This season I have grown the biggest, straightest and sweetest tasting crop of crunchy carrots that I have ever produced. This fantastic crop has been pest and disease free and no trouble at all. I want to get the same great results next year and if the questions and comments received whenever I put a carrot picture on facebook are any indication, there are others that want to know how I do it too.
If you want long, straight carrots with no forks, get the soil right first. For the garden bed that I chose, I knew that the soil was a bit depleted after of the previous crop. So to ensure success, I had to add nutrients. The bed is 5 square metres in size and has full sun all winter. It is a sandy loam that is free of stones that will get in the way of straight carrots. Back in mid-March, I added 2 bags of mushroom compost, 1 bag cow manure and a cup of mixed fertilizer into the soil. I mixed everything thoroughly to a depth of 30 cm and left it for a week and then re-dug it again ensuring that it was as fine as possible, raking the surface, ready for sowing.
Sowing the seeds:
On 30th March I sowed the seeds. Using a hoe, I made a furrow 2 cm deep and 10 cm wide in the soil. There are three rows, 40 cm apart. Throughout the 10 cm wide furrow, I sprinkled the seed evenly. I attempted to have 1 seed land in every square cm. This may appear to be quite thick, and you would be right, but I can never guarantee the quality of the seed. Using my hand, I backfill the furrow ensuring that the seed is covered with 5 to 10 mm of soil.
I watered twice a day for 5 minutes each time, using a fine mist irrigation on a timer. They only took 10 days to emerge. I misted them like this every day until the crop was 10 cm tall and the temperatures began to drop for Autumn. Then I stopped the misting and used drippers just to keep the soil moist – as required.
Thinning the seedlings:
When the seedlings had developed 2 or 3 of their true leaves I pulled out the excess plants so that the strongest and healthiest seedlings were left, spaced 4 cm from their nearest neighbour. Because the furrows were originally 10cm wide, I thinned them in a sort of zig-zag pattern. This gives more carrots per row in the crop. I thinned them for a second time a couple of weeks later to remove any late germinating seeds and the odd weed.
Over-fertilizing carrots with nitrogen rich fertilizer means you have a high chance of big tops and little carrots. So, after the original soil preparation, I only gave them 3 weak brews of liquid fish fertiliser.
Mulching and Weeding:
I did not use any mulch between the rows this time like I usually do. I wanted the sun to warm the bed throughout winter and mulch blocks the sun. I did have to weed the crop more often because of the lack of mulch, but hoeing between the rows a couple of times and pulling the weeds close to the carrots was not a chore.
I always am so tempted to start pulling carrots early just to see how big they are. I resisted until I started to pull the biggest ones in mid August. The crop was at full size by September and I’ll keep pulling them until mid October. Two months of fresh carrots is good and I’ll keep the last of them in the fridge for 4-6 weeks if I don’t eat them all first.
Not a problem at for this crop. I kept an eye out for slugs and snails during the seedling stage but I did not have any around. I am aware that I have nematodes in the soil where I planted the crop, but I chose to grow them over winter when they are not active.
Varieties I chose:
I chose 3 types because I always want to compare which is best in my location for the season I sow them in. The varieties were Topweight Improved, Earlybird, and All Year Round. To be honest, I could not differentiate between them at all. All were good performers and I would use them again without hesitation.
I did sow some fast growing radishes between the rows of carrots at the start of the crop, they were harvested before the carrots got too big. So all of my secrets are here for all to read, now all there is left for me to do is to eat the rest of the harvest and get even better results next year.