Carrot – Daucus carota
The carrot is a member of the Umbelliferae family and its closest relatives are celery, dill, parsnip and parsley. Cultivated varieties exist in a range of colours from black, yellow, orange, red, purple through to white. They are a hardy plant that is grown as an annual.
Orange carrots are extremely rich in beta-carotenes. Beta-carotene is converted by the body into vitamin A.
Favourite Growing Conditions
The key to successfully growing carrots is loose, well-drained soil so that they can develop their roots with the least resistance. They are also not very tolerant of acidic conditions and prefer a pH range of 6.5 to 7.5. Often carrots are grown as a follow-up crop in a well-manured bed after nitrogen-hungry vegetables such as cucurbits, crucifers or tomatoes have finished. This minimises the risk of forking through excessive amounts of nitrogen in the soil.
Carrots like full sun but can tolerate partial shade. They prefer a garden bed positioned for coolness.
In temperate regions sow your carrots from mid-spring through to the end of summer.
You can sow the seed directly in the ground and it normally takes several weeks for the seedlings to appear. Seeds should be sown at intervals of 2-3cm and up to a centimetre deep so that the seed doesn’t dry out. Maintaining high moisture levels especially during the germination period is important. Some gardeners plant a faster-growing root crop, such as radishes, turnips or beets among their carrots to out-compete the weeds.
A light mulch will help control weeds. The seedlings require thinning out a few weeks after sowing in order to create a spacing of 10cm.
After a couple of months baby carrots can be harvested but generally it takes 4 months for carrots to reach maturity.
Don’t store carrots near apples, pears or potatoes as the ethylene gas causes the carrots to turn bitter.