image by Ronny Kind on Unsplash.
If you’re thinking about starting a vegetable garden, carrots are great to start with. They’re very good for us and provide us with beta-carotene, vitamin C and B6, folate, magnesium, calcium, and high amounts of fibre. This does wonders for our eyesight, skin, and general health.
That’s a lot of benefits, but probably the best one is that carrots contain more sugar than other vegetables (except beets). This means that they make for a delicious snack! That said, how do you grow carrots and are there different kinds? Let’s delve into how to grow carrots in the UK!
Growing carrots in the UK
Carrots can sometimes be a challenging vegetables to grow. However, it is definitely not impossible. They just need special attention regarding soil preparation and protection from diseases.
One of the most common problems carrots suffer from is deformed roots. Flea beetles, aphids, carrot flies, and Aster Yellow Disease (causes roots to get very hairy and carrot tops to be short and discoloured) should also be avoided. To combat these common problems, here are some quick tips:
Deformed roots: Use light, well-drained, stone-free soil.
Flea Beetles: Create a solution composed of five cups of water, one tablespoon liquid soap, and two cups of rubbing alcohol. Spray it on the affected area.
Aphids: Biological control in a greenhouse or physically squash or remove them.
Carrot Flies: To avoid them, create a barrier (a net of sorts or any viable alternative) or sow seed no earlier than June.
After Yellow Disease: There is no cure. Remove any infected carrot to prevent the disease from spreading.
Also, contrary to popular belief, not all carrots are orange. There are yellow, white, red, and purple variations. There are also many different types of carrot to choose from.
- Quickest to grow and prefer to be grown in heavier soils:
- Stump-rooted Carrots
- Finger-sized Carrots
- Can be grown in either lighter soils, in raised beds, or deep containers filled with potting soil:
- Medium-rooted Carrots
- Long-rooted Carrots
Let’s divide these into three sections; planting, growing, and harvesting. Furthermore, for us to have a better understanding of the timeline that’s going to be discussed below, know that there are two types of carrots.
- Earlies: Carrots that take approximately twelve weeks to mature.
- Maincrop: Carrots that take approximately sixteen weeks to mature.
Always plant carrots in soil that is at the very least six inches deep. You can plant them in the ground, in raised beds, and even in tubs on a patio. When you prep your garden soil for planting, make sure to avoid clay soil and fertiliser that is high in nitrogen. It is best to use loamy or sandy soil.
Carrots prefer to receive the full sun inside a well-dug, stone-free soil. Beds enhanced with well-rotted compost are also ideal, though manure beds may cause the roots to fork. This is something you should watch out for.
In the UK, it is best to sow the earlies type under a cloche (or any viable alternative) in the first two weeks of March. The cloche should only be removed by the first two weeks of April.
It is best to the sow early carrot seed in the first two weeks of April. From April onwards, thin or trim carrots as they appear. Also, the maincrop carrot seed should be sowed in the first two weeks of May.
For the best tasting results, moisture must be retained. However, carrots must not be grown in environments that are too cold. Else, the carrots will use its sugar content to survive, and this will leave you with bitter-tasting carrots. To retain moisture, spread mulch around the area.
Once the carrot leaves are about an inch or so long, trim them so that they may be at least three inches apart from the rest of the batch. Do not pull them by force; instead, cut them with scissors to avoid damage.
Over-watering, as with plants and flowers, can be deadly when growing anything. Thus, water for only about an inch every week. Also, diligently weed without disturbing the roots of the carrots. Using a balanced fertiliser, fertilise five to six weeks after sowing. Be patient when growing carrots. Depending on the conditions of your area and the quality of care they receive, carrots mature anywhere from two to four months.
Harvest the earlies which you placed inside a cloche in the first week of June. For the rest, you can wait for two to four months for the carrots to mature or check if the carrots are about one and a half inch in diameter. This should be a good indication that they are ready to be harvested. However, this method boils down to preference.
- Harvesting earlier: tender and sweeter carrots, but shorter.
- Harvesting later: not too sweet, but longer.
Once you have harvested your carrots, it is crucial to remove the tops and clean off the dirt under cold running water before you store them. Also, rather than storing them raw, place them in an airtight plastic bag and then refrigerate. This way, the carrots won’t go limp.
However, if you don’t have a pest problem and the ground isn’t freezing, you may also choose to leave mature carrots where they grew if you do not want to store/refrigerate them yet. In the winter, you may store carrots in tubs of sand.
Carrots for days!
The health benefits of consuming carrots such as lowered cholesterol, reduced cancer risk, improved skin disorders, and a boosted immune system have been documented for ages. There’s a reason doctors would always recommend eating carrots or drinking carrot juice. They’re especially useful for people with bad eyes. Carrots protect the outer layer of our eyes, thus contributing to stronger vision.
Although they might not be the easiest of all vegetables to grow, they are definitely one that is worth the effort. If not for your own consumption, then you can sell them to others in your community. What’s important is to stay vigilant and not to abandon the carrots before they mature.
A blog about the renovation of our old house and it’s garden in the English countryside. I also blog about interiors, general gardening tips and visits to glorious gardens.