Providing you keep to a few simple rules, growing carrots is fairly easy. They are one of the root vegetables which nearly every kid will like eating and hence be keen to plant, and digging them up is even more fun than sowing them!
While we tend to think of carrots as always being orange, there are actually white, red, yellow and purple carrots too! Imagine a snowman with a purple nose ...
Carrots varieties include short, medium and long-rooted types.
The short-rooted carrots can be suitable for growing in containers or deep window boxes and even include small round ball-like types. They are the earliest to be sown and the quickest to mature. Small, quick and tasty! Good varieties to go for are the Parmex (a round type) or the Ideal Speedy Seeds (a type of Nantes which is used as a baby vegetable and ideal for growing in containers on patios).
The medium-rooted types are sown slightly later than the short-rooted carrots and are usually the best bet for harvesting a successful crop.
The long-rooted varieties take the longest to mature and are the most fussy about the quality of the ground. Fine for showing off, but not the sweetest taste.
The main enemy of the carrot is the carrot fly, which is attracted to the wonderful smell given off by the foliage. Onion, leeks and black salsify help to repel carrot fly, as do the herbs rosemary, wormwood and sage.
Carrots also grow well with tomatoes, chives, lettuce, and radishes - the latter is often sown together in a row with carrots, as it germinates and grows quicker and therefore indicates where the carrots are growing!
Carrots can be sown outside in situ from around the middle of March until the end of June or July. They germinate in 2 to 3 weeks , and take between 2 to 4 months to mature fully, depending on the variety chosen. Chose a sunny spot. Check your seed packet for more detailed information on that varieties prefered sowing time.
Before sowing the carrots, ensure the ground has been well dug over and is free of weeds and stones. If the ground is a bit hard or clayey, dig in some sand or peat to lighten the soil up, but not fresh compost or manure. In fact, carrots should not be grown on a patch which has been manured during the previous year.
If growing carrots in at least two adjacent rows, leave a gap of about 6 inches between the rows.
Keep the carrots well watered during long, dry spells. Carrot seedlings are quite weak, so keeping the ground damp while they germinate and start to pop their heads through the ground is a must. Radishes planted with them will also help by loosening the ground.
Try to grow some of the companion plants mentioned above next to or at least near the carrots to help avoid them being destroyed by the carrot fly.
When the time comes to dig the carrots up, use a garden fork to loosen the ground around the carrots before pulling.
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