Delicious and packed with vitamins, carrots are a traditional grow-your-own favourite. As well as the classic long orange roots, look out for small round carrots and even red, yellow or purple varieties.
Carrots are quick and easy to grow, taking up little space, and can even be grown in containers. Sow small batches regularly for cropping from early summer through to autumn.
Jobs to do now
- Harvest carrots as needed
Month by month
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.
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.
Carrots are ready about 12–16 weeks after sowing. So from repeated sowings you can enjoy fresh carrots from late spring to autumn.
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.
The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.