Name: carrot (Daucus carota subsp. sativus).
Plant type: tuberous root vegetable. Technically a biennial, but most often grown as an annual.
Height: to around 50cm
Foliage: attractive, bright green, feathery and fern-like, arising in a central spray from the storage root.
Climate: cool and warm temperate—grown in late winter to early summer. Tropical and sub-tropical—grown in the cooler months.
Soil: must have a very loose and open soil for the large storage root to develop well.
Position: prefers full sun and will tolerate moderate amounts of wind.
Flowering and fruiting: if grown for flowers and seed, these will be seen in the second year, after which the storage root will die off.
Feeding: add a controlled-release fertiliser to the surface as the plants start to develop. Occasional liquid applications of organic or seaweed-based products are beneficial.
Watering: likes reliable moisture, but will not tolerate being wet.
The carrot is one of those vegie staples. It can be eaten fresh and raw, or cooked, baked, boiled or steamed in all manner of sweet or savoury recipes. With the right position and soil preparation, it is also very easy to grow. Carrot is great to grow with kids. It’s relatively quick from seed to harvest—7 weeks or less, depending on the variety and the size you want your carrots to reach. It also grows extremely well in pots, although if you’re looking for a good crop, troughs may be a better option.
Carrots make an ornamental addition to the vegie, or even general, garden. The foliage is distinctly fern-like, and aromatic if crushed. It forms dense, fountain-like sprays and is a very attractive rich green. Carrots are biennials, so if you don’t pull a carrot after the normal season, it will grow into its second year to flower and then seed. The flowers themselves are tiny and white, but they are held in a large group, with a flattened top called an umbel.
You’ve likely seen some rather odd-shaped carrots. This has to do with an interesting characteristic of the plant, which likes very open soil and good levels of nutrients. If the soil is too hard for the carrot, its growth may be stunted or the roots can split two ways or head off in odd directions. It also responds to nutrients in the soil that are too dense. If manure or compost hasn’t been adequately broken down and blended in, carrots will grow away from the lumps. Either or both of these can lead to weird and wacky two-legged carrots.
Carrots can be planted as an easy-to-grow root crop, or as an ornamental plant.
Carrots prefer full sun positions, protected from serious cold or heat. They are tolerant of wind and coastal locations.
Soil must be very open and free-draining to a depth of at least 20cm. Avoid heavy soils. In pots, use a premium organic mix, or one blended for edibles. Carrots like reliable moisture, but will not tolerate being wet, as rot will follow.
Carrots are very reactive to temperature—if it’s too hot, the root won’t develop well. Cooler temperatures make for thinner and lighter-coloured carrots, while moderate warmth will increase colour. It’s important to plant carrots at the right time for your region to get the most from your crop.
Carrots are almost always grown from seed, and should be sown where they will be grown, as they do not transplant well. This means that the growing bed must be very well prepared at seed sowing time.
Carrot seeds can be sown from January to May in Australia, when soil temperatures range between 8 and 30°C.
Follow these tips to care for your carrots:
Carrots can be harvested 12–18 weeks after sowing.
Leftover carrots can be left in the ground for an additional four weeks, as long as the soil doesn’t freeze to solid.
Carrots are generally quite pest free, however, a fly called carrot fly can cause problems. This can be minimised by rotating carrots to different beds every year.
Herbs: expand your culinary options with herbs.
Cucumber: easy to grow and super productive, cucumber makes a fantastic addition to the vegie plot.
Kale: one of nature’s superfoods, kale can be as ornamental as it is edible.
Check out our huge range of plants now and get your garden growing!