Carrots can be one of those tricky crops to grow, which can be frustrating considering they are dirt cheap in the supermarket. However, nothing beats a home grown carrot, especially picked straight from the garden.
In this article I am going to share with you my carrot growing tips.
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Soil preparation for perfect carrots
If you find you get too much leaf and no carrot, it can mean your soil is too good! I always plant carrots after hungry crops like leafy greens without adding anything other than a top up of compost and some organic slow release fertiliser (we love QLD Organics - not sponsored of affiliated). Too much nitrogen can not only cause excess foliage it can also cause the carrots to fork. During the growing season if they aren’t thriving I’ll apply actively aerated worm casting tea (Not leachate), fish hydrolysate or sea weed solution.
Some people say you need super friable sandy soil, but I’ve grown them in areas that are more clay with no major issues. I think it’s more common for them to be over fertilised and not thinned properly than poor soil condition to cause issues. The exception to this is if the carrot runs into a rock or stick it just can’t get past.
All root veggies need sunlight to produce big tubers, and this can include planting too close to plants that grow higher. We found a couple years we had some misses with carrots over winter with same bed preparation as always but our root development was poor, we soon realised the reason was the beds were only getting 2 hours of sun over the cooler months. Aim for 6 or more hours of sun and we always plant our carrots on the outer edges of beds to maximise sunshine.
Always plant carrots from seed
The number one issue with people growing carrots is them buying them from the nursery and transplanting them. The problem with transplanting carrots is you disturb the roots, which then can give you wonky carrots. Which is fine, they are still edible, but it is probably one of the most common things I see with carrot fails.
When planting seeds I find it easiest to make a shallow trench and sprinkle the seeds in then lightly cover with a good quality seed raising mix using a sieve. Carrots can be tricky to germinate because they cannot dry out at all before they sprout, so make sure you keep the moisture up to them until they germinate. This can feel like a full time job as some carrots can take from 14-21 days to germinate. You can assist keeping the moisture in them by covering with geo fabric or shade cloth to help retain the moisture, but I try to time it with rain and plant when I know we've got some rain forecast.
Thin your carrot seedlings
Once the seeds have 4 true leaves I thin them by cutting out any extras that are on top of each other or closer than 2cm apart. Around the 6-8 week mark (depending on how they are growing) I harvest every second plant for baby carrots. I leave the remaining to grow to maturity.
What I’ve found by not thinning is the carrots compete for conditions (shade each other out) and in addition their roots entangle each other so they become wonky.
Forking can be caused by rocks/sticks in the way and as above, too much nitrogen.
Healthy Tops and no root development is usually caused by too much nitrogen in the soil or not enough sunlight.
Bumpy Carrots is actually a parasite called a root knot nematode - they usually will cause the carrot to not reach its full potential.
Bitter tasting carrots from my experience is temperature related alongside a long growing season. I find if I leave the carrots too long they will be bitter. Carrots grown over the warmer months aren’t as tasty as the ones grown over winter.
Our top picks of varieties to grow
If you’re looking for something super easy to grow, try the paris market variety. You can view our full range of carrot seeds here.
I’d love to know what varieties of carrots you grow and what tips you have. Leave a comment below.