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Plant Care

How to Grow Carrots

Growing carrots, loved for their sweet flavour and nutrients, is simple and rewarding. Ideal for small spaces, they flourish in gardens and containers alike. Start sowing in early spring and continue in intervals for a nearly year-round yield. While they may lack supermarket uniformity, their taste is unrivalled. These vegetables prefer sunny spots and light soil but can adapt to less ideal conditions with shorter varieties or container growing. Minimal watering is needed, yet protection from pests like carrot fly larvae is crucial. With careful tending, expect a bountiful harvest of colourful, tasty carrots.

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Growing Carrots: How to sow and grow carrots
Growing Carrots: How to sow and grow carrots

Grow Carrots From Seed

Carrots thrive in full sunlight and light, fertile, well-drained soil. If your soil is rocky, shallow, or heavy clay, opt for short-rooted varieties to avoid stunted or forked roots. For early varieties, start sowing in February or March under cloches or fleece covers. The main sowing season outdoors spans from April to early July. Sow seeds thinly at a depth of 1cm (½in), in rows spaced 15–30cm (6–12in) apart. Patience is key, as carrot seeds can be slow to germinate. Once seedlings emerge, protect them from slugs and snails and thin them out to 5–7.5cm (2–3in) apart for optimal growth. Regular sowings every three to four weeks ensure a continuous harvest. Carrots also flourish in deep containers with multi-purpose compost, making them ideal for limited spaces. Ensure they get full sun and consistent watering. Round-rooted types are excellent for containers, or grow long carrots and harvest them young as baby vegetables. Growing carrots from seeds indoors can be successful too, with the right care and conditions.

Patience is key with carrot germination.

What Carrots Needs

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Protection: Avoid touching the foliage, as the smell attracts carrot fly. Watering: Carrots are drought resistant, so seldom need watering Position: Carrots grow best in full sun and light, fertile, well-drained soil.

Growing Carrots Across the Season

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Autumn

Prepare the ground in autumn ready for planting carrots in spring. This allows the soil to rest over winter

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Winter

Winter sow summer carrots undercover. Cover your carrot bed with a 1 to 1 1/2 foot deep layer of mulch.

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Spring

Sow seeds 2 to 3 weeks before the last frost date of spring, and follow up with a succession planting 3 weeks later.

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Summer

Harvest spring-sown carrots around the summer solstice

Carrots S.O.S.

Growing carrots requires awareness of common problems and preventive strategies. The primary threat is the carrot fly, which lays eggs in the soil, leading to larvae that damage the roots. To prevent this, grow resistant varieties or use fine fleece coverings. Erect barriers at least 75cm high around the plot. Sowing thinly minimises thinning, which attracts flies. If thinning is necessary, do it in the evening. Growing carrots near alliums may help mask their scent. Aphids, another pest, feed on the sap, weakening plants and potentially spreading viruses. Control aphids manually or with natural predators and suitable sprays. Green tops on carrots are harmless and result from sun exposure. Cover exposed tops with soil to prevent this. Carrots may fork due to stony soil or high nitrogen levels. Prepare the soil by removing stones and adding compost or manure well before planting. For stony soils, consider container gardening. Forking doesn't affect taste but can make preparation harder. Store carrots carefully to avoid sclerotinia rot, a fungal disease. Raised beds improve drainage and reduce rot risk. Rotate crops and maintain a tidy garden to deter rodents. Erect barriers as needed. With these precautions, you can grow healthy carrots with minimal issues.

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Watch out for carrot fly.

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