Unless you have tasted the stunning sweetness of a carrot pulled from your own garden – in the dead of winter – you haven’t really tasted a carrot!
Autumn King is one of the best main crop varieties available with a consistent deep red colour and conical roots that grow to around 25 to 30cms (10 to 12 inches) long. This favourite of home gardeners can be grown as a maincrop or late variety. It resists greening and splitting so stores well left in the ground and is a good variety for storing.
It is one of the largest of carrots and last to mature. A very healthy and vigorous carrot with the potential to be the highest yielding of all. Crops in 70 days.
Carrot Autumn King has been awarded the RHS Award of Garden Merit (AGM).
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.
Sowing: Sow successionally March to August
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 the seeds and sand together. Sand will also aid drainage. Once the seedlings are showing their first rough leaves, thin to 5cm (2 in) between plants.
Carrot seeds hate drying out and germinate slowly (14 to 21 days) so if you’re sowing seed in summer, a good way to keep them moist is to lay wet newspaper on top of the damp soil. Once the seedlings are showing their first rough leaves, thin out to 10cm apart which minimises competition and enables the carrots to grow quickly to harvest size. 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.
Harvesting: June to October.
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. Remember that winter carrots take a little longer to mature than summer carrots.
The window for planting carrots is actually pretty wide. The thing to remember is that if you’re planting for a winter crop, is to make sure you plant early enough to ensure they are fully grown before the winter comes.
You can leave them in the ground and just dig them up as you need them. Dig up any remaining overwintered carrots by April so that they don’t start growing again.
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. 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.
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. Try growing Spring Onion White Lisbon next to carrots as the smell helps 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.
The carrot, onion and mustard families are the most important crops to rotate every year. This is because they’re most at risk from root insects and diseases in the soil. They also deplete nutrients that can be easily replenished by growing different crops in that location the following year. Ideally, try to wait three years before planting carrots back in their original location. Good vegetables to plant the following year are beets, spinach, swiss chard, endive and lettuce.
Carrots sown in February in a cold frame/cloche are ready to harvest by June. When using cloches put them in place a month before sowing as this helps to warm up the soil. Sow forced crop seeds in 2cm deep drills (shallow furrows), 15cm apart, preferably a bed prepared the previous autumn. Thin out plants to 10cm apart which minimises competition and enables the carrots to grow quickly to harvest size.
Later in Spring (March/April) sow seeds directly outdoors. Where possible, cover with garden fleece to speed germination and protect against carrot fly. Harvest in July/September.
These are sown in April/May and harvested in October/November. This time its drills 2cm deep but 30cm apart. Sow seed very thinly and cover with light soil. Thin seedlings out to 4cm apart. These carrots are particularly suitable for storage after harvest.
Late Main Crop:
These should be sown June/July and are ready for harvesting from December onwards. Late varieties are good for storing and produce large roots. Thin seedlings out to 4 to 5cm apart and avoid bruising the leaves when thinning as the smell can attract carrot fly.
- Additional Information
Packet Size 2 grams Average Seed Count 1,600 Seeds Seed Form Natural Seeds per gram 800 seeds per gram Common Name Maincrop / Late variety Family Apiaceae Genus Daucus Species arota ssp. sativus Cultivar Autumn King Hardiness Hardy Biennial Time to Sow Sow successionally March to August Germination 14 to 21 days Harvest June to October.