Sticks and stones may break my bones and make my carrots wonky!

HOW TO GROW CARROTS                  

Carrots should be easy enough to grow, the ones in the store are all pretty much the same size and shape and are as cheap as chips. How hard could it be?

However carrots are actually quite fussy and so getting a good carrot requires a bit of a knack. But once you know how you will be able to amaze your friends and family with carrots to be proud of. You will also find that the freshest carrots taste completely different from store bought ones and are so much sweeter, so will be worth taking the time to grow great carrots.

Like most veggies they need full sun in well-drained soil and the key to growing carrots is all in the soil. It is quite important to grow carrots in their forever home. If you grow them in seed trays you will disturb the roots and you will end up with funny shaped carrots. I did this once and my carrots were all L shaped and really difficult to peel!

When preparing the garden for carrots there are two key things you need to consider:

  1. Don’t add organic material to the soil. Carrots hate it, especially if it is fresh. This can cause them to come out in the weirdest shapes. You can feed them with a liquid feed as they grow or enrich the soil with an all-purpose fertiliser as per the directions on the pack, but don’t add compost or manure to your carrot soil.
  2. Carrots hate lumps and bumps in its soil.   If a carrot root hits a stick or a stone as it grows it will fork so it can grow around it. If there are many obstacles in the soil then you can end up with a carrot that more closely resembles an octopus. The best way to prepare the soil is to loosen it up to a spades depth, which is about right for the size of a carrot and remove any sticks and stones you can find. You can sieve your soil or just have a bit of a rummage around with your hands.

If you plant your seeds in the afternoon into sun warmed soil you will have more success than if you sow them into cold claggy soil.

Make a line with a stick just less than 1 cm deep – no more, and try and sprinkle the seeds as thinly as possible. You need to imagine the size of a full grown carrot when sowing the tiny seeds. The final spacing is about 5cm apart, but you can sow them closer than that and thin out the weaker carrots when they are about a month or so old. That way you get well spaced carrots and gourmet baby carrots to eat.

How to grow carrots

Once you have scattered your seeds along the row, lightly cover and firm down so they have good contact with the soil, and pop a label on the end so you know where they are. Keep the row moist, and your carrots should pop up in 2 – 3 weeks.

Bear in mind the seed leaves of carrots look a little like grass, so be careful weeding around your carrots until you see the frilly true leaves or you may pull out your carrots by mistake.

Carrots take 12 – 14 weeks to be as big as the ones in the store, but you don’t need to harvest them all at once, just take what you need.

If you sow another row about 20cm away from your first row every 6 weeks you will end up with a continual supply of carrots.

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Sarah O’Neil lives on a small 3 acre lifestyle block. The family moved from the big city to the country in 2007. Sarah has published 3 books, including The Good Life, four glorious seasons in my country garden. She's also an award-winning blogger, winning a Yates Vegie Growing Challenge and still writes regularly. Visit Sarah’s website at sarahthegardener.co.nz.

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