Common name: Carrot
Botanical name: Daucus carota
Family: Apiaceae (carrot family)
Aspect and soil: Sun; deep, well-drained soil
Best climate: All
Habit: Biennial, grown as an annual root vegetable
Carrot growing has had a real shot in the arm in recent years, with the availability of carrots in many colours. While there’s nothing wrong with traditional orange carrots — indeed, there’s lots of good in a carrot — adding yellow, white and tones of red and purple to the carrot colour palette has turned them from ho-hum to very exciting and fashionable.
SOIL PREPARATION, CLIMATE
The best-shaped and most flavoursome carrots are harvested from deep friable soil that’s free of stones, clods and added organic matter. A deep, sandy loam produces long, straight carrots, whatever colour you plant. When preparing soil, dig it over to at least a spade’s depth as that’s the depth the roots penetrate. In very acid soils (below 5.5), dig in a little lime.
Take care, however, not to incorporate lots of organic matter such as compost or fresh manure where carrots are to grow. There is a link between excess organic matter and forking of carrots. A good option is to sow seeds in soil that was fertilised for a previous crop, such as a leafy vegetable. Alternatively, dig in an organic fertiliser other than manure several weeks before sowing seed.
Carrots can be grown in all climates, but for success it’s important to get timing right. In the tropics and subtropics, sow carrots in late summer or autumn to grow through the dry season. In cooler zones, carrot seed is sown from late winter to summer for an autumn to winter harvest.
SOWING AND THINNING
Carrots are best grown from seed as they resent transplantation. Seed is sown in rows for ease of maintenance. Sow carrot seed 5–6mm deep and keep the ground moist to assist with germination. A tip is to lay a plank (or sheets of newspaper) over the row after sowing to help keep the soil damp. The trick is to take up the plank as the young seedlings emerge, so check frequently. Carrots take around 10–21 days to germinate.
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