Planting carrots: some basic tips

Garden Life
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For those of us that were lucky enough in our youth to have been assigned a little corner of the family garden to plant what we wished, chances are one of the rows was reserved for carrots.  It is hard to imagine the classic vegetable garden without them.
Nothing bets watching those beautifully vibrant green carrot leaves grow, knowing that just below the surface, magic is taking place. Then the great moment arrives when, with slight apprehension, you take a deep breath, pull and out comes a perfectly formed tasty carrot ready to be shredded into a salad or lightly sautéed with butter and fresh herbs.

Life is like a box of carrots, you never know what you’re gonna get.

Unfortunately, sometimes this moment is quite different to the one described above. The deep breath is the same; the pulling action is the same but instead of the perfectly formed carrot something that resembles an alien from a distant planet takes its place. You may momentarily find humour in the whole experience trying to see what your twisted crooked carrot might look like (“Oh look! This one looks like a person dancing! This one looks like a hand!”). Once the giggles have died down though, you are left feeling discouraged and scratching your head wondering what went wrong.  Carrots are actually easy to grow but there are some basic rules that must be followed for a successful crop.

Do's

  • Plant your carrots from seed. They do not like to be transplanted.
  • Make it easy for the taproot to grow straight and strong by taking the time to prepare your soil well. Remove all stones and breakdown large clumps with a fork or rake.
  • Make sure that your soil drains well. 
  • Pick a spot in the garden that gets at least 6 hours of sunshine a day.
  • Sow sparingly. Mixing the tiny carrot seeds in a cup full of sand and spreading this mix in a groove created by the rake handle laid flat on top of the soil and slightly pushed in will help even out distribution. 
  • Allow 20-30 cm between rows.
  • Sow radish seeds at the same time and in the same location if you wish.*
  • Keep the seeds moist whilst they germinate. Placing wet newspaper, moistened hessian or a plank on top can help but remember to remove these items as soon as they start to sprout.
  • Keep your watering consistent. Floods and droughts will only result in cracks and splits.
  • Thin your little carrots out once they have reached 5 cm high keeping them 3 cm apart.
  • Remember to thin them gently because carrots do not like to be disturbed. 
  • Harvest every second carrot as a baby carrot to reap more from your harvest.
  • Protect them against carrot flies.

DONT's

  • Subject them to cold weather especially during the early stages of growth. The seedlings might bolt without forming roots.
  • Plant them too deep, 6mm is enough.
  • Plant them in dry soil - water the soil first.
  • Add any fertiliser. Carrots are much happier growing in a patch where leafy greens have been since they have already broken down the compost or manure.
  • Let weeds grow near your carrots. Pluck the weed seedlings by hand before they settle roots to avoid disturbing your carrots when removing them.
  • Try to plant carrots with long tap roots in unsuitable soil. Instead try planting round or short-rooted varieties.  

 

*When planted together, radishes will germinate much quicker than carrots and therefore can be harvested long before the carrots need the growing space. Also, if a crust forms on the soil surface, the radish seedlings can break through quite easily unlike the carrot seedling that is much weaker and will appreciate having the door opened for them.