Sweet, tasty and packed with vitamins, carrots are a traditional grow-your-own favourite. As well as the classic long orange roots, you can also grow small round carrots and even red, yellow or purple varieties.
Carrots are straightforward to grow from seed, taking up little space, and can even be grown in containers. Sow small batches regularly from early spring onwards, for harvests almost all year round.
Jobs to do now
- Harvest carrots as needed
Month by month
Home-grown carrots may not always be as straight and uniform as supermarket carrots, but they taste so much better, so are well worth growing. If you make regular sowings, you can enjoy your own fresh, super-sweet carrots virtually throughout the year.
Carrots (Daucus carota) like a sun and light, 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 or grow them in raised beds or containers. Carrots are drought resistant, so rarely need watering.
Choosing what to grow
There are numerous varieties to choose from, for roots of various sizes and shapes. There are even different colours, including purple, white and yellow. Choose early varieties for sowing from early spring, then maincrop varieties for sowing from late spring through to mid-summer. Short- or round-rooted varieties are best for growing in stony or heavy soil, to avoid forking, and are also ideal for containers. Long-rooted varieties are suitable for deep, sandy soil. A few varieties may offer some resistance to carrot fly. For the most reliable varieties, look for those with an RHS Award of Garden Merit (AGM), which means they have performed well in RHS growing trials. See Recommended varieties, below.
What & where to buy
Carrot seeds are widely available from garden centres and other seed stockists. They are usually reasonably cheap, with plenty of seeds in a packet.
Carrots grow best in full sun and light, fertile, well-drained soil. If your soil is stony, shallow or heavy clay, you may end up with stunted or forked roots, so try short-rooted types.
Before sowing dig over the area to a spades depth, removing weeds, and as many stones as possible. Incorporate plenty of well-rotted manure or compost or / and granular general fertiliser. Ideally allow the to ground to settle and consolidate before sowing.
Early varieties can be sown in February or March under cloches or covered with fleece. The main outdoor sowing season is from April to early July. The seed packet will state whether it’s an early or maincrop variety.
Sow the seeds as thinly as possible, 1cm (½in) deep, in rows 15–30cm (6–12in) apart. Seeds can be slow to germinate, so be patient. Seedlings can be vulnerable to slugs and snails, so put protection in place.
Thin out the seedlings if necessary, aiming for plants 5–7.5cm (2–3in) apart. Sowing small batches every three to four weeks will give you continuous harvests.
Sowing in a container
Carrots grow well in deep containers of multi-purpose compost, so are a great crop if you have limited space. They need full sun and regular watering. Round-rooted types are ideal, or you can sow long carrots but harvest when young, as baby veg.
Guide to sowing outdoors https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/profile?pid=206
Guide to preparing soil https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/beginners-guide/vegetable-basics/soil-preparation
Guide to growing veg in containers https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/beginners-guide/plant-containers/growing-fruit-and-vegetables-in-containers
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. Be careful 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.