How to grow Carrots

There are few vegetables that taste better when they are home grown than carrots. Freshly pulled, sweet and full of favour compared to what can be bland and watery 'shop bought' versions. You don't need to stick to traditional orange either. There are purple, yellow and white varieties to try and many shapes and sizes as well.

Should you grow carrots from seed?

Carrots are one crop we recommend always sowing form seed.  You can buy tiny carrot plants but carrot flies are attracted to the smell of the bruised leaves so the chance of you planting them without attracting the dreaded carrot fly is remote.  

Where to grow carrots

Although they will grow in heavy clay, carrots do best on light sand soils where the

drainage is good and root growth is not restricted. The soil should be free of stones and not too rich - both will cause the carrot to 'fork' so avoid manuring ground you plan to sow carrots in next season. As with many crops, an open sunny site will suit carrots best.

Growing Carrots in Containers

Carrots also grow well in containers to find out more about this read the blog here.

How to sow carrots

Sow thinly outside from early spring or under cloches from late winter - Easy Tunnel would be ideal to keep them warm. whatever season yo uare growing for sow carrot seeds thinly around 1cm deep with 15-20cm between the rows. 

Main Season Carrots

If you make a new sowing every few weeks through to the end of June you'll be well supplied throughout the year.
Autumn / Winter Carrots
In summer, begin sowing seeds for autumn and winter carrots. Its best to do this at the latest 10 to 12 weeks before your average first frost date.
If your soil is very heavy you may like to dig deep along the trench and loosen the soil with a mix of compost and some grit and then sow on top of this.


How to Thin Carrot Seedlings

Thin the seedlings to around 5 cm apart. Do this on a still evening to avoid attracting carrot flies and bury the thinnings deep in the compost heap to hide the smell. Another way to reduce the chance of carrot fly is to erect a fine-mesh barrier at the time of sowing – at least 70cm high. Check out our Micromesh Pest & Wind Barrier which will work for containers and open ground. Or a Micromesh Tunnel - with 0.6mm netting will also keep the Carrot Fly from getting to your precious crop. 

What aftercare do carrots need after they've been planted?

Weed the crop regularly making sure not to disturb the roots too much. A good mulch will help to retain moisture and keep the weeds at bay - keep the seedlings well watered in dry weather. 

How do you harvest and store carrots?

Start to harvest from late Spring onwards - usually 7 - 8 weeks after sowing. Lift carefully with a fork rather than pulling, especially when the soil is dry. Maincrop carrots can be left in the ground and harvested as required. Later in the year you may need to cover with straw or fleece as the temperature drops. Alternatively you can lift your crop in mid Autumn and store in a box of sand or dry potting compost. Trim the foliage to 1cm and make sure the carrots are not touching. Stored in this way they should last throughout the winter. 

What pests and diseases are carrots susceptible to?

The main pest is Carrot Root Fly which lays it's eggs on the plant and can destroy the whole crop. There are several ways to deter the fly: 
  • A later sowing in early summer will avoid the main egg laying periods in late Spring and early Autumn
  • Lift early summer crops before the risk of infestation
  • Use a micromesh barrier around the crop - the carrot fly stays close to the ground and so will not approach the plants from above
  • Companion planting of strong smelling crops such as onion will mask the carrot smell which attracts the fly

For more information on carrot flies and tips on how to get a successful crop see our Carrot Fly Blog