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Growing Carrot Seeds for All Season 14 December 2022

Carrots for all seasons

I don’t think there is a vegetable gardener in the country that won’t be growing a row or two of carrots. This traditional vegetable, is full of flavour, and are a culinary delight in the kitchen either cooked added to stews or eaten raw in salads, as well as making a delicious carrot cake.
Have you ever wished you could have fresh carrots to pull from early spring right through to Christmas? Well it isn’t difficult, all you need is a little planning, and you can!
I don’t think there is anything better than pulling a carrot straight from the garden, rubbing the dirt off on your trousers, then taking a bite, and enjoying that fresh sweet juicy flavour. An experience equal to winning the lottery (not that I have) and certainly one you won’t get if you pick your carrots each week from the supermarket shelf.  
It’s not difficult to grow your own carrots from seed, if you chose the correct sowing times and the right varieties, you can have young succulent carrots ready to harvest throughout the year, as well as some larger roots to store though the winter.
Provided your vegetable plot has been dug through the winter and the area you wish to grow carrots on has had no manure added to it for at least 12 months you should be able to grow good carrots. Then early in the year pull the soil down so it changes into a fine and crumbly structure and then lightly rake in some Growmore fertiliser at 2oz per square yard (60gm per sq meter). You are now ready to start sowing seeds.
If your vegetable garden is on light sandy soil, sowing and growing carrot seeds is easy compared to those of us who garden on heavier clay soils. On light soils you can simply draw out a shallow drill with a swan neck hoe about 1/2in deep and sow your seeds thinly along the drill.
If your garden is heavy, it is more likely to stay cooler and wetter for longer. To over come the problem of heavy soils or even very stony ones, I find that digging out a shallow trench about 15cm (6in) deep and filling it with old compost or Growbag material helps. I can then sow short rooted types like Chantenary red Cored, Early Nantes or Eskimo straight into the compost, and I get some superb clean straight roots. If you want longer roots, to impress the neighbours with or for exhibition, you can always punch holes into the soil with a crowbar and fill with compost, or take out deeper trenches to sow long rooted varieties like James scarlet intermediate or St Valery.

Sowing and Harvesting Carrots throughout the seasons

February / March
If you are lucky enough to have a cold frame you can make your first sowings from late February to mid March. The soil will be warmer inside the frame; especially if you have kept it closed all winter, so it warms up and stopped the soil from getting saturated from the winter rain. If you sow under a coldframe you must choose a variety that is suitable for forcing. I have found the best varieties are RHS AGM winning variety Adelaide F1 or Amsterdam Forcing. Both varieties will quickly produce juicy finger carrots, but Adelaide is the earliest to mature and you will often be pulling carrots by late spring to early summer.

When to sow outside depends on the weather many gardeners get itchy fingers early in March when we get those first few sunny days of spring. But in my opinion this is too early, because often the soil is not warm enough and those bright days are often quickly followed by some very cold weather. The times I here gardeners complaining of poor germination from these early sowing especially on heavy colder soils, and they have to go back and sow more seed to fill the gaps in the rows.
I never sow a carrot direct outside before the 1st or second week of April. By sowing this month you will have a warmer soil and a far better germination, and you won’t be wasting your time gapping up rows. For this sowing I would use one of the early maturing varieties like Early Nantes, Nairobi F1, Marion F1, Romance F1 or Sugarsnax 54 F1.

May /June
I like to make another sowing in May or June, using a late summer or autumn maturing variety like Autumn King, Berlicum, Sweet Candle F1 or Nazareth F1 . Sowing seed at this time of year, the soil is often quite dry, so make sure you water the base of your seed drills before sowing the seed then cover the seed over with dry soil. This will trap the moisture below ground where the seeds will need it to germinate. Varieties sown now will be ready for lifting in October; they will have grown quickly and will be succulent and juicy ideal for winter storage.

One of my favourite sowings is made in July, for this I use an early maturing variety again like Eskimo F1. I like this sowing because these young roots will be ready to harvest as finger carrots in time for Christmas dinner. Like the June sowing, make sure the base of drills are watered first before sowing, ensuring you get good and quick germination.

My final sowing for the year is made in September. This is made either in the cold frame or under cloches for this sowing I use Early Nantes, Amsterdam Forcing or Adelaide F1. These will be ready for harvesting as early finger carrots in March or April the following year. 

General care

Apart from thinning your carrots once they are large enough to handle, and watering them through very dry spells of weather, looking after carrots is easy. I would however advise you always hoe and thin your carrots in the evenings when the carrot fly are less active and water them immediately after thinning to help disguise the carrot smell and settle the roots back into there rows.
Carrot fly is probably the biggest pest of carrots and is the bane of all vegetable gardeners’ lives. Carrot fly has ruined many a row of carrots. One of the ways to beat it is to grow one of the Carrot fly resistant varieties like Flyaway F1 . But remember even when growing these types you must always grow a non resistant variety alongside them as a sacrificial crop. The carrot fly will attack the non resistant variety, and leave your resistant rows alone.
Alternatively, and probably the most effective way of growing carrots now is to grow your carrots under enviromesh. This material will let light and moisture through, but keep the carrot fly out. But what you must remember is to make sure the carrots are completely enclosed in mesh with no gaps otherwise the fly will get in. Also when you harvest your crops, lift the mesh up, pull your carrots then replace it straight away. I find growing carrots in this way gives excellent results. Another method of control is making the early and late sowings in a coldframe as I find these don’t tend to be troubled by Carrot fly.

Carrots without a Vegetable Garden

If you don’t have a large vegetable garden, you can still grow carrots. As long as you have a sunny patio or a sunny spot outside the back door you can very successfully grow carrots in pots. You need a pot that is a minimum of 25-30cm (10-12in) deep and about the same in diameter. Fill this with a good soil less compost and sow your seed thinly on the surface, then lightly cover it with sieved compost. Keep the pots well watered and feed every 2 weeks with a high potash feed. Also you will need to thin the seedlings if they get overcrowded and you will be enjoying fresh carrots in no time. I have had excellent results from short rooted varieties like Mokum F1, Sugarsnax 54 F1, and Paris Market 5 the round carrot. Paris Market 5 will also produce golf ball sized roots in a window box positioned in a sunny spot, as well as on heavy clay soils.

Healthy Carrots

All carrots make a healthy addition to our diet, but some varieties have higher levels of Beta-carotene, antioxidants and Vitamin A than others do. The newer coloured carrots are certainly a breakthrough as far as health benefits go, and have the added benefit of looking attractive when served up raw with dips or in a salad. You can now grow Purple Sun F1, a purple skinned carrot with purple inner flesh, Yellowstone a pure yellow variety or Ruby Prince F1 that has a deep reddish skin and inner flesh. You can even grow a hybrid mixture of pastel colours called Rainbow F1 that looks attractive and is high in Vitamins as well or try a Mixture of all colours.
So now you can grow carrots of all colours shapes and sizes, making them a part of your daily diet all the year round, harvested fresh from your own garden. Now where’s that Lottery ticket! 
Written by Andrew Tokely

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