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Carrots (Daucus carota sativus) are a root vegetable. When grown properly, carrots have a sweet flavour. Carrots are cold tolerant and while they prefer growing in cooler climates, they can tolerate growing in a range of climates.
Carrots consist of the root section growing under the soil's surface and leafy fern-like foliage growing above ground.
Carrots are commonly orange but can also come in purple, yellow and white shades.
Carrots are usually long but there are round and short varieties of carrots too.
Carrots can be grown year-round in sub-tropical environments; however, do not plant seeds at the height of summer. Sowing times for carrots are:
- Mid-spring to summer's end for warm zones
- Spring to summer's end in cold zones.
Choose an area with full sun. Carrots can tolerate partial shade.
The soil should be light and sandy or loamy, to allow for free and uninterrupted growth of the roots. It is best when the soil is free of stones, contains well decayed organic matter and that has low nitrogen levels. The soil should be free-draining. If the soil is acidic, add lime.
Where possible, sow directly into the soil the carrots are to be grown in. Sow the seeds from early spring. Seeds can continue to be sown every few weeks during summer, to ensure an ongoing harvest of carrots. Seeds are tiny, so it might be helpful to use a seed tape. Be aware that seeds are slow to germinate and can take two to three weeks.
To thin carrot seedlings, cut off the tops from unwanted ones. Thin out when the seedlings are about 5cm high. Later, thin out the seedlings again at 15cm. Any carrots removed at this time can be eaten as "baby carrots".
Caring for carrots
Water consistently. If the carrots are watered when the soil is dry, the transition from dry soil to wet soil can result in split carrots (root crack). Only water heavily toward the end time for the carrot crop.
Avoid over-fertilising carrots. If there is an excess of nitrogen, the carrots will produce a lot of leaf growth and the roots will have poor colour.
Keep weeds down by hand. Avoid deep tilling near the carrots.
Mulch will likely be needed when grown in a warmer climate.
Problems with carrots
Carrots may be attacked by carrot aphids or root nematodes.
Harvest when the carrots are at a size suitable for your needs. A carrot will be completely mature at around 4 months of growth.
Uses for carrots
Carrots are a useful culinary vegetable that can be eaten raw or cooked.
Grate (shred) carrot to add to salads or eat whole after washing.
Add carrots to soup, stews, pasta sauces, casseroles, stir fries, etc., for cooking.