In the garden: Carrot gold
If you are after a year-round supply of carrots, using the carrot-launcher growing technique may be just the thing.
To grow healthy carrots you need to avoid three things:
- Frost – kills off the tender green leaves.
- Shallow soil – prevents good root formation.
- Too much soil nitrogen – causes carrots to malform.
One way to minimise these three problems is to grow carrots in a 10cm-diameter PVC drainpipe at least 60cm long, propped up vertically in a sunny position. I call this device a carrot launcher.
- Fill your launcher two-thirds of the way up with a mix of eight parts potting compost, one part sand and one part wood ash.
- Then fill with fine seed-raising mix to within 2cm of the top and water well.
- Next, choose a variety of carrot seed that can be grown through autumn and winter (such as ‘topweight’). Mix the seeds 50/50 with fine sand – this enables easier distribution of the fine seeds. Throw in a few chive seeds as well (these deter carrot fly whose larvae eat the carrot roots) and sprinkle a handful of this mix on the top of each launcher.
- Cover launcher with 2mm seedraising mix and water with a mister.
- Finally, tie a piece of clear plastic over the top to retain moisture.
Seeds should sprout within 10 days. Keep moist with a mister and thin out the smallest seedlings when leaves are 10cm tall, leaving the two biggest carrots and three or four chives. Keep seedlings well watered and sprinkle coffee grounds around the base of the plants to further deter carrot fly larvae.
Left to grow to flower could see you eventually picking monster carrots, although they can be picked earlier for sweeter, smaller carrots and a second crop started immediately after.
With sufficient carrot launchers and staggered sowing you will be able to harvest carrots year round.