It’s important that compost used is fresh and not left over from last year as your seedlings may pick up a disease known as ‘damping off’. Fresh compost will have been sterilised. The John Innes Multipurpose recommended has reduced peat and contains grit which will aid drainage
What you will Need
Timeframe: From sowing to picking, about 12 – 14 weeks.
- Packet of carrot seeds – recommend small round Parmex for sowing in July
- A bag of multipurpose compost
- A garden container at least 30cm deep
- Tap Water
- Brocken crockery or stones picked up on a walk for drainage
The above can be purchase in Garden Centres, Hardware stores and various outlets
How to do it?
Ensure your container has been scrubbed clean. If it doesn’t have drainage holes in the bottom (if using a plastic container you may need to push them out) you will have to make a few holes, approx. 0.5mm wide (use an electric drill, scissors, heated metal skewer, but adult supervision required).
Tip the washed stones into the container so that they cover the holes without blocking them. This will allow water to drain out then fill the container with the compost until it’s approximately 5cm from the rim. Firm the soil gently with the back of your hand to level it (making sure it’s not packed down too tightly).
Water the compost so that it’s wet but not waterlogged then go and make a brew and leave the compost to settle for about half an hour, allowing the water to soak through.
Carefully open the packet of carrots ensuring you don’t tear off any important information and empty some seeds into your hand. Carrot seeds are tiny. To help ensure you don’t sow them too thickly you could mix a few in your hand with some compost then sprinkle them on top of the compost in your container. Don’t worry if you sow them too thickly as you can thin them out afterwards, but they will be competing for space and light so do try and leave gaps between the seeds.
Cover the seeds with 12 – 20mm of compost and water once more with a fine rose on your watering can.
Once the seeds start to germinate you will have to thin them (either by carefully pulling out the seedlings you will be discarding, or by snipping them off at soil level with scissors).
As the carrots start to grow and develop, start to remove the smallest. Eventually you’ll be aiming to leave a distance of 5cm between each carrot seedling.
It should take between two to three weeks for the seeds to germinate and you notice little shoots poking up through the soil.
Keep your container in a sunny but sheltered place outside and add water whenever it shows signs of looking dry. Try not to let the carrot seedlings dry out.
The frequency of watering can differ depending upon weather conditions but water them gently with a rose on the watering can until it runs out of the drainage holes in the bottom then stop. Be careful not to overwater as this is one of the most common reasons that seeds fail to grow!
Pests to watch out for
Carrot Root Fly is a notorious pest and you won’t know if their little grubs have attacked your carrots until you pull them out. However, they fly very low – below 45cm – so growing carrots in containers and leaving them on a table outside will ensure they remain root fly free. If you’re growing carrots in the ground, sowing them near chives, rosemary and sage helps to deter carrot root fly, or you can cover them with a special covering called Environmesh.
Cats! They love to sleep on the warm compost sunning themselves. If you have a cat that takes a liking to your carrot container, just stick a few twigs in to dissuade him or her.
Things it’s handy to know
Carrots prefer to grow in a sandy soil which is not always available to us so are an ideal plant for container growing.
However, the two recommended varieties will grow in most soil types. Carrots are best sown from April through to the end of June though it’s possible to sow them in August giving you carrots for Christmas providing you cover them with newspaper or special horticultural fleece from October onwards (or bring them indoors if you’re growing them in containers and have the space).
How do you know they’re ready to eat? As you thin them out you’ll get an idea of the carrots size – try tasting them when they’re tiny – they’re delicious! Lots of foliage doesn’t necessarily indicate a large root, so pull one you think may be large enough and see.
And for the Kids
Grow carrot leaves….
Take a carrot and cut the pointed end off, leaving 1cm of the top. Place the top end in a dish with enough water to keep the carrot piece wet. Leave the dish in a well-lit place indoors and check there’s enough water in the dish every day to keep the carrot piece wet but never completely covering the top of it. After about two weeks you’ll start to notice leaves growing. They’ll keep growing until the measure about 15cm.
There are lots more carrot experiments you can try at home if you take a look at www.carrotmuseum.co.uk
With thanks to GIY Ireland. More gardening projects available on www.giyireland.com
Have you grown carrots before with your child or any other easy GIY crops? Tell us all about it in the comments below