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Everybody knows carrots. Grated carrots, stir-fried carrots, boiled or with peas. Most people know the orange carrot but there are more colors to be found.
Carrots are quite easy to grow and are very healthy being a vegetable.
What are carrots?
Carrots, in latin Daucus Carota, are the roots of a plant. We don’t consume the green part.
Being a part of the Umbelliferae, they have parsnips and celery as family members, just to name a few. According to historical texts, carrots originate from Iran and were spread in Europe in the 17thcentury.
If you have a greenhouse or can make a small hoop house, it’s possible to start growing carrots as early as January (that’s wintertime in our zone 8) because seedlings can take frost as hard as -8°C (17,6°F).
Once the carrots grow older they cannot withstand these low temperatures but it is possible to sow really early. During each season, it’s best to use carrot seeds specific for that season.
Something most people don’t know is the fact that carrot seeds have a small hook (this hook can cling to animal furs and be transported long distances). So the smooth round seeds we know are rubbed together so the small hooks brake off, before packaging and delivery.
Where to grow carrots?
Carrots love a ph between 6 and 7.
A loose soil is necessary to avoid deformed carrots.
A sandy soil with lots of humus in the topsoil will be a lot better than a heavy clay soil for growing carrots.
The heavy soil makes it more difficult to pierce through the ground and it can get anaerobic and sticky which makes the carrots vulnerable to fungal diseases.
In our region, it’s alright to start growing carrots in January if you have a greenhouse. In March it’s possible to grow carrots outside without any cover.
Carrots are not transplanted, they are sown directly into place (well, at least I do so) so try to bear in mind that it can be necessary to put screens over the carrots to avoid damaging insects. If space is not fit to take precautions, you could get in trouble, later in the season.
Taking care of your carrots
Carrots only need a low amount of nutrients, a humus rich soil can be more than enough without any supplemental fertilization. If you’re using compost, make sure you amend the soil with compost a couple of weeks before you start growing carrots as fresh compost can attract the carrot fly.
Don’t amend with nitrogen as this will result in bigger plants with smaller roots.
On the other hand, amending a controlled amount of potash can result in bigger roots when growing carrots.
As I always mention, it’s good to use crop rotation if possible as this can avoid lots of problems.
Transplanting and planting carrots
Because carrots are sown in place, there’s no need to plant or transplant the plants.
If the soil is still loose enough and you’re careful, it’s easy to pull out one carrot at a time. If, however, you want to harvest the whole bunch at once, it’s useful to have a digging fork which you can align with the carrots and lean back the fork while pulling out the clod with carrots. Make sure you go deep enough.