If you want carrots with plenty of flavour, it’s worth growing your own. Apart from the classic-shaped orange carrots, there’s a wide selection of different varieties, available in an array of unexpected colours.
How to grow carrots at home
Sow carrot seed sparingly in drills in prepared soil from March to June. Cover with a thin layer of soil and water with a watering can with a rose attached. Seeds should germinate within a couple of weeks. It’s best to avoid thinning carrots to avoid carrot root fly, but keep the area weed free and water only in very dry spells. You should be harvesting fresh carrots in 14-16 weeks.
More on growing carrots:
Follow our detailed Grow Guide to growing carrots, below.
Growing carrots from seed
How to grow carrots – sowing carrot seeds
There are two types of carrot to choose from – early varieties, which are sown in spring and ready to pick about 10 weeks later, and late varieties, which can be sown from the end of spring and are ready to lift in about 14-16 weeks.
The main sowing season is late March to June, but earlier and later sowings are worth it if you can protect them with fleece or a cloche.
Good soil preparation is essential. Fork it thoroughly to break up lumps and remove as many stones as possible. Carrots thrive in light, well-drained but moisture-retentive soil, so it’s also worth adding some well-rotted organic matter.
Sow carrots directly into the ground. Make a seed drill (shallow trench) about 1cm deep using the edge of a hoe or trowel. Sow the seeds thinly along the bottom of the drill about 5-8cm apart. Cover them with soil, and water well using a watering can with a rose attached.
To extend your cropping period, sow seeds successionally at two-week intervals. You can also sow a selection of carrot varieties that will crop at different times over the season.
Caring for your carrot crop
Carrots don’t require too much care. Aim to keep the soil around them weed free, although once the carrots start to grow strongly, their foliage will shade out most weeds. Water occasionally.
Thinning out carrot seedlings not only wastes time, it can also attract carrot root fly. These pests detect the smell of crushed foliage when you pull the carrots up, before laying eggs in the soil. Their larvae then go on to eat the carrot roots. Sowing carrot seeds thinly avoids the need to thin carrots. If you do choose to thin your carrots, see how to reduce carrot root fly infestation.
How to harvest carrots
How to grow carrots – harvesting carrots
Lift carrots when the soil is moist, or water beforehand, to prevent them breaking off when you pull them. Water the soil again to settle it around the remaining roots.
How to store carrots
Carrots keep well for months in dry sand. First, spread a layer of sand in a box, then put in your carrots, making sure they don’t touch. Cover with another layer of sand and store in a cool, dry place.
Growing carrots: preparation and uses
Carrots are delicious steamed, boiled or roasted, and can be grated fresh in salads.
Growing carrots: problem solving
How to grow carrots – protecting carrots with fleece
Carrot fly is the most common and serious problem associated with growing carrots. The fly’s maggots eat tunnels through the carrots, ruining the crop. Choose resistant varieties such as ‘Resistafly’, ‘Flyaway’ or ‘Syrtan’. Alternatively, place a 45cm-high fine-mesh barrier around crops or cover with fleece or a similar material. Alternating a row of carrots with a row of companion plants like onions or garlic may help to mask their smell.
Growing carrots in pots
If space or soil type is a problem, you can still produce an excellent crop from seed sown in a pot that’s at least 30-45cm deep. Fill with sifted garden soil or compost such as John Innes No.2.
Great carrot varieties to grow
How to grow carrots – carrot varieties to grow
‘Amsterdam Forcing 3’ – produces short, cylindrical roots
- ‘Autumn King 2’ – classic orange, late-maturing variety
- ‘Nantes’ – sweet, perfect for slicing
- ‘Parmex’ – a round-rooted carrot, perfect for growing in pots
- ‘Purple Haze’ – dark purple skin surrounds the orange flesh
- ‘Resistafly’ – resistant to carrot fly