Carrots need 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. These are also ideal for growing in containers.
Early cultivars can be sown in February or March under cloches or with similar protection. 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 the seeds as thinly as possible, 1cm (½in) deep, in rows 15–30cm (6–12in) apart. Thin out seedlings if necessary, aiming for plants 5–7.5cm (2–3in) apart.
Carrots are drought resistant so seldom need watering. However, in long dry spells they will benefit from a soaking.
Fast-growing weeds can crowd out carrots, so hand weed regularly between rows.
Cover crops with fleece tunnels or put up barriers around them to prevent carrot flies (see below) laying their eggs. Be careful too when weeding or thinning that you don’t crush the foliage, as the smell attracts 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.
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.
More info on Carrot fly
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.
Use your finger and thumb to squash aphid colonies or use biological control in the greenhouse.
More info on Aphids
Carrots are ready about 12–16 weeks after sowing.
Harvest as soon as they’re large enough to use – don’t aim for the largest roots or you’ll sacrifice flavour.
Lift the roots carefully using a fork if your soil is heavy.
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.
This is an early carrot that you can sow in February or March under a cloche for protection.
High yielding, excellent main crop carrot. Large roots that resist greening and cracking. Stores well after harvesting in late summer and autumn.
This carrot has produces sweet orange roots and has good resistance to carrot fly.
The first hybrid coloured carrot.Purple on the outside and bright orange inside. Best eaten raw for flavour.
'Sweet Candle' AGM
Very uniform, cylindrical shaped roots with round tips and excellent flavour. Has a brilliant orange colour and is a favourite with exhibitors.