Sweet, crunchy and delicious raw or cooked, carrots are extra rewarding vegetables to home-grow. The bright orange roots, topped by a cluster of ferny leaves, grow rapidly, and you can harvest them even when they’re quite young - in fact baby carrots are extra sweet. Nothing beats pulling a bunch of carrots fresh from the soil, rinsing them clean and tucking right in – it’s crunch heaven!
Sow to Grow
Unlike some vegetables, which are easier to grow from seedlings, carrots are always best grown from seed, sown directly into the garden bed. The reason is that they hate being transplanted – after transplanting, they often produce multiple shoots (called ‘forking’) instead of the one main root. Fresh manure or fertilizer in the soil can also cause forking, so it’s always best to add your fertilisers about three or four weeks before you sow the seeds.
Prepare the soil well by digging it to about 20 – 30cm and make sure it has a nice loamy texture - carrots don’t like encountering any lumps or clods of hard ground as they tunnel down. Create shallow furrows (about 5mm deep) and sprinkle the seeds along the base. Then cover the seeds with a thin layer of fine soil, or seed-raising mix, and water gently. Because carrot seeds are so small, you can also mix them with a little fine sand to make it easier to sow them evenly. When the seedlings reach about 5cm high, thin them out, leaving about 5cm between plants. Another sowing option is to use seed-tapes – these are paper tapes impregnated with seeds, which are simply rolled out, covered with soil and watered.
While they can be sown pretty much all year round, carrots grow especially well through the milder months of spring and autumn. In fact, they’re an ideal crop to follow on after your summer harvest of tomatoes, beans and zucchinis comes to an end, around February or March. Avoid sowing them in late autumn or winter, as they can run to seed without forming roots.