I know from experience that carrots do not transplant at all. You need to sew them where they grow and factor in to loose a portion of your crop when you thin them out, unless they are big enough to add to a salad when you do the thinning. In an effort to grow carrots earlier we learnt a little trick which subsequently led us to growing a better crop, paper pots and toilet roll middles. It is easy to sew a few seeds onto the top of a deep paper pot filled with compost. The benefits include;
- You can get your crop off early in a green house or cold frame,
- the carrot root gets a good stone free length before it hits solid soil
- as the pot is biodegradable it can be planted with the seedling so you don’t disturb the root when moving and planting it.
- Thinning out the crop to one carrot per pot can happen away from the bed and help reduce Carrot Root Fly issues.
If you use a paper potter make sure you open a hole in the base of the pot when you transplant so that the root can extend and mature once planted. Check regularly for signs that the root has grown to the bottom of the pot as it will need planting out at this stage. For a really long pot try using a rolling pin as a guide.
Short carrot varieties are best for growing early, main crop later. As the sewing season is quite long, from March to August, if you have the space you can sew several crops throughout the warmer months, planting as space becomes available where other crops have been cleared.
Like most plants carrots like specific soil conditions to do really well. If you can’t manage perfection, like me, don’t despair as you can still be successful. Carrots prefer a slightly sandy stone free soil. They do not like well prepared manured and composted beds, it is best to dig over to loosen the soil especially if you have heavy clay. Stones make the roots fork, so as you loosen the soil it is a good time to remove any you come across.
If sewing in situ mark out a shallow valley approx 5 cm deep, sew a thin row of seeds along the valley bottom, water in and lightly cover, the rows should be approx 10cm apart. Make sure you write up some plant markers or labels as until the first leaves start to show you might forget what is in the row. You should start to see your young shoots after 3 weeks.
As the leaves get taller and your crop starts to thicken you need to decide whether to thin out the crop or not. Carrot root fly is the biggest issue with this vegetable and they can smell the carrots from a long way away. Thinning out your crop generates lots of that carroty smell. Thinning encourages bigger carrots and space to hoe weeds, plus any thinnings, I am told, taste great eaten raw with a salad. Not thinning encourages a closely packed row of smaller carrots, as they have less space to expand, and the weeds you’ll need to remove by hand. We tend leave our carrots alone and while we do get a little fly damage I cut it away when I prepare my veg. The waste is fine to go in the compost bin.
Growing hints and tips
- To avoid getting green tops, which are edible but unsightly, it is best to earth up your crop if the tops start to show. The sunlight exposure causes the greening so keep your carrots covered and they will be orange from top to bottom, or purple or yellow which ever colour you choose to grow.
- Apparently carrot root fly dont fly above 45cm from ground level. You can try to divert them by erecting a 50 cm barrier around you carrots.
- Marigolds and parsley make good companion plants for carrots as the smell they generate disguises the smell of the carrots and confuses Carrot Root Fly.
- As you harvest try picking alternate carrots along the row. This is a form of thinning out and allows plenty of space for the remaining carrots to expand.