The taste and crunch of freshly pulled carrots should be enough to persuade anyone to grow their own. Many varieties, including unusual coloured carrots are rarely found in the shops, but are worth seeking out because they look stunning on the plate, raw or cooked. Short rooted varieties can be easily grown at home in containers, pots and even window boxes
By choosing the right varieties, you can have roots from the first crisp accompaniment to summer barbecues right through to the last carrot and coriander soup the following spring.
Carrot ‘F1 Laguna’ is a top quality early Nantes style variety. Fast-growing, resistant to many foliar diseases, and always dependable, F1 Laguna may just become your 'carrot of choice' in the vegetable patch.
A hybrid variety with all the advantages of modern breeding, good disease resistance and excellent germination rates. This very uniform variety produces smooth cylindrical roots around 15cm (6in) long, with good attachment to finely cut tops, the top growth grows 38 to 40cm (15 to 18in) tall.
Laguna is suitable for planting during late summer/autumn as well as in spring. Quick to gain colour and weight, the roots mature 65 days from direct sowing. The roots are richly aromatic with a superb sweet flavour and crisp texture, For best flavour harvest the roots while still young, they are crunchy-sweet.
Prepare the site: Success with root vegetables is very much down to the quality of the soil, so it’s worth taking the time to prepare your patch. Start digging over your soil in late winter or early spring, removing any stones you find and turn the soil until it has a fine, crumbly texture. If your soil is not ideally suitable, you can prepare a large container instead. Do not add manure as this makes the soil too rich for the seeds.
Carrots sown in February in a cold frame/cloche are ready to harvest by June. Put the cloche in place a month before sowing as this helps to warm up the soil.
Sowing: Sow from February under cloches or fleece. Sow successionally.
Sow forced crop seeds in 2cm (¾in) deep drills (shallow furrows), 15cm (6in) apart.
Carrot seeds are small, but it’s wise to plant them as thinly as possible. This reduces the amount of thinning necessary and potential risk from pests. Mix the seeds with a handful of sharp sand and sow them together. Sand will also aid drainage.
Once the seedlings are showing their first rough leaves, thin out to 10cm (4in) apart which minimises competition and enables the carrots to grow quickly to harvest size.
Use a lightweight fleece over the bed to increase the temperature of the soil while also preventing the carrot flies from laying their eggs. The plants need little other attention during their growth period, although the plants should be kept well watered – too little water results in coarse, woody roots.
The carrots will mature in 12 to 20 weeks. Start pulling up your carrots as soon as they are big enough to eat. It’s best to harvest them in the evening to avoid attracting carrot fly. Late-sown carrots must be lifted by October to be stored over the winter.
Store only the best, undamaged roots, cut off their foliage and lay the roots between layers of sand in a strong box, ensuring that the roots do not touch. Store somewhere cool and dry, check the carrots occasionally, removing any odd rotten roots before they infect their neighbours. Carrot tops can be used in a variety of dishes, including raw in drinks or in salads.
Carrots are an excellent source of the deep yellow carotenoids that produce vitamin A. They are also a good source of magnesium, potassium, vitamins C and B complex, and a form of calcium that is easily absorbed by the body.
During the first five months of storage, carrots will actually increase their vitamin A content; and, if protected from heat or light, can hold their nutrient content for another two or three months
Carrots for container gardens:
While you can use containers of various depths to grow carrots, short rooted varieties such as Chantenay, Bambino or Paris Market Atlas are usually the best.
Carrot fly is drawn to carrots by the smell of crushed foliage, reduce the risk of an attack by thinning plants in the evening on a still day, removing any thinnings and watering afterwards. Carrot fly are also low-flying insects: erecting a ‘wind-break’ style shield around a crop will also help deter these pests.
Carrots do well alongside most plants, especially Chives, Garlic, Rosemary and Sage (which deter Carrot Fly). However Dill, Coriander and other members of the Umbelliferae family should not be planted near carrots as they tend to cross pollinate which can be important if you are to save your own seed.
There is some truth in the old wives' tale that carrots help you to see in the dark since night blindness is one symptom of vitamin A deficiency.
In the Second World War, Early radar stations were established along the south and east coasts of England in 1939 to detect aggressors in the air or at sea. The Germans attributed this sudden, remarkable night vision to the British habit of eating carrots. They weren't so far off the mark since the vitamin A in carrots forms retinol, a lack of which brings on night blindness. An 80g portion supplies more than the RDA of vitamin A.
- Additional Information
Average Seed Count 500 Graded Seeds (1.6 to 1.8mm) Seed Form Treated to improve germination Common Name Second Early & Maincrop Family Apiaceae Genus Daucus Species carota ssp. sativus Cultivar F1 Laguna Synonym Daucus carota var sativa Hardiness Hardy Biennial Spacing Thin out to 10cm (4in) Time to Sow Sow successionally from February Time to Harvest 65 days from direct sowing.