Grow Your Best Carrots!
Carrots would have to be one of the things new gardeners struggle with the most. They can be intimidating, they can be tricky, they can feel like the enemy BUT all you have to do is get a few things right and you are basically guaranteed success.
The first carrots I ever grew were dismal to say the least. I planted from a punnet of bought seedlings (first mistake), into a shaded bed (second mistake), with dense soil (third mistake), fed with liquid fertiliser (fourth mistake) and about 90 days later harvested some super impressive carrot tops with the tiniest carrots you ever did see. (Photo evidence to the right, they actually appear bigger in the photo than they were, imagine the size of a 20 cent coin)
In gardening, there are a fair few 'rules.' Some are 100% made to be broken but when it comes to carrots its pretty beneficial to consider and follow the 'rules.' Here are the main ones when it comes to carrots:
Grow from Seed and Direct Sow - Carrots will grow best when their roots are undisturbed so grow from seed and sow them where you intend them to live for the next 90 days. Yes, there are a few new wiz bang ways to start carrots elsewhere and transplant but generally speaking this is the way to do it. When you attempt to transplant carrot seedlings, you often end up with wonky roots as they can get damaged during the transplanting process. Basically, when growing carrots you want to protect the root at all costs and minimise all disturbance.
Give them Full Sun - one of my favourite growing quotes is 'if you grow it for the root or the fruit, you need full sun. If you grow it for the leaves, partial shade is all you need.' This is very true and given you are growing carrots for the root, you need to give them a full sun position in the garden.
Loose Soil, Free of Debris - carrots like a loose soil, free of debris such as rocks so they can grow freely, without any obstruction. If you have beds containing rocks, hard chunks or anything similar in, try and remove them before growing carrots.
Avoid over Fertilising, No Liquid Feeds - over fertilising can lead to split roots and impressive carrot tops with nothing underneath. Make sure you don’t add too much nitrogen and nutrients to your beds before planting. Liquid feeds are bad news for carrots as they will grow the tops rather than the root.
Water Consistently - Consistent watering is so important for carrots and, albeit, somewhat out of our control depending on what happens rain wise during a season. Nonetheless it is something to aim for. Water your carrots consistently and deeply. The carrot root will grow further down into the soil as it seeks out water so a deep soak will encourage this. If you fail to properly water carrots you can end up with strange deformed or forked roots.
Preparation is key when it comes to growing beautiful carrots. Make sure their home ticks all of these boxes and you will soon be harvesting delicious homegrown beauties.
Manpukuji Carrots, a Japanese heirloom variety that grows to be extra large. This particular time I grew them they ended up at a whopping 67cm
Growing Carrots From Seed
You can direct sow your carrots in whatever way you like (I have my own quirky way of doing it) however there is a universally recognised way to sow them. Carrot seeds are quite small, making them difficult to sow individually. Their size also means that you need to sow them at a shallow depth for germination to occur. How you want to sow them is up to you. You can sprinkle seed over the garden bed with the intent to thin them out later (you can also mix the seed with sand to get better spacing) or space them out a little more to avoid having to thin further down the track. However you decide to sow them, make sure they are only sown at a depth of about 5mm. Cover very lightly with soil and water in well.
Maintaining moisture while you are waiting for your seeds to germinate is important. Carrots can take anywhere from 7 - 21 days to germinate meaning this can sometimes be tricky. There are a few ways to do this. You can commit to watering well everyday and making sure the soil stays moist. You can also cover your carrot seeds with burlap or even a wooden plank to help with moisture retention.
What are the best companions for Carrots?
Radishes are excellent companions for Carrots. I always interplant radishes when I am sowing carrots. They are a fast growing crop while carrots are a slow growing crop, so they work to loosen the soil and grow to full maturity way before the carrots will fill out and need the space. Radishes are also an excellent decoy for slugs and they will go for the radish tops rather than your tiny carrot seedlings that are taking their time to germinate and grow. Interplanting Chives is also said to improve the flavour of carrots.
Can I grow Carrots in pots?
You can absolutely grow Carrots in pots! Just make sure you have a deep enough pot/container/grow bag for the carrot roots and nice loose soil. Choose your variety carefully, favouring those that won't grow too long. Make sure whatever you are using has drainage holes in the bottom as if water gets clogged in the container, your carrots will rot. It is also important to make sure you water regularly as soil in pots has a tendency to dry out quickly. It is a good idea to mulch your container carrots once they have germinated to help with moisture retention.
What is the easiest Carrot variety to grow?
In my opinion, Nantes is the most user friendly carrot and perfect for beginners.
How Do I Know When to Thin my Carrots?
You should thin your carrots when they are around 5cm tall and have a couple of true leaves and then, if needed thin again at around 10cm. It is important not the hesitate on thinning as carrots grown too close together can have a significant impact on the development of the root. I like to use scissors when thinning rather than yanking them out of the ground for minimal root disturbance. It's also a good idea to thin your carrots when the soil is moist as you have less chance of disturbing neighbouring roots.
Why are the Top of my Carrot Roots Green?
When carrots are exposed to the sun it causes chlorophyll to develop and turns the section of the carrot green. Just cut this part of the carrot off after harvesting and eat the rest.
Why are my Carrots so Small?
There are a few reasons your carrots may not grow to their full potential. Lots of these reasons are discussed above, but to reiterate it could be any of the following: Your soil may be too compacted resulting in stunted roots, your soil may be too rich in nutrients, especially nitrogen, your carrots may be overcrowded or under watered. All of these can result in small or spindly carrots.
How Do I Know When My Carrots Are Ready To Harvest?
Carrots are usually ready to harvest around 90 days from sowing seed. A simple way to check is to lightly dig around the top of the carrot and see whats developing underneath. This will give you a good idea of how big they are and if they are ready to eat. In some cases, the tops will also start to pop out of the ground.
Why not try growing your own carrots?
Carrot Nantes, $3.95
Nantes is one of our favourite carrot varieties - tasty and by far the easiest carrot to grow.
Carrot Rainbow Mix, $3.95
A classic mix of heirloom carrots spanning the rainbow!
Carrot Atomic Red, $4.95
A gorgeous deep red carrot with an orange core that develops further in colour when cooked.