part of the thinning process – take every other one and leave the roots in between to grow larger.
Harvest carrots in the evening to avoid attracting carrot flies. Also, make sure you pat the soil back down around any remaining carrots, so that the carrot fly won’t be able to lay its eggs there.
Make sure you keep weeding your carrot bed, but be careful not to disturb the carrot roots when weeding close to them.
Growing onions near your carrots can help to keep carrot flies away. Alternate rows of carrots with rows of spring onions or leeks.
Dig up all your carrots by the end of October, as if frost gets into them it will ruin them. You can store carrots in a box of slightly moist peat or sand, in a cool dark place that is protected from frost. Make sure you only choose the best, unblemished roots for storing, cut off the foliage before storing and make sure the roots don’t touch each other in the box.