Carrots are one of the best crops for home gardeners to grow, the difference in taste between carrots bought in the supermarket and those freshly picked from the garden is astounding. Home grown carrots are incredibly sweet, crunchy and delicious.
In this article I will teach you step by step how to grow and plant your own carrots from seed. In as little as 12 weeks you can be picking fresh carrots from your own garden.
There a few important things you must first consider before we can begin planting carrot seeds. First of all it’s very important to know that carrots should never be sown in the same place for two consecutive years, this will lead to a build up of pests and a 3 year crop rotation is essential for carrots.
Carrots like to be grown in a light fine soil that hasn’t had manure added in the last 12 months. The plants are not hungry feeders but if your soil is very poor then adding a blood fish and bone fertiliser will help with growth.
When To Plant Your Carrot Seeds
Most carrots are sown from the second week in April until the second week of May in the UK.
Sowings can be made far earlier in the season either using cloches or growing in containers in a greenhouse. Weather permitting you can begin sowing early varieties as soon as the first week of March if you are able to provide some protection. The weather early in the season can be unpredictable so if a heavy snow or frost is planned hold off sowing until the worst of the weather has passed.
Cloches in particular can really give you an early crop. Place the cloche on the soil where you are going to be sowing your carrot seeds for at least a week before you begin sowing to give it time to warm the temperature of the soil. It is said that a cloche can increase the soil temperature by up to 10 degrees which will significantly increase germination rates of early sown seeds.
Maincrop carrots are better planted a little later in the season, the last week in April being the ideal time. Maincrop varieties are intended to be grown until they are quite large and are ideal for harvesting in late summer and storing for later use
How To Sow Carrots
Make a seed drill about 2cm (about 3⁄4 of an inch) deep and space the rows 15cm (6 inches) apart. Seeds should be sown 1cm (1⁄2 inch) apart.
Carrot seeds are tiny and very difficult to sow evenly.
There is a trick to sowing carrot seeds done by a lot of the experts which results in far more even distribution. This is done by mixing the tiny carrot seeds with some dry sand, by doing so you make the seed far easier to spread in the drills as well as being able to see exactly where you have sown.
Carrot seeds are relatively inexpensive and the packets are generous so sowing a little thicker than you need isn’t the end of the world, you will just need to spend a little more time thinning the plants out when they germinate.
Using “seed tapes” is also an option but they are significantly more expensive than simply buying seeds.
Once sown cover with a very light layer of soil. Carrot germination can be slow but in good conditions you should begin to see the plants coming up after after 14 days.
Growing Your Carrots On
Once planted carrots do not need a whole lot of looking after. After germination thinning the plants to a spacing of 2.5cm (1 inch) will give the strongest possible plants. Weeding in the first few months is important.
By planting your rows at a 15cm (6 inch) spacing once the plants begin to grow they will shade the soil and stop most weeds being able to grow, this reduces the amount of work you should need to do.
Carrots do not need any liquid feeds in the growing season, high nitrogen feeds will actually lead to the growth of a lot of lush green leaves but really doesn’t help the roots growing at all.
Watering in dry weather will give your carrots an advantage but they will survive fairly dry conditions.
Harvesting & Storing Carrots
Carrots taste the best when they are still small and tender, this will usually be about 12 weeks after sowing. Main crop carrots are usually left to become larger and can be stored over the winter months. The top of the carrot is usually showing above the soil - or you can slightly uncover the carrot - and that will give you a really good idea of size.
Storing carrots is quite easy. Carrots can be stored in the ground if covered with some fleece or straw and will usually last until Christmas. Alternatively you can harvest the carrots in October, allow to dry and store in a cool dry place where they will usually last for 4-8 weeks, if you store them in dry sand they will last 8-12.
Carrot Pest & Diseases
There is only one real pest for carrots and that is carrot fly. It’s hard to grow a really good crop of carrots without being affected by carrot fly. The best protection against carrot fly is a fine mesh netting, usually called Enviromesh. I have found this to be 100% effective at stopping the carrrot fly. You can also plant strong smelling crops like onions and scented flowers which confuse the carrot fly.
I’ve tried the carrot fly resistant varieties but have had little success with them.