Grow your body fuel
Why Grow them?
CARROTS have a reputation as being difficult enough to grow and it's true that they do require a deep, light, stone-free, fertile soil to do well. But if you get the soil right, you will be rewarded with a crunchy, sweet and flavoursome crop that will store well. Carrots are the classic stockpot vegetable and are full of vitamin A.
Carrots must be sown direct in the soil as they do not transplant well. Never add fresh manure when sowing carrots as it will cause them to fork, and encourage leafy growth. Dig the bed well during the autumn to make sure there is at least a foot of good friable soil – compacted soil equals stunted carrots.
Carrot seeds are tiny so this is one situation where you will really need to get the seed bed to a "fine tilth". From mid-April, sow thinly at 2cm deep in rows 20cm apart. Keep the seed bed moist to encourage germination. Don't be alarmed if nothing seems to be happening! It could take 2-3 weeks. Thin to 5cm when the seedlings are large enough to handle. Remove weeds carefully. Sow maincrop for storage in June. You can also sow in August for a tender winter crop, covering them with cloches after October.
Carrots dislike competition from weeds so keep the bed weed free – use a hoe along the rows and hand-weed around the carrots. Carrots don't need a lot of watering, but in very dry weather keep the soil moist.
Baby carrots will be ready about seven weeks after sowing, and you can leave the rest behind to grow more (maincrop varieties take about 11 weeks). Lift by hand, or ease out with a fork carefully if ground is hard.
GIY Recommended Varieties
Amsterdam Forcing, Chantenay Red, Autumn King
If blight is the bogeyman for spuds, then the carrot root fly is the same for carrots – this menace lays eggs in the soil around the carrots, and the little maggots tunnel in to roots which then rot. Cover the bed with bionet or put a 60cm barrier of fine mesh around the carrots.
The main thing to watch out for with failed germination is seed falling down between clumps of soil and therefore being too deep to germinate. A fine tilth seedbed should prevent this.
Watch GIY tutorials on growing vegetables at www.giyireland.com/videos