I must say, Carrots were one of the first vegetables I began growing myself. Why? Well mainly due to the fact that I use a lot of carrots in my cooking. It seemed like a sensible choice and in fact, was a sensible choice.
That’s one thing you have to learn about when growing your own, ensuring you grow ingredients that you are actually going to use. It’s wonderful growing quirky interesting vegetables, but are you really going to use your supply of Romenesco Broccoli or Rainbow Swiss Chard. And that’s why my story in the garden really did begin with carrots.
So what’s this all about then? Simply put, this guide will take you through the process of sowing, growing and harvesting your own supply of carrots, right from your garden.
First up, it’s the buying of your seeds. You might not think this is that vital, just pop to the local gardening centre, pick up a packet or two and you’re done. However, something I am an avid supporter of is growing produce you can’t get in the supermarkets. Ask yourself “what can I currently buy in my local supermarket?” When it comes to carrots, you will probably think of large, bright orange and fairly chunky carrots. So what do you want to grow then? Perhaps purple carrots? Round carrots? Yellow carrots? Give a long thing variety a go? There’s so much diversity with carrots that you need to pick up a packet or two that look a little out there.
Seeds at the ready! Get down to your vegetable garden and get ready to sow.
Soil preparation is probably the most important part of growing your own carrots. Get this right, and the rest will be easy. First of all, you want to ensure the soil is light, fine and completely stone free. Why? Because what happens is when a carrot meets a stone is says to itself “Aargh, where do I go, there’s a stone in the way!” Want to know what it does? It splits off, half going to the left of the stone, the other half to right. You end up with a deformed, spiky, alien looking carrot that is likely to be inedible. Not ideal! So spend a bit of time raking through your soil and sifting out all those pebbles and stones you might come across. It might be time consuming, but it will ensure the rest of your efforts don’t become a waste of time.
This preparation should take place around 2 weeks before you plan to sow your carrots and whilst doing so, you should rake it a decent helping of a general fertiliser.
The first question asked by gardeners with regards to sowing carrots is “when should I sow them?” The answer, between February and July. Well, that’s the simple answer anyway, but for different periods of time, you have to sow the carrots in particular ways as explained below:
- Sowing February and March: You must protect with a cloche as there is still a high chance of frost. You’ll want to find an early variety of seeds that will be ready for harvest between June and July.
- Sowing April: Keep an eye out for frost warnings on the weather and have a cloche at the ready. Again, find an early variety of seeds that this time will be ready for harvest around August.
- Sowing May, June and July: This is where it gets easy, no protection whatsoever. This time however, you will want a main crop variety which will be ready to harvest between August and October.
So what about the actual sowing bit? You want to create drills (mini ditches) in your vegetable planting area that are around 15cm apart from one another and 2cm to 3cm in depth. Then sprinkle in your carrot seeds ensuring they are thinly spread. If you struggle with this, as I do, then take a handful of sand, mix with your carrots seeds, then spread this into your beds. This helps to sow your seeds thinly.
But why is it so important to sow them thinly? Because of the dreaded evil Carrot Fly... The carrot’s nemesis. Carrot Fly have an incredibly fine tuned nose that detects the scent of carrot. If they get a whiff of carrot, then they are straight over to them, destroying them. By sowing your seeds thinly, you don’t have to spend time carefully thinning the plants later on, trying not to knock the leaves which release the carrot scent.
So you’ve got them sown, and the seedlings are poking their heads up through the ground, now what? It’s time to become a carer.
Let’s go straight back to our friend, the carrot fly. First, I’ll explain exactly how the carrot fly works so you can then prevent it from doing so. The carrot fly detects the smell of carrots, it flies over to your patch, lays eggs at the base of your carrot plant and then flies away. Not long after, maggots hatch from the eggs which then feed off your carrot root, killing it. The leaves turn yellow, the plant dies, the maggot gets hungry and repeats on a further carrot victim. Disaster!
So what can you do to prevent them? There’s no actual way to kill them but there are a few preventative measures you can take:
1. Cover seeding with a plant fleece during the spring.
2. Destroy any carrot remnants as soon as possible. That means if you have thinned some seedlings out then burn, bury or destroy in any other way.
3. Keep the soil damp as infestation is worst when the soil is dry.
That’s all there is to preventing carrot fly, well that’s all you can try. This is the big problem with growing your own carrots but if you can overcome this then you will have a terrific supply of carrots from the garden.
There’s only one other thing you can do to care for your carrots and that is regularly water them with a routine. Irregular watering patterns tend to produce deformed carrots so water them regularly ensuring the soil is always damp.
Just one more bit to this puzzle, and that’s the harvesting of your carrots with this being probably the easiest. If you’ve got this far then it’s pretty certain that you’ll be cooking fresh produce from the garden.
You could opt for the old school, careless way and just yank the leaves hoping to pull the carrot from the ground, or you could opt for the more sensible which involves taking a fork, loosening the ground around the root and then pulling. To be honest, either way works for me and my family.
There’s just a few little things to look for when you come to harvesting your carrots. First of all, look at the top of the carrot that is poking out of the ground. It should be around 2cm in diameter, depending on the variety you are growing of course. You also want to pull your carrot from the ground before it gets too big. Huge carrots become woody, dry and pretty inedible. It’s always better to harvest your carrots a little early than a little late.
I hope this guide has helped you understand how you can go about growing your own carrots, from the sowing through to the growing and onto the harvesting. If you are looking for more information on Growing your Own, then grab the Grow This N That FREE Collection of GYO Guides. Click here for your copies now!
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