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 try short-rooted types. These also suit 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 1cm (½in) deep in rows 15cm-30cm (6-12in) apart. By sowing thinly you can avoid thinning out. Aim for plants 5-7.5cm (2-3in) apart. Thin if needed at the seedling stage.
Carrots are best grown in the open ground, but you can try short-rooted types in containers or growing bags.
Drought resistant, carrots seldom need water, but in dry spells, they will benefit from a soaking.
Fast growing weeds can crowd out carrots, so hand weed between rows.
Be careful when weeding or thinning that you don’t crush the foliage, as the smell attracts carrot fly. Cover with fleece tunnels or erect barriers to prevent these pests flying in and laying eggs.
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.
More info on Carrot fly
Aphids: 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.
Remedy: Use your finger and thumb to squash aphid colonies or use biological control in the greenhouse.
More info on Aphids
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.
More info on Forked carrots
Carrots are ready for harvesting about 12-16 weeks after sowing. Pick 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.
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.
Adelaide AGM:This is an early carrot that you can sow in February or March under a cloche for protection.
Flyaway:This carrot has produces sweet orange roots and has good resistance to carrot fly.
Parmex AGM:A short-rooted carrot with round roots, making it suitable to grow in growbags or containers.