It seems that the British
eat more carrots than any other nation in Europe,
but it was the Dutch who first brought this vegetable
to our shores during the reign of Elizabeth I.
if you want to impress the family of win a prize
at the local horticultural show, the secret of
growing exceptionally long and straight-sided
carrots is to make a deep hole, shaped like a
giant ice cream cone, with a crowbar. Fill this
hole with potting compost and sow three seeds
of St Valery at the top. Thin the seedlings to
leave the strongest and spray regularly with a
foliar feed. Of course this is no way to grow
carrots for the kitchen – these days we
want shorter ones which are easier and quicker
to grow. Varieties continue to change and so do
our ideas about cultivation. The modern recommendation
is to grow a carrot bed with the plants close
enough to eliminate the need for hoeing. Sow very
thinly to reduce or eliminate the need for thinning
– a labour-free crop to grow nowadays but
the menace of the dreaded carrot fly is always
Mix seed with sand or fine peat to prevent sowing
too thickly. Better still, sow pelleted seeds
1in (2.5cm) apart.
Expected germination time: 17 days
Approximate number per ounce: 20,000
Expected yield from a 10ft row: 8lb (4kg) early;
10lb (5kg) maincrop.
Life expectancy of stored seed: 4 years.
Approximate time between sowing and lifting: 12
weeks early; 16 weeks maincrop.
Ease of cultivation: Not difficult if soil is
good and carrot fly keeps away.
· Carrots are hard to please. The soil
must be deep, fertile and rather sandy if you
want to produce fine long specimens. If your soil
is rather heavy or stony, grow short-rooted varieties.
Where land has been manured during the past year,
don’t grow carrots at all.
· Pick a sunny spot – dig in autumn,
adding peat if necessary but not manure nor compost.
Prepare the seed bed 1-2 weeks before sowing –
rake Bromophos and a general-purpose fertilizer
into the surface.
Sow very thinly ½ in (1cm) deep in rows
that are 6in (15in) apart. Cover with soil.
· For a very early crop which will be ready
in June, sow a short-rooted variety under cloches
or in a cold frame in early March.
· For an early crop which will be ready
in July, sow a short-rooted variety in a sheltered
spot in late March or April.
· For maincrop carrots sow intermediate-
or long-rooted varieties between mid April and
early June for lifting in September and October.
· For a tender crop in November and December,
sow a short-rooted variety in August and cover
with cloches from October.
Looking after the crop
· Thin out the seedlings when they are
large enough to handle. The plants should be about
2-3in (5-7cm) apart. Take care when thinning or
the root-ruining carrot fly will be attracted
to your garden by the smell of the bruised foliage.
Water if the soil is dry and thin in the evening.
Firm the soil around the remaining plants and
burn or bury the thinnings.
· Pull out or hand hoe any weeds between
the seedlings, but once well-established the use
of a hoe is not recommended. The dense foliage
cover provided by the closely-packed plants should
keep down annual weeds – others should be
removed by hand.
· Water during periods of drought in order
to keep the ground damp – a downpour on
dry soul may cause root splitting.
· Pull up small carrots as required from
June onwards. Ease out with a fork if the soil
· October is the time to lift maincrop
carrots for storage. Use a fork to lift the roots
and then remove the surface dirt. Damaged roots
should be used in the kitchen or thrown away –
only sound carrots should be stored. Cut off the
leaves to about ½ in (1cm) above the crowns
and place the roots between layers of sand or
dry peat in a stout box. Do not let the carrots
touch – store in a dry shed and inspect
occasionally so that any rotten roots can be disposed
of before infecting their neighbours. The crop
will keep until March.
Golf ball round or finger long, these short-rooted
carrots mature quickly. They are the first to
be sown, and the early crop is either used immediately
or frozen. The favourites are Amsterdam Forcing
and Early Nantes, but there are now many others.
Small, perhaps, but top of the league for flavour.
Sow every 2-3 weeks between early spring and July
to provide a steady supply of succulent roots.
Amsterdam Forcing: Reputed to be the earliest
of all – cylindrical with a blunt (stump)
end. There is little core and it is an excellent
carrot for freezing.
Early Nantes: The roots are longer and more tapered
than Amsterdam Forcing, but it is similar in many
ways – early, tender and good for freezing.
Early French Frame: The round one – an excellent
choice for shallow soils. Can reach 2in (5cm)
across but is best harvested before reaching such
a mature stage. The variety Rondo belongs to this
Champion Scarlet Horn: A good carrot of the Nantes
type which is recommended for sowing under cloches
in early March.
Tiana: An F1 hybrid which has been highly recommended
for it earliness, smooth skin and flavour. Obviously
a good choice for the exhibitor.
Kundulus: A good carrot for bad soils, say the
catalogues. The short cylindrical roots are almost
ball-like – a wise choice for the small
These medium-sized carrots are the best all-rounders
for the average garden. They are generally sown
later than the short varieties, the young roots
being pulled for immediate use and the remainder
left to mature as maincrop carrots for winter
Chantenay Red Cored: The popular choice, which
seems to appear on everybody’s list of recommended
varieties of medium-sized carrots. Thick and stump-rooted,
the flesh is deep orange and the skin very smooth.
There are many good selections, such as Royal
Berlicum Berjo: An improvement on the old variety
Berlicum – the cylindrical roots are stump-ended
and it has a good reputation for keeping well,
high yields and attractive colour.
Autumn King: The roots are unusually large for
carrots in this group, but they are distinctly
stump-rooted with none of the finely-pointed taper
of the long-rooted varieties. Autumn King has
several virtues – it is extremely hardy
and will stay in the soil over winter, and carrot
fly find it less attractive than other varieties.
There are one or two excellent strains, including
James Scarlet Intermediate: An old favourite with
a good reputation for all-round performance. It
is half-long, broad and tapered.
Flakkee: Like Autumn King, this Dutch variety
has roots which are too long to warrant the label
‘intermediate’. But they are blunt-ended
and so cannot be classed with the long-rooted
Mokum: An F1 hybrid which produces cylindrical
roots up to 9in (23cm) long. It matures very rapidly,
and can be sown from March until July.
Nantes Tip Top: The aristocrat of the Nantes group
– a popular choice for showing. The 6in
(15cm) roots are uniformly cylindrical and core-free.
These are the long, tapered giants of the show
bench. They are usually grown in specially prepared
soil and are not really suitable for general garden
use unless your ground is deep, rich and light.
New Red Intermediate: Despite its name, one of
the longest of all carrots. It has good keeping
St Valery: This is the one which the exhibitors
so often choose. The roots are long, uniform and
Carrot and Parsnip troubles
Carrots are not considered easy to grow successfully
– if your soil is heavy and sticky then
long, straight roots are virtually and impossibility.
The answer is to choose a short-rooted variety
in such a situation, but this won’t help
you against carrot fly. In some areas pest attacks
reach such proportions that the growing of this
vegetable is hardly worthwhile. No variety is
resistant, and no single control method can be
relied upon to be completely successful. The answer
is to use a combination of control measures. Parsnips
are less susceptible to pests – canker is
the major disease and growing a resistant variety
is the answer.
Violet Root Rot
Motley Dwarf Virus