There’s something incredibly satisfying about pulling up a long straight carrot from your own patch. The original wild carrots of Afghanistan where purple and you can still find seed today, along with unusual yellow and white varieties. Still, most of the carrots you’ll find are orange. Some are long giants that can weigh in at a heavy 1,000g; others are short and stumpy balls. The best thing about growing your own carrots is that they keep so well in ground, giving you months of eating from the one crop.
By
Phil Dudman

6 Sep 2012 - 3:21 PM  UPDATED 6 Jul 2017 - 11:15 AM

At a glance

Ease of culture: Moderate
Where: All regions
Best climate: Cool to warm conditions
When: spring, summer, autumn
Spacing: 3cm
Harvest: 3 months plus
pH 5.5-7

 

Climate

• Carrots can be grown all year in mild temperate regions
• In the subtropics, carrots are best grown from autumn to early summer, and in tropical areas, during the cooler dry season. Always plant in cool conditions
• Carrots need an open sunny position to thrive

 

Soil

• Carrots grow best in a deep, loose sandy loam. Shallow, compacted or heavy soil causes the thick taproot up out of the ground, turning them green due to their exposure to sunlight
• Don’t add compost and manure at planting. Carrots are best grown as a follow-up crop to hungry corn or leafy greens, where any compost or manure added has broken down well
• Carrots need low levels of nitrogen but higher levels of phosphorous, and perform well as a follow up to crops that have been fertilised with chicken manure. Overly rich conditions or too much organic matter can cause carrot roots to fork
• Prepare soil for planting by weeding and digging it deeply with a garden fork, breaking up any clods as you go
• Remove stones and pebbles – these will cause unwanted distortions in the roots
• Finally, rake the surface with a steel rake to create a fine tilth. Saturate the bed and leave it for a day before sowing

 

Sowing

• Always plant the seed directly in the ground. Don’t buy seedlings – carrots hate being transplanted
• Push a garden stake into the soil to create shallow grooves for sowing seed. Make three of them approximately 1 metre long and 30cm apart
• Carrot seed is very fine, and difficult to handle and sow evenly. To make sowing easier, mix a cup of dry river sand with ½ standard packet of carrot seed in a small jar. Dribble the mixture along the planting grooves
• Water in seed and keep the soil moist until seeds germinate (10-14 days). Don’t let the soil dry out at this delicate stage – it will lead to a poor germination rate. This may require a light sprinkle of water twice daily on warm days. Some gardeners cover the planting area with moistened hessian to help hold moisture in, removing it once germination has occurred
• Once seedlings appear, thin them to approximately 3cm apart.
• You can buy 'seed tapes" (seeds arranged on paper tape). They offer the convenience of seed arranged at a perfect spacing, but are a more expensive option
• Sow a fresh crop every 6 weeks for a continuous harvest

 

Watering, fertilising and maintenance

• Carrots must be watered regularly for a sweet juicy harvest. Gradually increase the depth of watering as the plants mature. Never let the crop dry out for prolonged periods – this can cause cracking and bitter flavours
• Carrots need less nitrogen and potassium than most other crops, but do require a good supply of phosphorous for root development. This can be supplied with a very light dressing of rock phosphate along the rows 4 weeks after germination. Weekly applications of ½ strength liquid seaweed will help to keep plants strong and healthy
• Keep the crop weed-free as it develops. Scratch out weed seedlings when they’re young – removing large weeds from amongst a carrot crop is difficult and can upset their development

 

Harvesting

• Finger sized carrots or 'baby carrots" can be harvested at around 10 weeks. This is a good opportunity to selectively thin crops and allow other plants greater space to develop
• In cool conditions, carrots can be left in ground until you’re ready to use them