I’ve got a confession to make… I don’t really like carrots. I love growing them but I just don’t like
eating them. This state of affairs pleases my neighbours no end as I plant a plethora of these pointy
orange babies every year… and then I give them all away!. My dad always said I was hopping mad!
Warm Areas: All Year (except mid-summer)
Temperate Areas: September to March
Cool to Cold Areas: August to February
Position, Position, Position
As we are dealing with a root vegetable here it’s going to be necessary to get your hands dirty.
Rocks, stones and really heavy soil will slow down growth and deform your carrots. So much so that
you will want to film them for Australia’s Funniest Home Videos! Manually pick through your bed
before planting, remove obstacles and treat really heavy soils with a mixture of sand and compost.
Maybe even consider putting in a raised garden bed!
Carrots need good drainage and loads of gardeners will add sand to their clay or heavy loam soils to
improve drainage. Carrots taste best when they are grown really quickly and good soil preparation is
paramount here. Compost is good and, depending on the carrot varieties you going to grow, a nice
deep topsoil layer is important. But if you want to grow a wee variety, like the round “ball” carrots or
the baby carrots, topsoil depth is less important.
Carrots are best planted from seed rather than seedlings as they don’t transplant well. This is what
is known as “direct sowing” and here’s how to do it. Firstly make a trench about 2cm deep and as
long as you like. Then sow your carrot seed by tapping them out of the packet along the row. Fill this
trench halfway up with a soil/sand mix or a shop bought seed raising mix – it’s pretty much the same
thing. Press lightly on the covering mix to ensure contact with the soil and seed. Water it in gently so
you don’t blast them out of the ground. Cover the bed with a light sprinkling of straw mulch. Keep
the bed damp until your carrots pop their little heads through… this should take about 2 – 3 weeks.
Once the seedlings are 5cm high it’s time to go “Jenny Craig” and thin them out. This means pulling
out the weaker or smaller seedlings and leaving about 3cm between each of your carrots. You will
need to do this again when they get to about 12 – 15cm high, at which time you need to leave about
5cm between them. While this may seem a bit wasteful and unsustainable (heavens no!), it isn’t
really. Seedlings from the first thinning can be composted or feed to the chooks, and the carrots
pulled at the second thinning can actually be eaten (hooray!).
Carrots don’t mind a feed, just as long as it is not high in nitrogen. High nitrogen fertilisers will
make big, bushy carrot tops but do nothing for the all-important root zones! I give mine a liquid feed
of fertiliser tea every few weeks just to speed up the process – impatience and laziness are not good
traits for a gardener. They really don’t need much these carrots!
What about the Water?
Like a couple of other Yummy Yard plants, over watering is a more serious issue than under
watering. Seeds need to be kept damp when germinating but of course damp doesn’t mean floating
away, or dying of thirst! Free draining soil is a must, as is using your soil moisture indicator (your
favourite finger) to test the amount of water in the soil. Dry = bad; soaked = bad; slightly damp =
perfect! Inconsistent watering regimes, especially allowing the soil to dry right out and then flooding
it with water, will cause carrots to crack or split… a very ordinary result for all concerned!
Are We There Yet?
Often I am asked, “How can I tell if my carrots are ready?” and always I respond, “When did you
plant them?” Keep track of when you sowed your carrot seed because you can start harvesting them
after about 8 weeks. I harvest what neighbours need, when they need it -remember I don’t actually
like them! This harvesting technique prolongs my crop and means all my carrots don’t come (and go)
at once. However, you’ll want to get them all out of the ground before the sugars turn to starch,
which happens at about 16 – 18 weeks.
Pests and the Rest
Pest and disease problems are almost non-existent for carrots apart from the carrot fly. Carrot flies
lay their eggs in the young seedlings and their larvae eat and tunnel their way through the growing
root. They can be deterred by using plenty of compost as well as by using some good companion
plants, like spring onions, to act as decoys.
Carrots, like coriander, can bolt, which means they have a tendency to run to seed before producing
their roots, generally when unusually cool weather is experienced in early spring.
Here it is…breaking news set to revolutionise vegetable growing as we know it… carrots can be
grown in pots! I know, you’re shocked, but it’s true. Some of the small “golf ball” carrots are
awesome in pots, as are baby carrots. They’re an excellent addition to any Yummy Yard as they offer
a really high yield to space ratio. Check out the many varieties of carrots available. You’ll be amazed
at the shapes, sizes and even colours that abound.
Carrot Cumin Salad
Such a simple salad yet so delicious. It goes with everything from a curry to a chicken parma. Whip
this up in the morning before work! It’s a great lunch.
A couple of handfuls of homegrown spinach, lettuce, rocket or other greens
A carrot or two, plus their green tops.
A handful of walnuts and sultanas
1 tsp cumin
Juice of ½ lemon
1 tbsp honey
2 tbsp oil of your choice
Salt and pepper
Coarsely chop or tear greens and the carrot tops.
Peel strips off the carrot using your vegetable peeler.
Combine greens and carrot peel strips in a large bowl.
Place all dressing ingredients in a jar. Shake well then pour over salad. Toss so that everything is
For more awesome info on growing your own sustainable vegies and herbs at home, why not check
out the Yummy Yards book at our secure online shop.