Carrots are the quintessential root vegetable – they are fun to grow, harvest and eat, containing high levels of levels of vitamins and carotene – the substance that gives carrots their characteristic orange colour (however not all carrots are orange!).
Carrots whilst popular, are not easy to grow well as they don’t transplant well and require loose, sandy soil to grow long and straight. Most varieties of carrots are resistant to pests and diseases, and they are also a good late season crop that can tolerate frost.
The two biggest challenges with growing perfect carrots are seeding and weeding. This article will provide some solutions two both of these challenges so that you can grow long and straight carrots!
Soil preparation and requirements
- Carrots like loose, well-aerated soil that’s been worked quite deeply with a broadfork (include link) (article – the benefits of a broadfork)
- Carrots don’t like high nitrogen fertiliser or excessive fresh manure. Evidence of either of these problems can be seen by hairy roots forming on the carrot
- The crop is not a heavy feeder, and fertilising with compost once every two years seems to be enough to meet its needs
- Make sure your soil is free of stones. Stones obstruct the path of carrot roots, which can result in a stunted and misshapen crop.
- Carrots do not transplant well and require direct seeding
- Plant seeds 3 to 4 inches apart in rows that are as straight as possible. Five rows can be planted within a 30 inch wide bed. This is best done using a direct seeding tool like a Jang Seeder
- Since carrots take a long time to germinate (usually 8-15 days) it is important the soil surface be kept very moist so that it does not harden or dry out by the time the fragile plants emerge
- Carrots grown from seed take between two and four months to mature depending on the variety
Weed control and carrots:
With soil preparation done correctly the biggest hurdle you will face with growing perfect carrots will be good weed control. Carrots are prone to weed infestation problems due to the prolonged germination time of the seeds. The best weed control strategy for growing carrots is pre-emergence flame weeding
What is pre-emergence flame weeding and how do you do it?
Flame weeding works well with the stale seedbed technique which involves
- Preparing seedbeds a few weeks prior to the seeding date to allow the weeds in the top few inches of soil to germinate
- Usually the top soil surface would be shallowly cultivated again using a hoe to destroy the emerging weeds
- By using the flame weeder as an alternative to the cultivation using a hoe you reduce the stirring action of the soil which prevents buried weed seeds from coming up to the surface
- This can be further improved by directly seeding your carrots into the prepared seedbeds around one week after preparation directly into a bed with young weeds emerging. Now, relying on knowing your germination dates of your crops (ie. carrots emerge 8-15 days after seeding), flame weed your bed just prior to carrot germination day.
- This provides essentially a weed free bed for the carrots to thrive in and minimises your labour by removing the need to cultivate the bed
- Jean-Martin Fortier, author of the best-selling book – The Market Gardener believes that “pre-emergence burning in the ultimate way of providing weed-free beds for slow germination crops that are direct seeded such as carrots, beetroot and parsnips”
- Carrots develop their colour at the same time meaning they can be harvested as soon as they look good to eat
- Carrots should be mature and ready to harvest after 2-4 months – you can decide when to harvest depending on the size of carrot you want
- Watering the soil right before harvest makes carrots easier to loosen up out of the ground with a fork
- Carrots can remain stored in the soil for quite some time but if you notice your carrots have split you can assume the carrots were left to long to harvest
How do you store fresh carrots?
- You may leave mature carrots in the soil for temporary storage if the ground will not freeze and pest pressure is minimal
- To store freshly-harvested carrots, twist off the tops, scrub the dirt off under cold running water and let dry
- Place in a cool space – or our favourite preference is in a coolroom powered by a Coolbot (click here for $20 discount!) and Air conditioner. More info about Coolbots can be found here.