Know your seedlings! Carrots

Growing Carrots from seed

We are hoping to run a series of informative posts about how to identify different seedlings, to help you avoid growing non-intended crops and weeds in place of your prized veg!

Today it is carrots.

Carrot seed is small (2mm), brown and easily lost in a row.

To grow carrots, I have found it best to use ground that has not recently been cleared, or at the very least to have cleared the ground a few weeks before hand and to have kept on top of hoeing any weed seedlings out as they appear.

Make a drill, which is a shallow scrape in the soil and water this well. This will mean that the seedlings have a damp surface on which to fall, and won’t be washed away by watering afterwards.

Sow your seeds thinly by first putting some in your non-dominant hand and picking up a small pinch of seeds to drop thinly into the freshly watered drill. Cover very lightly with dry soil and mark your row.

Carrot seedlings

When the seedlings emerge they first have two wing-like seed leaves (cotyledons) and look similar to very young grass seedlings. Soon after they develop their first fern like leaf.

So, you’ve sown your carrots; what’s next?

It’s important to keep the carrot bed weeded as they don’t do well with competition, and later in their growth you don’t want to be pulling out large weeds and disrupting their growing, or to attract the Carrot Root Fly. Just picking out seedlings that are not carrots, or thinning out carrots where too many are clustered together is best done very early in their development.

carrot/weed identification

It is also important to get to know what the different seedlings which will invariably be growing alongside are, and making sure you pull out the weeds and leave the carrots, not vice-versa!

Growing tips

  • Carrots don’t like stony ground. If the root hits a stone it will bend around it and your carrot won’t be straight.
  • Similarly, if carrots are grown too close together they sometimes entwine each other, again, resulting in bendy carrots.
  • Cover the seedlings with fleece when first sown to encourage germination but replace this with Enviromesh or another suitable mesh when the seedlings have around 4-5 true leaves (the ferny ones). This allows light and air to get to the bed, but keeps out a good number of the pests that would eat the young carrots.
  • The number 1 pest of carrots is Carrot Fly. These tiny black flies can smell members of the carrot family for miles (it seems) and will gladly lay their eggs on the surface of the soil, and when the maggot hatches it burrows down into your carrots, leaving them pitted, bitter and inedible. To reduce this, do not handle the foliage of the carrots during the day. Hand weed amongst the carrots in late evening if possible, and it has been said that if you put up a barrier of at least 2 feet around your carrot bed that the flies cannot get in. I haven’t found this to be true, so I prefer to cover mine completely with mesh supported by hoops to keep the mesh off the carrots.
  • In the early days keep your carrots watered to avoid them drying out, but as the carrot grows this is counter productive as you want them to send their roots down into the soil for water, not finding it at the top of the soil.

Do you have any tips to add to this? Reply in the comments section below!

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