The Trials and Tribulations of a Carrot Grower

Its taken 5 years of continual soil improvement and stone removal, but I think we may have finally cracked it. Our latest harvest of carrots from the allotment contained lovely long roots with no forking or carrot fly damage.

Ive come to the conclusion that success or failure in carrot growing is all about the soil. I suspect that if you have fine, sandy soil then carrot growing is a complete doddle. We, on the other hand, have heavy clay with a generous helping of stones.

After the first couple of disastrous attempts to grow carrots, we nearly gave up. But then someone suggested we try round carrots. Odd though they sounded, we bought a packet of Parmex seed and, amazingly, they grew well on our clay soil and tasted great. Definitely more flavor than a supermarket carrot, although my younger daughter declared they tasted earthy.

Despite the earthy flavor, they were a big hit with my daughters and were good for popping whole into lunch boxes. I often grow these with school groups now because they’re quicker to mature compared with regular carrots, as well as coping with a wider range of soils. And they grow well in containers and window boxes (instructions here) provided you can commit to regular watering.

Following the success of growing round carrots, we set about improving our heavy, stony clay soil to transform it into something altogether more suitable for carrot growing. An initial double-digging session (who needs a gym membership?) was followed by annual application of well-rotted home-made compost. We grew green manures to nurture the soil; grazing rye over the winter and alfalfa for its deep roots and ability to break up heavy soils.

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Over the years we’ve had our fair share of carrots when the roots have hit a stone or simply been unable to get through a compacted bit of soil.

We’ve grown carrots in containers which works reasonably well although its undoubtedly higher maintenance than growing carrots in the ground with all the extra watering required. Plus the carrots never seem to grow as large as they do in the ground.

And we’ve branched out with different colored carrots. Orange carrots are a relatively new introduction, the original cultivated carrots being purple or white. This is our latest harvest of heirloom mixed carrots.

A bit of a disappointment as we were expecting a rainbow of colors but there isn’t a purple carrot in sight. Next year well buy a packet of purple carrot seeds instead of a mixed collection. (Note the green tops of some of the carrots in the photo above. This is because the tops were exposed to sunlight and we dint cover them with soil, so well have to cut those bits off before eating.). If you yard requires Leaf blower, you can check it out from here: https://pickbestlawnmower.com/best-leaf-blower/

And the dreaded carrot fly? We’ve never bothered with building the recommended 60cm barrier around our crops, or covering with enviromesh. We often pop containers of carrots onto a table or chair as the female carrot flies apparently keep close to soil level when searching for egg laying sites. And when we remember, we grow spring onions next to our carrots on the allotment. Neither is completely foolproof and we sometimes have minor damage, but we’ve never had a crop completely ruined by carrot fly. If we were growing carrots for exhibition we might consider more reliable deterrents but were happy with our slightly less than perfect home-grown vegetables we wouldn’t want anyone mistaking them for supermarket produce.

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