Generally, carrots sold in the supermarket are high quality, cheap and grown in New Zealand so the main reasons for growing at home are if you are aiming for self sufficiency, you want to be organic, you really like eating them at a juvenile stage or you want to try some of the less common varieties. They now come in purple, yellow, red and white as well as in a squat radish shape. As far as the traditional orange carrot goes, there are higher value crops to grow if space is tight in your garden. The critical aspect is soil preparation. Carrots do best in sandy or grainy soils so you need to make sure that yours is very well tilled and cultivated.
Carrot is direct sown from seed and that seed is extremely fine. We usually cover the row with a narrow strip of Novaroof to stop the seed from being washed out by heavy downpours. Once the seed is germinating, start thinning the crop and keep thinning it several times to get final spacings of 3 to 5cm. This allows each root space to grow.
It is usual to sow carrots in an area where you grew leafy vegetables before but don’t add more manure, compost or fertiliser. They certainly don’t want nitrogen which encourages leafy growth. Fresh animal manures can cause the roots to fork.
The main pest is carrot fly whose larvae chew holes in the carrots. We find early crops sown in September or October usually mature before the fly is on the wing. There are some carrot fly resistant strains. Other than that, we just cut out the larvae holes and trails because we prefer not to use insecticides in the vegetable garden though Diazinon is effective if you wish to try that. Crop rotation (growing them in a different area each year) also helps reduce the build up of pests.
The different carrots are available from Kings Seeds for New Zealand gardeners.
First published in the Waikato Times and reproduced here with their permission.