Last year‘s carrot crop was reasonable, considering the soil, they prefer it light and free draining but my garden is clay. This year I‘m hoping for even greater success from my new raised beds filled with well rotted compost, fertiliser made from wormcasts and sieved loam that will improve the growing conditions all round. They are standing by ready for action as soon as the weather warms up.
I love fresh crunchy carrots and the children do too and there are enough varieties to suit everyone from long rooted giants to those the size of golfballs. On stony soils, rake off and dig out larger stones when you are preparing the seedbed and create a fine seedbed and sow short or round rooted varieties like ‘Parmex‘ that are certainly a novelty on the plate. Buy fresh seed each year to ensure good germination, sowing seed mixed with sharp sand stops them from clumping together too. If possible, sow when a warm, dry spell is forecast to encourage germination and growth, the way the weather has been through February should encourage you to wait a little longer until the end of this month. I‘ve had problems with carrot fly in the past, so beds raised to almost 2‘ should help but just to make sure, a barrier of horticultural fleece which creates a warm wind-protected microclimate that is particularly useful early in the season and will remain in place throughout the season too. Try fly resistant varieties like ‘Flyaway‘ and ‘Sytan‘ and thin crops on a damp day to discourage carrot fly or water the rows after thinning then bury them in the compost heap or feed them to the chickens. Slugs ate some of last years seedlings but biological control nematodes, watered into the soil before the seedlings appears usually does the trick. Other options include scattering wood ash and soot over the seedlings to make them less palatable, a layer of sharp sand reduces slug numbers and scattering bran along the rows works too – though it sometimes has the effect of encouraging more to come and dine. Combining some of these with hand picking slugs by torchlight each evening should keep your seedlings safe. Then it‘s just a matter of keeping them moist, if you let them dry out and water again they are likely to split. Start by sowing early carrots like ‘Amsterdam Forcing‘ or ‘Early Nantes‘ in cold frames or under cloches you‘ll have enough carrots to keep ‘Bugs Bunny‘ happy!
It‘s good to sow a few beetroot too, that can be harvested about the size of golf balls adding taste to early salads. Make sowings at monthly intervals for a constant supply, the first sowings can be made under cloches in early March for harvest in late May or early June and round varieties started off in modules. The first outdoor sowings can be made a little later, remembering that they do not germinate if soil temperatures are below 7C (44F). Do try varieties other than ‘Bolthardy‘; ‘Pablo‘ has excellent flavour and ‘Monokel‘ is pretty good too.