Root vegetables are a bit of a challenge to me still, ideally I could grow them in a perspex box so I could watch their progress. I have an annoying habit of yanking the darlings out way too early because I want to check on them! Still, they taste so good fresh from the garden, and they are a winner with the kids so I have to recommend including them – also they deliver a really good yield for such a small planting area. In addition they don’t seem to have too many issues with pests and diseases, so are easy to grow.
A highly nutritious package, providing a source of beta-carotene. There are so many interesting varieties to try – with colours ranging from yellow to cream, strong reddish oranges and purple.
Growing successful root vegetables such as carrots requires friable soil, and some discipline and patience. The only way to grow is from seed and in temperate areas you can plant successive crops (4 weeks apart) between August and March, the carrots will take 2 or 3 weeks to appear and 3 to 4 months to grow until they are ready to harvest.
Dig over the area where you will plant your carrots to at least 20cm, to improve the soil structure and break up any clumps. Avoid adding manures or fertiliser at this time, as the high-nitrogen actually distorts the growing young root. Better to add a top-dress after they get going.
As the seed will need to be kept damp during the germination period, use a fine mulch – I like to shake the pea straw over the top so just the fine chaff bits cover the area. Alternatively place damp cardboard (and a brick) over the planted row, but you need to check daily and remove as soon as germination is visible. Fortunately the seed companies have realised how it is nearly impossible to sow fine seeds like carrot in an even manner, so try to buy as a seed tape if you can.
Thin the young plants twice, once just after germination to make sure that you have plants 2cm apart – and then again at 15 to 20cm high to have plants 5cm apart. The second thinning will give you nice little baby carrots for dinner.
Granted, we all get a bit attached to our plants – but you have to be STRONG and THIN them out to get a good final result. Just say a small blessing as you cast away the unfortunate seedling into your compost heap…
Common problems with carrots – misshapen roots (though kids love these freaky ones) is basically caused by rocks or debris in the garden bed forming an obstacle as the root is developing. If you are adding organic matter, just make sure it is well mixed through before planting. Green tops can also occur and this is related to exposure to sunlight, so make sure that you bank the soil up onto the crowns as they grow.
If you thin your carrots when the tops are about 15 to 20cm high, then you will get a sense of how they are progressing. Best way is to mark your calendar for 12 weeks from planting to start harvesting your carrots.
You don’t need to rush out and harvest them though, they will keep in the ground pretty well so just pick as needed. Once picked, cut the tops off and store in the crisper drawer in the fridge.
Cooking with Carrots
Just scrub the dirt off and get stuck into them bugs bunny style. Fantastic used raw in salads and on dip platters.
Simmer in a small amount of water and a knob of butter until just soft and the liquid has reduced, thus resulting in Glazed Carrots as a side dish.