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Carrots

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Introduction

You can grow carrots all year round – and they are so simple! Just sow carrot seed regularly for a year-round crop. Carrots come in other shapes and colours other than long and orange – look out for round carrots, as well as unusual colours such as red and yellow, there are even purple carrots.

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

Sow

All 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 you would be better to grow short-rooted types in containers.

Early cultivars (types of carrots – it will state on the seed packet whether it is an early or maincrop) can be sown in February or March under cloches or similar protection but the main sowing season is from April to early July.

Sow 13mm (1/2in) deep in rows 15cm (6in) apart. Sow thinly to avoid thinning out, or once the seedlings start coming up, thin to 5-7.5cm (2-3in) apart.

Grow

Carrots are best grown in the open ground, but you can try short-rooted types in containers or growbags.

Drought resistant, carrots like hot weather, seldom needing water. If they start wilting, give a thorough soaking of water every 10-14 days.

Keep weeds down between rows by hand weeding - if you allow weeds to grow they may end up crowding out the carrots.

Be careful when weeding or thinning that you don’t crush the foliage, as the smell attracts carrot fly (a pest).

Harvest

Carrots are ready for harvesting about 12-16 weeks after sowing. Harvest carrots 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

‘Adelaide’ AGM: This is an early carrot that you can sow in February or March under a cloche for protection.

‘Parmex’ AGM: A short-rooted carrot with round roots, making it suitable to grow in growbags or containers.

‘Flyaway’: This carrot has produces sweet orange roots and has good resistance to carrot fly.

‘Maestro’ AGM: A blunt, smooth-skinned carrot uniform in shape and size.

Problems

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.

Read more information on carrot fly

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.

Aphids: Most vegetables suffer from aphid attack sometime during the year. Damage is mostly noticeable in early summer and you will see colonies of green or black aphids at the tips of plants. They suck sap from leaves and stems and excrete a sticky substance called honeydew, which then often attracts black sooty moulds to grow. In most cases the damage can be tolerated.

Remedy: Use your finger and thumb to squash aphid colonies. In most cases you won’t need to spray, but you could use pyrethrum, plant or fish oils or thiacloprid.

Read more information on aphids

Recipes

Raymond Blanc shares his mother’s vegetable and chervil soup recipe, which uses fresh carrots.

Antony Worrall Thompson's tempting Root vegetable gratin dauphinoise combines carrots, squash and other vegetables with sliced potatoes and melted cheese.

Kids will enjoy helping to make super-healthy Carrot muffins.

A-Z of Grow Your Own recipes
Recipes for children

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Buy carrots from the RHS plant shop.

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