Today, let’s focus on one vegetable that is quite a staple and everyone loves but most people are clueless as to how it grows – Carrots. We have just started introducing the cultivation of carrots with our students on Let’s Go Farming on Tv3.
Carrots are easy to grow as long as they are planted in loose, sandy soil. Depending on the variety and local growing conditions, carrots can take anywhere from 2 to 4 months to mature.
The importance of Soil for carrots
Proper soil preparation is extremely important for carrot-growing! If the carrot roots can’t easily grow unobstructed, it can lead to stunted and misshapen crops.
Here’s what to do to prepare your garden soil:
- Till down 12 inches and make sure there are no rocks, stones, or even soil clumps which could impede your carrots’ growth.
- Avoid amending the soil with nitrogen-rich material such as manure and fertilizer, which can cause carrots to fork and grow little side-roots. Instead, work in old coffee grounds.
- If your ground soil is heavy clay or too rocky, you should consider planting carrots in a raised bed at least 12 inches deep and filled with airy, loamy soil (not clay nor silt).
Finally: Don’t expect to get perfectly straight ‘grocery store’ carrots. Your carrots will still taste better, whatever their shape!
- We recommend sowing seeds directly in the garden (or wherever you plan to grow them) rather than transplanting. Carrots do not like to have their roots disturbed.
- Sow ¼ inch deep, 2 to 3 inches apart in rows 1 foot apart.
Tip: Try to distribute seed in an even fashion so that seeds don’t grow together. Use a seed-sower or thin vigorously to the right spacing.
- Keep the soil moist with frequent shallow watering. For small carrot seeds to germinate, the soil mustn’t form a hard crust on top; cover with a layer of vermiculite or fine compost to prevent a crust from forming. (If you put your finger in the ground, it should be moist, but not wet, to the middle knuckle.)
- Carrots are sometimes slow to germinate. They may take 2 to 3 weeks to show any sign of life, so don’t panic if your carrots don’t appear right away!
How to grow carrots
- Gently mulchcarrots to retain moisture, speed germination, and block the sun from hitting the roots directly.
- When seedlings are an inch tall, thin so that they stand 3 to 4 inches apart. Snip tops with scissors instead of pulling them out to prevent damage to the fragile roots of the remaining plants.
- Water at least one inch (about ½ gallon per square foot) per week to start, then two inches as roots mature.
- Weed diligently, but be careful not to disturb the young carrots’ roots while doing so.
- Fertilise with a low-nitogen but high-potassium and phosphate fertiliser 5 to 6 weeks after sowing. (Note that excess nitrogen in the soil promotes top, or foliage, growth—not roots.)
How and when to harvest carrots
- Generally, the smaller the carrot the better its taste.
- Harvest whenever desired maturity or size is reached. Carrots should be about as wide as your thumb or at least ½ an inch in diameter.
- Harvest before daily temperatures get too hot, as the heat can cause carrot roots to grow fibrous.
- Note:Carrots are biennial. If you fail to harvest and leave the carrots in the ground, the tops will flower and produce seeds in the next year.
How do you store fresh carrots?
- To store freshly-harvested carrots, twist or cut off all but ½ inch of the tops, scrub off any dirt under cold running water and air-dry. Seal in airtight plastic bags, and refrigerate. If you simply put fresh carrots in the refrigerator, they’ll go limp in a few hours.
- You may leave mature carrots in the soil for temporary storage if the ground will not freeze and pests aren’t a problem.
- Carrots can also be stored in tubs of moist sand or dry sawdust in a cool, dry area.