Homegrown carrots Top of the Crops

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My first encounters with the carrot did not bode well for this vegie. 

They were either overcooked and mushy or undercooked and tough, and until I grew my own, I thought of them mainly as a winter crop, but young carrots, lifted in summer are tender and so tasty. 

Carrots require a sunny position and a light, loose soil free from stones. 

Dig in fertiliser some weeks before you actually sow the seed. Too rich or fresh a compost can cause forked roots. 

Carrots are best sown directly into the ground. I use cloches to warm the ground before sowing and often keep them on the emerging seedlings until the Wakatipu frosts have finally gone. 

Make a drill about 1cm deep with about 15cm between rows. Now the problem starts. 

Carrot seeds are dark and very small and it is almost impossible not to sow them in clumps. Certain seed companies sell strips of seed which you just lay in the drill, but make sure you don’t place the strip too deep. 

I prefer the former because then I can harvest the thinnings which are small but delicious. 

Thinning is the method of separating the clumps of carrots and leaving the best seedlings the space to grow and mature. 

Germination takes about 21 days. I sowed my first crop in October last year and a second crop in mid-January which I lifted and stored at the beginning of March. 

Carrots store well. After lifting, remove the feathery tops. Get rid of any excess soil from the roots and lay on a bed of sand in a wooden box. 

Carrot Fly is the main enemy. It is attracted to the smell of the leaves so never leave the tops on the ground, compost them and try companion planting. 

To date, my most successful ‘companion’ has been the dwarf French Marigold, planted in between the rows.

Jacqui Stubbs is a landscape designer with Remarkable Gardens Ltd.