How to Grow Carrots
Carrots can be a troublesome crop for some growers and a breeze for others. I've had mixed success over the years. Probably because I have not always given them the attention they deserve. The main problems encountered are forking, bolting to seed and splitting. These are caused by excess nitrogen in the soil, transplanting seedlings, heavy soils and inconsistent watering. I suffer from heavy clay soils. See the soils page for dealing with this.
You can plant carrots from either seed or seedling, but I prefer to stick with seeds as everytime I have planted seedlings, they've either forked or bolted, or both. Depending on the variety, the can be planted most of the year in most climates, you just have to select the right one's to suit you. If you have heavy soils and don't want to fix it, then stick to the round varieties. Carrots prefer light soils with good drainage and plenty of aged, well rotted organic matter. Heavy soils and/or excess fertiliser will cause the carrots to either fork or bolt to seed. Neither are then any good for eating.
If growing from seed, it is important to ensure the seed doesn't dry out othewise it will fail to germinate. As the seedlings emerge, you will need to thin out the crop periodically to ensure there is enough room for growth. In later weeks, these can be eaten as baby carrots.
This season, the heirloom purple skinned variety we've grown have been very successful sown direct into their beds. We have also grown baby carrots quite successfully in pots. Rather than thinning these out early after germination, we left these to develope further and then thin them as immature carrots, perfect for using whole with dips and cheese!
Position: Full Sun
Plant: In light, deep, friable well drained soil after a previously harvested leaf crop
Frost Tolerant: Yes, but only light frosts. Heat tolerant: Yes, but dislike inconsistent watering and must be kept moist but not wet in very hot conditions otherwise splitting occurs.
Feeding: Carrots are not very tolerant of acidity in soils and prefer a ph range of 6.5 to 7.5 and nice friable soil is a must for normal development. They need a higher amount of nitrogen and potassium, but too much causes forking, so the best course is to ensure that the bed is prepared with well rotted manure.
Planting group: Grown with other root crops. Dislike heavily composted and manured soils
Pests: The biggest concern here is carrot virus. Spread by aphids, affected plants get yellow spots over the leaves and stems and must be dug up and burnt or thrown away. DO NOT COMPOST THEM. The Chantenay variety seems to be most susceptible to this so either avoid them or sow them in the summer months when the Aphids are less active.
Harvesting: If your soil is light enough, they shold readily pull from the soil when ready, otherwise carefully loosen the soil around them with a trowell to assist in lifting them. Twist off the green top growth immediately, otherwise it will draw moisture from the root and cause it to go limp.