How to grow carrots

Do you want delicious carrots dense with flavours and nutrients? Then, it’s worth growing your own carrots at home.

Apart from the traditional long orange roots, there are carrot varieties available in red, yellow and purple colours that you can consider for growing in your vegetable garden.

Carrots are one of the most popular vegetable crops that grow in several varieties all over the globe.

Loaded with vitamins and other essential nutrients, they can be either cooked or eaten raw. 

However, not all varieties are suitable for growing in the UK climate and there is a specific technique for growing the best crops.

There’s nothing like growing your own vegetables at home and this page will help you be successful.

To help you grow fresh, juicy carrots easily at home, here is a step-by-step guide.

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Table of Contents

Recommended Varieties

Here is a list of carrot varieties that are suitable for growing in the UK climate:

1. Sweet Candle AGM (Our Favourite!)

This is the best variety that produces high yielding, exceptional quality carrots when you sow in late summer. The sweet candle carrots have a rich orange colour and they are more on the sweeter side in taste. The roots of these carrots have a cylindrical shape with round tips. This variety of carrot has uniform roots and has been the most favourite among the exhibitors.

2. Adelaide AGM

It is one of the early varieties that can be sown in February or March in a cold frame or under a cloche. This variety is quite easy to plant and take care of when you sow in early spring. The cylindrical-shaped orange roots are juicy, crunchy and they have a unique sweet taste.

3. Flyaway AGM

As the name suggests, it is a reliable cultivar owing to its good resistance to the dreaded carrot fly, a common problem in UK gardens. The blunt-ended roots of this cultivar have a deep orange colour and excellent sweet flavour. You can sow the seeds of flyaway carrots from March to July.

4. Bangor AGM

It is another high yielding cultivar producing excellent quality main crop carrots. The bangor carrots can be identified by the large roots that can resist cracking and greening. This cultivar stores well when you harvest the roots from late summer to autumn.

5. Purple Haze

This hybrid cultivar produces unique purple coloured carrots that are orange inside. The purple haze carrots are usually eaten raw for the flavour. The smooth carrot roots are quite heavy and they have a smooth texture.

6. Atomic Red

Though famous in the Asian continent, atomic carrots can be produced in the UK to get that stunning red colour in a lot of recipes. Lycopene is the main agent in these carrots that makes them look bright red. The sweet carrots taste better when slightly cooked.

7. Yellowstone

This variety produces cylindrical roots that are yellow in shade and have a crunchy texture. The yellow roots have strong feathery tops that are green in colour. Yellowstone carrots taste sweet and are about 10 inches long when mature.

purple haze carrots

Planting

Carrots grow directly from seeds and they take up very little space in the garden. You can also grow carrots in containers. If you sow small batches of different varieties from early spring, you will be able to harvest fresh crops throughout the year.

Sowing

Carrots, also known as Daucus Carota, need plenty of sunlight and well drained soil to grow healthily. Homegrown carrots may not be as uniform as the supermarket carrots but they do taste better when you sow carrot seed correctly. Neither heavy soil nor clay soil is good for carrots as the carrot plants are naturally drought resistant. Hence, you do not need to put in extra effort to keep the soil moist. However, also make sure that you do not sow the seeds in sandy soil. Good soil preparation for carrots would be to use well rotted manure or garden compost.

To avoid stunted or forked carrots, you can try cultivating short rooted ones or sow the seeds in a container or a raised bed. You can choose the early varieties to sow seeds from early spring. The main crop varieties can be sown from late spring to mid summer. You can find all the above seeds at the nearest garden centre or online. Seed packets usually contain plenty of seeds. Here is how you can sow carrots seeds outdoors.

Sowing Outdoors

The best season for sowing carrot seeds outdoors is from April to early July. Before sowing, you need to prepare the area by digging to the depth of spades and removing weeds or stones. Then, you can use any compost or fertiliser to enrich the soil. After this, you need to allow the soil to consolidate. You should make sure to sow seeds as thinly as possible. Sow the seeds 1cm deep and keep the rows 20-30cm apart. You need to have patience as some seeds may need time to germinate.

Sowing Indoors

Carrots are perfect for indoors or if you have a little space in your garden. You can use multi-purpose compost in a deep container to grow carrots indoors. Make sure the place gets enough sun and you water the seeds regularly. The best cultivars for indoors are the small, round rooted ones as they won’t crack easily. Long carrots can also be sown indoors but you have to either transplant the seedlings later or harvest the crops when they are young, which are known as baby carrots.

Sowing Tips

As the seedlings grow, they can be affected by slugs and snails. Hence, keep the area protected by using horticultural fleece or net. If necessary, you can thin out the carrot seedlings so that they can get enough space to grow. For carrots, sowing in small batches is a better idea and you can do the same by sowing every three to four weeks. You will get continuous harvests if you follow this method.

Growing

Though carrots hardly need water when growing, you may need to water them daily during long dry spells. The fast-growing weeds have a tendency of crowding out carrots rapidly. Hence, you need to remove weeds between rows on a regular basis. While weeding or thinning, make sure you don’t end up crushing the foliage as carrot flies can be easily attracted to the smells of the flesh.

planting and growing carrots

Harvesting

It usually takes 12–16 weeks to harvest carrots after sowing. For this reason, it is possible to ensure a continuous harvest of carrots all year round when you grow in batches. You need to harvest carrots as soon as you see they have grown enough for use. If you wait too long for the largest roots, you may end up sacrificing their flavour after harvest. While harvesting, if you notice that the soil is quite heavy, you can use a fork to loosen it and then gently lift the roots. This method of harvesting carrots can never go wrong if you expect the best quality crop.

harvesting carrots

Common Problems and Remedies

Carrots can grow easily when you follow the above tips but some cultivars are vulnerable to diseases and pests. To help you protect your carrots from such common problems, here are the best remedies provided.

Carrot Fly

Developing carrots can be troublesome when you notice a carrot fly attack. The black bodied small fly causes a severe problem by laying eggs on soil from which larvae grow. The larvae then feed on and tunnel into carrot roots, which cause them to rot.

Remedy

Once a carrot is attacked by carrot flies, there is nothing you can do about it. Hence, prevention can be the best option so that new fresh carrots are not attacked easily. As you hand weed or thin out the seedlings, avoid crushing the foliage. Also, sow thinly to avoid the occurrence of this problem. Another way to prevent carrot fly is by using a horticultural fleece such as Enviromesh to cover the plants. Or, you can make a high barrier of 60cm using clear polythene to surround your carrots so that the low flying female flies do not enter the soil.

Aphids

Greenflies known as Aphids can be a real threat to vegetable farmers as they harm plant growth by sucking sap and excreting a sticky honeydew. They can also lead to the growth of black sooty moulds, which affect plant health. The colonies of Aphids can be easily spotted on the leaves and the soft shoot tips of carrot plants.

Remedy

You can protect your carrots from Aphids by following three useful methods. First, squash aphid colonies using your thumbs or fingers. Make sure you wear a rubber glove before touching them. Secondly, if you are growing carrots in a greenhouse, you can use biological control to prevent Aphids. Thirdly, if you are growing outdoors, you can include other vegetables and herbs such as leeks, spring onions and mint. The aromatic leaves of these plants deter both Aphids and root flies. This way, you can leave carrots to grow healthily without any worry.

carrot deterioration due to carrot fly
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Oliver Wright

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