There are different types of carrot available, each offering different qualities:
Early Summer Varieties These can be sown from as early as February and take about 3 – 5 months to grow. They’re mostly eaten fresh but they can be stored in the ground. Early varieties are available in the following types;
- Round/square-rooted – suitable for difficult soils.
- Amsterdam – pointed and narrow, excellent raw.
- Nantes – Large and cylindrical.
Maincrop Varieties Produce a later harvest than the early varieties and can store in the ground throughout winter until as late as March. Maincrop varieties are available in the following types:
- Chantenay – Medium-sized, reputation for good flavour.
- Berlicum – large, cylindrical, matures late.
- Autumn King – large, tapered shape and high yielding.
- Intermediate – long, large roots.
- Imperator – Thin roots with a very sweet flavour. Great for eating raw.
When to Sow Early summer varieties: February – August Maincrop varieties: April – June
Harvest Time Early summer varieties: June – November Maincrop varieties: September – March
Site and Soil Carrots are a bit particular about where they grow, but if you’ve got the right site for them you’ll find it easy to achieve a successful harvest with them. Carrots thrive in light, deep, fertile, stone-free, well-drained soil and don’t do well in heavy clay soil. The roots tend to fork in freshly manured ground so it’s best to mulch the area several months before sowing.
How to Grow Carrots from Seeds Sowing You can start sowing early summer varieties from February but it’s advised that you cover with cloches for small tunnels to warm the ground slightly for the first month or so. For the longest lasting harvest of early summer varieties, sow successionally throughout the summer, i.e. sow a new row every month. Maincrop varieties can be sown from April.
Sow into drills in well prepared, fine soil. The drills should be 1 – 2.5cm deep, in rows about 30cm apart.
Growing Carrots are very susceptible to weed competition in early stages, so weed seedlings carefully.
Once the carrots are established, the carrot foliage blanket the soil so weeding isn’t as urgent. Carrots don’t require much watering, but it’s a good idea to not let the soil dry out completely because that can cause your carrots to split if it suddenly rains very heavily.
Once the carrots start to grow and become densely packed in their rows that will need thinning out. The smell released when thinning notoriously attracts carrot root fly (one of the worst problem pests with this crop), so it’s worth bearing this in mind when sowing. Try to sow as thinly as possible to prevent the need for thinning out altogether.In most cases it is necessary to thin the carrots out, no matter how thinly they’ve been sown. They should be thinned to a distance of 3 – 5cm (or slightly less for narrower varieties).
Harvesting You’ll be able to tell when you’re carrots are ready for harvesting because you’ll be able to see the ‘shoulder’ of the carrot just above the soil surface. They can be left in the ground until they reach the required size, or left to store there until needed. In light soil pull out roots carefully as they reach the required size. In heavier soil you’ll need to push a fork into the ground next to them and gently leaver them out.
Storing Carrots withstand light frost, but are damaged by heavy frost. They can be stored in the following ways:
- In the ground – This is the best method for retaining flavour, but is best in light, well drained soil. Allow the foliage to die back, or cut back foliage from early November if it hasn’t yet died back, and cover with black polythene to keep it dark and to keep the rain off. For additional protection you can include a layer of cardboard underneath the polythene too. These can be dug up and used when required.
- Indoors – Lift the carrots before the first heavy frost. Cut the foliage off and lay them in rows in cardboard or wood boxes, each layer separated by a layer of sand. Carrots can be pulled from the box when required
Carrot Pests and Diseases: Carrot fly – avoiding carrot fly is very tricky. This is where flies lay eggs at the base of the plant: when hatched tiny maggots tunnel into the roots leaving them holey. There are a number of methods that can help prevent them:
- Sow thinly – this can reduce need for thinning out, which creates a smell that attracts carrot fly.
- Choose resistant varieties –varieties such as ‘Resistafly’ hove shown to be less popular with carrot fly.
- Grow next to onions – the smell of onions can deter carrot root fly, so planting alternate rows of carrots and onions may be effective.
- Grow high up – it’s thought that carrot fly stay close to the ground so goring them in a raised bed, bench or window box at least 1m from the ground may work.