CarrotDaucus carota ssp. sativus
The carrot is bi-annual and belongs to the umbel-flowering family. This plant has been cultivated for a very long time and is originally from Afghanistan. The root was dark-violet then and ramified, but very much appreciated and in Europe as well. It is not until the 900s a gathered conical root appears in Asia Minor. The carrot arrived in Europe in the 1100s via Moorish Spain and the Europeans have dominated its development since then.
Until the 1500s the carrot was violet, purple, red or black in colour, but it tasted as good as our carrots do today. Then via a blessed mutation a pale-yellow carrot saw the light of day for the first time in Western Europe. 100 years later the Dutch brought out the aesthetically pleasing, orange carrot we are used to and then in quick succession all kinds of carrots arrived from small early, juicy ones to large storage roots for both people and animals. These carrots from the 1700s are the direct sources of all the carrots we have today.
The carrot thrives in humus-rich sandy soil with balanced PH-value, but good crops can come from other types of soil too if you choose the right sort. It needs lots of potassium, so if the soil needs fertilizing use well burned natural manure, compost, wood-ash and rock-flour. Do not over fertilize! Too much nitrogen lessens durability and may cause the roots to crack, the tops to grow large at the expense of the root.
Carrots shouldn"™t be grown in the same place more often than every 4 years because of the risk of contagion from rot fungi and attacks by insects and nematodes. Carrots are attacked, chiefly, by the carrot top flea and louse, which cause curling disease in the tops causing small inedible roots and the small white larvae of the carrot fly which tunnel in the roots. The pleasant smell of the carrot tempt and lead the carrot top flea and louse so try to spread as little aroma as possible when thinning, weeding and harvesting.
Give the plants as good a start as possible with a light and airy plot and good, balanced, moisture-retaining soil to increase their resistance. Watering with nettle water strengthens the plants further.
Co-cultivation is one way of making it difficult for insects to find the carrots and at the same time help them to thrive. Planting black salsify, peas, lettuce, tomatoes, radish, root parsley, sage and foremost of all the onion family near the carrots can prevent or reduce insect attacks. Do not, however, sow dill beside the carrots. They are close relatives but dislike each other.
Repeated powdering with wood-ash, lime or rock-flour makes it unpleasant for the fly to lay her eggs and for the lice to suck the tops. Putting fresh saw-dust, needles, leaves of ferns and tansy, snuff or soot in the row could help. Plant poisons like pyrethrum and rotenone can be used against powerful, stubborn attacks by the flea and louse.
Cloth of fibre is an efficient way of preventing insect attacks. It must be placed over the sowing until the last eggs of the carrot-fly have been laid in July-August. Sadly though, the fibre cloth makes the carrot tops grow too much and makes the climate beneath it moist and heavy while the carrot prefers more airy and dry surroundings. It is not strange that lots of people think that carrots grown under cloth are not as tasty.
Weeds easily become a problem in carrot cultivation. The seeds need a long time to germinate and give the weeds a long head start. One method, simple and efficient, is to burn off the plot with quite a strong gas flame just before the carrots sprout or sow them after a well cleaned crop like onions for instance. During summer and autumn banking up, which should be done to prevent discolouration of the shoulders, is the best way of getting rid of weeds. Be careful however! Carrots are susceptible to damage to the seedlings and if they are disturbed they become ramified.
SOWING: Sow when the ground frost is over and heat has begun to penetrate the soil (the warmer soil, the faster germination, at least 7C) or sow very late in autumn! The seeds then germinate next spring. The seeds, which germinate slowly, can be pre-germinated by putting them in tepid water for 24 hours before sowing. Dry them and sow! Watering the row before sowing is another way of facilitating germination.
Sow 1cm deep and not too densely or the thinning becomes difficult. Do not allow a crust to form, or it will be difficult for the seedlings to penetrate the surface. Water!
SPACING: The early carrots need 1-3 cm of mutual space, while the late autumn- and winter sorts need 3-6 cm. Keep 35-50 cm between the rows and in beds 15-25 cm between the rows is sufficient.
HARVEST: Harvest the carrots as soon as they have developed a clear orange colour! Then they are tasty too. Early sorts should not remain ready for harvest for longer than 3 weeks. They crack easily, especially if there is a surplus of nutrients and water in the plot. Sow fast-growing sorts successively instead! The later carrots grow best in autumn and if they are to be stored, harvest as late as possible, but do not allow them to become over-ripe. The tops should still be freshly green and not have begun to wilt or become discoloured. Carrots are not affected by even several degrees of frost but allow them to thaw out completely before digging them out. Cover with plant refuse if you wish to harvest fresh roots well into winter. Leave a few cm of the tops at harvest and handle the roots carefully! Jolts diminish the keeping qualities of carrots considerably. Store them in sand, dry leaves, peat or saw-dust in a cellar. If the storage space is excellent they keep in sacks or boxes. Carrots winter the best at a temperature of 1oC and high humidity.
SEEDS: 600/1000 seeds/g and one portion contains 500-1500 seeds and sows 7-15 m. 10-20 g are needed for 100 m of summer carrots depending on sowing method and 200-300g/1000m2 and 5-10 g (about 100g/1000m2) for storage carrots.
Growing carrot seeds