Carrots Photo: iStock
Large main-crop varieties require a deep well-dug soil. In gardens with shallow soils, grow carrots in well raised beds or containers. Do not sow carrots in recently manured soil as this is likely to cause forking of the roots. Carrot seed is small, which makes the density of the planting difficult to control. To achieve better control, mix seed with dry river sand. In cool climates a spring crop can be planted by sowing round- or short rooted carrots in a frame or under cloches, which should be placed in position at least two weeks before sowing to warm the ground. Constant moisture is essential for good germination. At the bottom of each drill, try creating a ‘sandwich’ of seed between two layers of moisture retentive seed raising mix. Press down firmly before watering in. Alternatively, cover the planted seed with old Hessian or cardboard after watering. Remove immediately when seedlings germinate.
Round-rooted carrots- Sow seeds thinly in 5 mm deep drills, 25 cm apart. Pelleted or taped seeds are an advantage as they can be placed individually, making their subsequent thinning much easier. In cool areas use cloches or frame lights until seedlings are growing strongly. If space permits, make another sowing of a round-rooted variety in the open two or three weeks later. A late-summer sowing, grown fast under cloches, will provide tender carrots in early winter.
Short- and long-rooted carrots- From midspring until the second half of summer, sow short- and long-rooted varieties in rows 30 cm apart.
Thinning- Plants should be thinned for the first time when they are still slender but usable fingerlings. A second thinning can be done in three to four weeks, leaving a final spacing of 7–8 cm. You can use the fingerlings in salads, as crudités or for cooking. Ideally, all thinning should be done on dull days or in the evening. The sun brings out the smell of the foliage, which attracts carrot fly. To avoid this, thin as little as possible when sunny and water the plants after thinning.
Pests and diseases
Carrot fly is the main pest. Slugs and snails can cause problems, too, as can sclerotinia disease and splitting.
Harvesting and storing
Harvest early, round-rooted varieties in early and midsummer, easing them with a fork if the ground is hard. In cool regions, pull up main-crop carrots in mid-autumn, using damaged carrots immediately and storing the rest in boxes for winter use. In milder climates harvest carrots as needed. Always use a fork to loosen short- and long-rooted varieties before you pull them up. Many modern main crops can be left in the ground until needed or until spring. In cool areas cover the tops with leaf mould, compost or fleece to prevent weather damage.
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