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Carrots – Sowing & Growing

Carrots come in shapes and colours other than long and orange – look out for round carrots, as well as unusual colours such as red, yellow and even purple. Here is some advice on growing carrots from the Royal Horticultural Society.

Carrots can be grown in containers if you are short on space, or your soil is stony or heavy clay. Sow regularly for prolonged cropping. They freeze and store well too, but like most vegetables, taste best freshly picked from the garden. 

Carrots require an open, sunny site and fertile well-drained soil. If your soil is stony, shallow or heavy clay, you may end up with stunted or forked carrots, so try short-rooted types. They are best grown in the open ground, but you can try short-rooted types in containers or growing bags.

The main outdoor sowing season is from April to early July.  Seed packets will state whether the cultivar is an early or maincrop type.

Sow 1cm (½in) deep in rows 15cm-30cm (6-12in) apart. By sowing thinly you can avoid thinning out. Aim for plants 5-7.5cm (2-3in) apart. Thin if needed at the seedling stage.

Top Growing Tips

– Drought resistant, carrots seldom need water,    but in dry spells, they will benefit from a soaking.

Fast growing weeds can crowd out carrots, so hand weed between rows.

Be careful when weeding or thinning that you don’t crush the foliage, as the smell attracts carrot fly. Cover with fleece tunnels or erect barriers to prevent these pests flying in and laying eggs.

Common problems when growing carrots

Carrot fly: Carrot fly is a small black-bodied fly whose larvae feed on the roots of carrots. The larvae tunnel into the developing carrots causing them to rot. Remedy: Once you have an attack of carrot fly, there is nothing you can do to get rid of this pest. Prevention is the best cure, and you should sow thinly and avoid crushing the foliage as you thin out seedlings or hand weed. You can surround your carrots with 60cm (2ft) high barriers made of clear polythene which will exclude the low-flying female flies, or cover the plants with horticultural fleece, such as Enviromesh.

Aphids: Look for colonies of greenfly on the soft shoot tips of plants or on leaves. They suck sap and excrete sticky honeydew, encouraging the growth of black sooty moulds. Remedy: Use your finger and thumb to squash aphid colonies or use biological control in the greenhouse.

Forked carrots: When you pull up your carrots, the roots are not straight, but may have one or two forks. Remedy: This is a physiological problem, caused by the environment, not a pest or disease. It is usually caused by stony soil (roots hit a stone, and fork to go around it), or if carrots are sown too close together. The taste is normally not affected.

Harvesting your carrots!

Carrots are ready for harvesting about 12-16 weeks after sowing. Pick as soon as they are large enough to use; don’t aim for the largest roots or you’ll sacrifice flavour. Lift carefully using a fork if the soil is heavy.

Varieties to growParmex AGM: A short-rooted carrot with round roots, making it suitable to grow in growbags or containers Adelaide AGM: This is an early carrot that you can sow in February or March under a cloche for protection. Flyaway: This carrot has produces sweet orange roots and has good resistance to carrot fly.

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