- Carrots require loose soil that contains plenty of organic matter, weed-free growing conditions, and consistently moist soil to thrive.
- Directly sow carrot seeds mixed with river sand in early spring or as soon as the threat of severe frosts has abated.
- Thin carrot seedlings to achieve a final spacing of between 2 and 4 inches.
- Carrot rust flies are the main pest to watch out for. These pests are attracted by the scent of carrots. Row covers and companion planting are usually effective measures to deter carrot rust flies.
- Carrots are ready to eat as soon as they have developed full color. Remove roots from the ground by hand when soil is moist.
Home-grown organic carrots are simply fantastic. They taste far superior to anything you’ll purchase in a store and they’re packed full of vitamins and antioxidants. Best of all, they’re easy to grow. Follow this simple guide and start growing your own organic carrots.
Choosing a site
- Carrots prefer cool growing conditions but are susceptible to frost. Choose a site in full sun.
- Carrots like rich, well-drained, loose, crumbly soil that is not over-fertilized. Carrots will become misshapen if the roots hit stones, if the plants are over-crowded, or if the soil is over-fertilized with manure.
- Carrot varieties can be grouped into three main types: round-, short-, and long-rooted.
- Round-rooted carrots are non-tapering varieties and are best for very early crops.
- Short-rooted carrots are best for open sowings on shallow soils.
- Long-rooted carrots are tapering varieties that require deep, rich soil. Avoid growing long-rooted carrots in heavy clay, stony, or shallow ground.
- Although carrots will grow in heavy clay soils, they do best in deep, light soil that enables taproot penetration.
- Root growth will be poor in heavy, clay soils, and carrots will be forked and misshapen. Consider growing carrots in containers or in raised beds where the soil is of good quality.
- The ideal soil pH is 6.0 – 6.5.
Preparing the soil
- Add plenty of organic matter to the soil six months before planting. Make sure that all organic matter is well rotted down before planting.
- Remove rocks, stones, and other obstacles from the soil that might prevent root penetration and cause carrots to fork.
- If growing in a predominantly clay-based soil, double dig to aerate and loosen.
- Carrot seed is extremely fine and hard to sow thinly. Mix carrot seed half-and-half with fine sand to reduce planting density. This will minimize the need for thinning later on, which tends to attracts carrot rust flies.
- Sow directly into the soil in early spring or as soon as the threat of severe frost is no longer present.
- Plant thinly in rows about 1/2in (1cm) deep with 6-8in (15-20cm) between the rows. Firm the seedbed gently with the back of a hand trowel.
- Plant successive crops every couple of weeks until three months before fall frost.
- While planting, keep in mind the fact that carrot root flies are attracted to the scent of carrots. Consider planting companions, such as onions, to help mask the smell of the carrots.
- When the seedlings are 2-3in tall, thin them so that the eventual spacing is about 2 to 4 inches apart. If you don’t thin your carrots, they won’t grow large enough to eat. The seedlings removed will have tender roots that will be large enough to eat.
- While thinning, remove weed seedlings as well.
- Germination occurs in around 10-14 days. Keep the soil moist (though not too wet) during this time.
- Young plants tend to grow slowly at first. Weed control is important during this time. Remove weeds by hand.
- Keep the plants constantly moist (yet not overwatered) until harvest occurs. Too little water will result in coarse, woody roots with uneven surfaces.
- As long as plenty of organic matter has been added to the soil and the soil has been looked after, additional fertilizer should be unnecessary.
Harvesting and storing
- Harvest carrots as soon as they have reached the desired size. Harvest baby carrots first. Pull out other varieties as they become ready or harvest every second carrot as a baby carrot and leave the rest to mature.
- Pull the roots from the ground by hand. In heavier soils, gently ease out with a garden folk.
- Before storing, clean the roots and trim the foliage to 1/2in (1cm). Store healthy roots in boxes of sand located in a cool, dry place. Ensure the roots are not touching each other.
- Check stored carrots routinely and discard any that are damaged. Maincrop carrots will keep until early spring.
- Carrots keep well in open storage for about 2 weeks but even better in the refrigerator crisper tray.
- To freeze, slice or dice carrots, blanch for 3-4 minutes, drain, package, and freeze.
Pests and diseases
- Carrot rust flies are the main pest to watch out for. The adult fly lays an egg near the carrot, and the small larvae tunnel into the carrot root. Erect a barrier of fleece or fine mesh around the crop to prevent the flies from laying eggs.
- Aphids are sometimes a problem. Watch for wilted, yellow, curled, or misshapen leaves. Physical removal of aphids is usually effective. For more serious infestations use a capsicum-based spray.
- Fungal leaf blight can also pose a problem. Remove all leaves that appear dark and contain yellow-bordered spots. Spray remaining leaves with fish emulsion to promote new growth.
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