Carrots are one of the most popular vegetables to be eaten in Ireland and used in a wide variety of recipes – soups, stir fries, salads and cakes. Carrots are easy to grow and do not need a lot of effort. Home grown carrots have much better flavour than even the freshest shop bought kind.They are one of the few vegetables it is possible to grow for use almost year-round because they can be stored in winter.
Carrots are best grown in light sandy soils or soft peaty soils. The common factor between these two completely different soil types is that they have an open soil structure. They dislike heavy soil and can be very strong-flavoured in heavy rich ground. The crop needs a fair level of nutrients in the soil, but not too rich. Forking of the roots can occur if manure is applied before carrots and this can give a woody flavour too.
How to Plant
Main crop types can be sown from March onwards. Sowing after May tend to run into trouble with carrot fly. Sow carrots into a soft, well cultivated fine soil in good condition and not too wet. Sow the seeds in a very shallow drill, about one cm deep or less. Space the rows of carrots about 30cm apart.
Keep carrots free from weeds by careful hoeing between rows and hand-weeding in the rows. Carrots shade out weeds when the leafy tops have formed, but compete poorly until then. Water the carrots in dry weather but before the ground dries out because carrots will split if watered after a dry spell. Use the first fingerling carrots when they are just the length of your little finger. These are the most delicious of all. Pulling these allows thinning and the remaining carrots can be left to grow larger. The earlier sown crops will all be used directly from the garden and only the last main crop sowing will be used in autumn and stored for winter.
Carrot Fly: the females lay eggs at the stem of the carrot plants and the larvae tunnel into the root and can kill young plants, and spoil mature carrots.
- Sow thinly to avoid having to thin out much, because the smell of crushed seedlings is thought to attract the carrot fly adult females
- The best solution to carrot fly is a carrot fly fence of polythene or fleece, 50 or 60cm tall and buried in the soil with no gaps or joins where the flies can enter.