Carrots can be grown anytime of the year, which means when you’re selecting your crops, carrots are a great choice. They make for delicious hearty salads, luscious steamed buttered veg for Sunday roasts, and chunky sweet additions to warming soups and stews.
They don’t need much special attention to grow either, which is great news if you’re not that hands on when it comes to growing your own veg. They simply like loose, fertile soil that is free from stones and debris. In winter you will need to grow them in a polytunnel, greenhouse or any other warm environment.
Here’s how to grow your own.
Types of Carrots
Shorter carrots like Chantenay or Parmex are particularly great choices for this time of year and will grow in a wide variety of gardens. They also grow in around 50 days which means you won’t have to wait long before enjoying your homegrown crops.
It is also worth remembering that carrots aren’t quick sprouters, which means you will need to protect the seeds until they do spring up and begin to root. If temperatures drop below 4 degrees celsius, you will need to protect the seedlings using plant blankets.
If planting in winter and ground freezing is common where you live, you will need to keep carrots protected under plastic tunnels. If you are growing them inside a greenhouse or tunnel they will be fine unless we have a particularly harsh winter (fingers crossed we don’t!).
Be careful to plant carrots exactly where you want them to grow as they can die, or become deformed if moved during growth. Planting beds will need to stay moist with even water coverage to encourage the plants to sprout and to encourage the crops to be tasty.
Taking care to ensure the physical barrier is correctly installed when the bamboo is originally planted will help a lot when it comes to long term maintenance. If you suspect the physical barrier does need adjusting or repairing in some way, take care to do this in autumn while the ground is still soft.
Prepare The Growing Area
You will need to prepare the growing area, ensuring the soil is free from stones and clods. Make sure the soil is well turned and mixed with sand and compost if it is particularly dry or clay heavy. You will want the soil to be as loose as possible as carrots thrive in loose soil.
Sprinkle fertiliser across the soil, particularly fertiliser containing a lot of phosphorus, which is vital for good root growth. Water the bed thoroughly and evenly a few days before sowing your carrots.
Sow The Carrot Seeds
Carrot seeds are very small which means it is easy to plant too many. Try mixing the seeds with some sand and then sprinkle across the bed which will make it easier to see where you have sown them.
Try to sow the seeds evenly and thinly in rows trying to provide each carrot plant with around an inch all round to grow. When you have sprinkled the seeds, cover each one with around a quarter of an inch of soil gently patting the soil down afterwards.
Thin Out The Seedlings
You will want each carrot to be an inch apart from its neighbour to encourage it to grow to its full root capacity. Lift out crowded seedlings or snip them off at the top before they have formed taproots.
Nurture The Plants
You must keep the soil moist until your carrots start to sprout, ensuring you use a fine spray to moisten the soil at least once a day for the first fortnight or so. At this stage of growing, dry soil is the enemy.
Once your carrots make an appearance, you will want to keep moistening the soil with a fine spray until the carrots have secured roots into the ground. You will want to then continue watering the carrots evenly and regularly to encourage even growth. For deep watering, place plant pots with holes in at regular intervals along the rows and water directly into them to allow the water to get deeper into the soil.
You should also take care to remove any weeds from the growing beds so that the carrots do not have to compete for space, water or nutrients.
Harvest The Carrots
Carrots are ripe when they are big enough to eat, so it’s really up to you when you want to harvest them. Baby carrots can be steamed or added to salads so you won’t waste them if you pull them up before they have reached full maturity.
To take a look at the size of your carrots without pulling them up, simply push the soil away from the carrot roots shoulder and look for them being bigger than half an inch across. When they are bigger than half an inch, you can eat them. They will continue to grow so now you just have to decide how patiently you want to wait before pulling them up!