Carrots are a staple vegetable in the New Zealand kitchen. Children love baby carrots. They are so versatile. Carrots can be used in salads, soups and other dishes. Traditionally orange, carrots come in a variety of other colours, making them a colourful addition to dishes. Try purple and yellow carrots. They’re absolutely beautiful and full of beta carotene.
Carrots can be a little tricky to grow well. However, with a few tips, you’ll be on your way to growing perfect carrots this season.
Carrots can be sown in spring and early autumn. Avoid sowing carrots in the height of summer, as germination rates can be low due to high temperatures and dryness in soil. Carrots might not form a strong root if sown in winter due to difficulties with germination and cooler temperatures which might stunt their growth.
Egmont Seeds have an incredible range of carrots seeds. You could try growing Purple Haze F1 Hybrid, Rainbow Mixed, Resistafly F1 Hybrid, All Seasons, Amarillo Yellow, Baby, Chantenay Royal, Ladies Fingers, Manchester Table, Romance F1 Hybrid, Senior F1 Hybrid, Topweight and Touchon.
Franchi Sementi also have a lovely range of carrots. The New Zealand supplier is Italian Seeds Pronto. Try Nantes di Chioggia, Parisier and Foraggio Jaune du Doubs. These varieties can be sown in autumn and in spring.
A convenient way of growing carrots is to use seed tape instead of loose seeds. There is no need to worry about spacing seeds too closely, as they are already spaced the perfect distance apart. Seed tape is biodegradable, so it will disintegrate in the ground and the seeds on the tape will germinate. Egmont Seeds have the varieties of carrot seed tape Purple Haze F1 Hybrid and Resistafly F1 Hybrid which are worth trying. I have grown Purple Haze in the past with great results.
How to sow
As a root crop, carrots should be sown direct. Do not transplant, or you will end up with forked roots, a bit like with carrots. Don’t worry if some seeds are spaced too closely. You’ll need to thin your carrots out and remove some of the weaker seedlings in order to allow the stronger ones more room to grow.
Digging the bed to a depth of 20 cm should be fine to accommodate carrots.
As with all root crops, in order to form a large, strong root underground carrots prefer soil which is well composted. I therefore advise not adding fresh compost or sheep pellets to areas where you intend to sow carrots.
You may however wish to sprinkle a little Superphosphate and blood and bone fertiliser where you intend to sow carrots and mix into the soil. This will encourage strong root growth and healthy green tops.
Growing carrots in buckets
Every autumn, I sow carrots in large 35 litre buckets. Reasons why you may wish to try sowing carrots in buckets include getting a head start on the seasons at a time when the ground might still be quite cool (such as in spring) and space limitations in the garden. Sowing carrots in buckets are also perfect for people who don’t wish to dig up their lawn like us! Just remember not to use fresh potting mix or you may end up with weak or forked carrots. As with sowing carrots in the ground, try to use old potting mixture. It would be ideal to recycle potting mixture from, for example, summer crops such as capsicums, chillies and eggplants grown in pots.
Sown at the right time, carrots should be ready in 12-14 weeks.