Carrots are one of the most satisfying vegetables to grow yourself. An everyday staple of most shopping lists, growing your own can also save some cash. Garden or allotment grown carrots also have a much nicer taste than their supermarket counterparts. They are also the perfect vegetable to help children understand the growing process. For your carrot crop to be successful it is important that you appropriately cultivate a bed for the best yield.
When to grow carrots
Carrots are normally sown outdoors between the months of March and July. It is possible to plant them three to five weeks before the predicted last frost date in your location. To get them started earlier consider growing in a green house or under a cloche so the soil is warmed. During the mid to late spring and summer months it is best to grow carrots outside as they prefer cool conditions.
Cultivating the carrot bed
Remove any weeds that currently occupy the bed. Once germinated carrots need to be able to push its root downwards in to the soil. Dig the bed over breaking up any large lumps. Keep digging over and breaking up the soil until it has a fine consistency. If your soil is clay or otherwise difficult to break up consider mixing in sand in the top four inches. This will make it easier for the carrot root to grow.
Sowing carrot seeds
Once cultivated use a trowel to drill a trench half an inch deep. Separate rows by four inches. Sow the seeds thinly as this will make it easier to thin out the seedlings once they germinate. Gently push the soil over the carrot seeds and water lightly.
Thinning carrot seedlings
Once the seeds begin to germinate you will need to thin the seedlings to give the carrots the best chance of pushing down. If grown too close together the roots will fight for the space around them preventing them from growing downwards or grow in odd shapes! Once the plants are about four inches tall remove the weaker looking plants so the remaining plants are a distance of about an inch apart. A month later thin the plants so that they are two inches apart. At this stage the carrots you pull up will make a tasty addition to a salad.
Harvest your crop about ten weeks after sowing. Check your seed packet as this will vary a week or two depending on the variety. Use a trowel to push down a couple of inches away from the plant and push down to scoop up and loosen the soil. With your other hand gently pull on the carrot plant to pull it up from the soil.
Storing home grown carrots
Carrots can be kept fresh for about ten days or longer if properly prepared and refrigerated. If storing in the refrigerator make sure to remove all of the green plant as this will draw moisture and rot the carrot root. Keep the carrots as dry as possible in the refrigerator to make them last as long as possible. Use your own judgement to know when the carrots are no longer suitable for consumption.
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A great partner in the root vegetable category are potatoes. Learn how to grow potatoes by viewing the articles in our How To Grow series – How To Grow: Potatoes.