Tasting your first home grown carrot is guaranteed to convert you for life to becoming self sufficient in these easy to grow, ever popular root vegetable. Their beauty is that they can be grown just about anywhere at all, in pots, beds or window boxes, even on your windowsill if you so wish! Because they are so easy to grow and relatively fast cropping, children can take part and grow their own pot full too!
It's normally best to sow them outdoors from March to July, staggering your sowings to give you a continuous crop through the summer and autumn. Some varieties can be sown earlier under cloches or even in the ground in a greenhouse. They tend to germinate faster when under glass because the soil is generally warmer, this is handy if you live in colder regions.
They will always grow best in light, fertile soil in a sunny spot. I f you have heavy, clay or very stony ground, this can cause the roots to grow stunted or even fork into strange and sometimes amusing shapes. There are naturally shorter varieties available if this is a problem for you. Whilst they do prefer plenty of organic matter incorporated into the soil they are grown in, they dislike freshly manured soil, so it would be better to prepare any ground this way during the previous autumn so that the soil can "settle down" again. Whilst, as previously mentioned, you can grow them in the greenhouse, they do prefer cooler conditions, so it's better to avoid this during late spring and summer.
Prepare your soil by making sure there are no weeds or lumps of soil in the area; rake it over thoroughly to get to a fine tilth. Mark out your rows 12" (30cm) apart and make each row ½ in (1cm) deep. Sow the seeds very thinly along the row and gently cover them back over so that they are completely covered. Water them in well and keep the soil moist (not flooded!) while you wait for them to germinate, which should take 10 -20 days.
You can thin out your rows of carrot seedlings once they are big enough to handle. Start by leaving about a thumb's width between each one which will give them room to grow properly, once they continue to grow, they can be further thinned out to about 4inches (10cm), the baby carrots that you pull out can be used in salads etc though, so don't waste them!
Keep the ground weed free at all times to reduce competition for light and water and only water if the ground becomes dry, this will encourage the root to grow deeper in search of water. If the tops start to show above the ground, it's ok to cover them back over with soil again as this will stop them turning green.
Yes, you can! They will grow just as well in a pot on the patio as they will on an allotment, as long as the pot is at least 8 in deep (20cm), so that the root can grow downwards properly, there will be no problem at all. If you choose smaller or early varieties then you can easily get several crops per year in one pot, keep them well fed and don't let the compost dry out, especially when the weather is hot.
You can pull your well earned treats from 9 weeks onwards, depending on the variety. Most main crop varieties tend to be ready after about 11 weeks. They can be stored for up to 4 months after they have been harvested if you keep them in boxes of slightly damp sand, in a cool dry place.
Many of us have heard of carrot fly, it is the bane of growers everywhere. The larvae of the fly will burrow into the root and leave horrible brown tunnels as they go, this will often let rot in and then your crops become inedible. They adult fly can be sprayed but there is no chemical treatment for the larvae themselves. The best practice if carrot fly is a problem in your area is to use varieties such as 'Flyaway' and sow the seeds very thinly as it is the smell of freshly pulled carrots that attracts the female fly. Another good practice is to protect you crop with a horticultural fleece to stop the fly getting to them and to not plant in an infected area two years in a row.
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