Growing Carrots

Carrots can be grown in most parts of Britain almost all year-round if you sow them every few weeks from February until the end of July.

They take about 12 weeks to grow to full size, although you can start eating them as baby carrots when you thin out seedlings, or leave them for up to about 16 weeks at the end of the season so you still have fresh carrots until the frosts arrive.

When to plant?

Generally speaking you can sow seeds two or three weeks before the last frost and about six weeks before the first frost.

The soil should be worked to a depth of about 15 - 20 cm with all clumps broken up and stones removed.

Any big lumps that get in the way of their growth will result in wonky veg!

Carrots can be started in modules but they need to be transplanted when very young (no more than two true leaves).

Sowing the seeds

You can either plant in clusters or lines.

Planting in lines means you will have to thin the carrots as they grow or they will be too bunched up. This is a good thing as you can 'eat as you thin'. This will allow your carrots to grow to their full potential.

Planting in clusters removes the need for thinning out and is best if you want to eat your carrots when they are quite young and small. They won't ever reach full size when planted this way.

For the line method sow thinly in drills. Leave about 15cm between rows. Ensure the soil is already wet as watering in afterwards will wash away the seeds. A good tip on this note is to use a chopstick to poke any seeds back under the soil after a heavy rain.

For the cluster method sow four to six seeds together leaving about six inches between clusters.

Caring for your carrots

Young carrots grow weak and slowly. Try and keep weeds at bay for the first few weeks. If sowing in summer, consider giving the seedling some shade. The hot summer sun can quickly burn off the tiny plants.

Always thin carrots in the evening to avoid attracting the dreaded carrot fly that can decimate your crop if they get a whiff of a young carrot. Discard any foliage that is pulled up away from the growing site. 

Harvest time

Your carrots will let you know when it is time to harvest. The tops will be poking out of the surface and they will be around a half inch in diameter.

Hydrate your carrots before harvest. Lift them by simply pulling on the leaves to dislodge the carrot.

Before you store your crop, you will want to cut the green tops off. Cut them about an inch from the top. 

Even though fresh carrots look beautiful with their tops still attached, leaving the greens on will leech delicious sugars from the roots.

Recommended varieties:

  • Amsterdam Forcing 3Amsterdam carrots are one of the earliest cropping carrots
  • Katrin - A chantenay type carrot growing to about 12cm
  • Chantenay Red Cored - A well known early maincrop variety with rich orange flesh and a deeper red core
  • Autumn King 2A popular English heirloom that is a heavy cropping and one of the best for storing