Two Wests & Elliott's Gardening Guide To Growing Carrots
Carrots are one of the most popular root crops grown and consumed around the world. They are a hardy crop and grow best in cooler conditions; they will even survive light frosts. You can grow them from early spring with some varieties also growing well in the autumn and even into winter.
Success with root vegetables is very much down to the quality of the soil that they are grown in, so it’s worth taking the time to prepare your patch. This preparation should start in late winter or early spring, dig over your patch removing any stones and breaking down the soil to a fine, crumbly texture. If your soil is not ideally suited to the growing of root crops or if you have no garden at all this is no longer an obstacle many people now grow in a wide range of containers, planters, tubs and a variety of raised beds, having filled these with the perfect growing medium.
How To Sow Seeds
Carrot seeds are small, but it is wise to sow them as thinly as possible an aid to achieving this would be to use a seed sowing device, such as the magic seeder. Sowing thinly helps to reduce the amount of thinning required later on and potential risk from pests and disease. Sow seeds thinly in shallow drills around 2 – 3cm (1 inch) deep, cover the seeds with soil after sowing. Early sowings In March and April may need to be protected with fleece or cloches.
Once the seeds have germinated and are showing their first rough leaves, thin the seedlings to 5cm (2inch) between plants, an aid to this would be to use a specialist tool called a
‘widger’, this enables you to lift seedlings and transplant with the minimum of disturbance rather than pulling out and throwing away.
The plants need little other attention during their growing period, although the plants should be kept well watered, whether by hand using a traditional
watering can or by more modern automated watering system Using timers and weeping hose or drip and spray kits, accurate watering will prevent coarse, woody roots.
Whilst growing, right through to harvesting, pests will always be a problem, protect your crops from larger pests using
vegetable cages and net cloches.
Micromesh net tunnel cloches will also protect your crop from the dreaded carrot fly. Windbreak style DIY structures glazed with fine ‘Enviromesh’ will also help to protect your crops.
Harvesting and Storage
From June to July onwards, start lifting your carrots as soon as they look big enough to eat, easing them out of the ground using a hand fork being careful not to damage the crop.
Late sown carrots must be lifted by October to be stored over the winter.
Store only the best, undamaged roots, cutting off their foliage, for crops harvested for weekly use store in
breathable vegetable sacks or slatted wooden storage trays. Crops to be stored for longer periods should be placed in timber storage boxes layered with sand or straw, ensuring the roots do not touch. Store the boxes somewhere cool and dry, stacked either on top of each other or on purpose built versatile shelving’s, storing on shelving’s will allow good air circulation which will help prevent rot and will also allow you to check crops easily, removing any odd rotten roots before they infect their neighbours.
Why Grow Carrots?
It is said that carrots are good for you, the most famous quote being ‘they will help you see in the dark’ whilst this is possibly a bit of an exaggeration, carrots are rich in beta carotene which the body converts into vitamin A, a crucial nutrient for maintaining proper eyesight.
Other possible therapeutic benefits are:
Lower the risk of cancer
Lower blood cholesterol
Helpful for general nervousness, asthma, skin disorders.
Carrots are also rich in dietary fibre, antioxidants and minerals. It is recommended that we eat one carrot a day as part of our fruit and vegetable intake.
‘Strange but true’ – raw, grated carrot makes a great snack; you will find a grated carrot is much more filling than a whole carrot! – give it a try.
Alternatively here is a simple recipe for a healthy carrot casserole.
2½ cups of carrots, sliced
1 small onion, finely chopped
½ cup of water
1 tablespoon of honey
¼ cup of sunflower seeds
1 egg, lightly beaten
60g almonds chopped
Add your choice of additional herbs and spices, to taste.
Pre heat moderate oven, place carrots, onion, water and seasoning into a saucepan. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer until carrots are just tender. Stir in all remaining ingredients except the almonds. Pour into a shallow baking dish, sprinkle with the almonds and bake for 15 minutes.
Serves 4 as a side dish.