Spring sowings of round-rooted types make a delicious vegetable from midsummer onwards. Subsequent sowings of short- and long-rooted types can be cooked and served on their own, made into soups, grated for salads or combined with other vegetables to create a variety of dishes.
Planning the crop
Cloches or a frame are needed for the earliest spring sowings in cool districts and also for a late crop of ‘new’ carrots planted in autumn. But no protection is needed during the main growing season, and satisfactory crops can be grown on a variety of soils. Carrots are traditionally orange or orange-yellow in colour, but consider also planting purple, yellow and white carrots, as they will make spectacular additions to platters of raw vegetables. The flavour does not differ much from their orange cousins, although it may be more delicate.
Site and situation- Although carrots will grow in a variety of soils, they do best in light, well drained soil in a sunny position or one with minimal shade. Early crops, in particular, do best in full sun. The ideal pH is 6.0 to 6.5. Clay is unsuitable. Soil should be prepared with good quantities of compost six months before planting. In a rotation scheme they should follow brassicas, such as cabbages and brussels sprouts. Short-rooted carrots will also grow successfully in pots, tubs, growing bags and window boxes.
How many to grow- In fertile soil, a 3 m row will yield up to 6 kg of early carrots or 7 kg of main crop carrots.
Carrot varieties can be grouped into three main types for different sites: round-, short- and long rooted. Whichever variety you grow, look for one with some resistance to carrot fly if it is a pest in your area. In heavy, stony or shallow ground, avoid long-rooted varieties, which are liable to grow forked or malformed.
Round-rooted carrots- These are non-tapering varieties that are best for very early crops: Early Horn, Mini Round, Golden Ball, Amsterdam Forcing, Parisian Rondo.
Short-rooted carrots- For open sowings on shallow soils: Autumn King, Guerande syn. Oxheart, Chantenay Red Cored, James’s Scarlet Intermediate, Lady Finger, Purple Dragon.
Long-rooted carrots- Tapering long-rooted varieties are best on deep, rich ground: St Valery, Scarlet Perfection, Belgian White, Juwarot, All Year Round, Manchester Table, Topweight Improved.
Baby carrots- These are fast-growing and usually cylindrical varieties that are harvested young for crispness and sweetness: Amsterdam, Baby Pak, Tom Thumb.