Growing Happy Carrots

carrots collage

We haven’t done very well with growing carrots at the allotment, our plot in its 3rd year of being worked (previously uncultivated land) is still quite troublesome in places due to heavy clay soil. Carrots prefer light soil, growth will become stunted if grown in heavy soil resulting in stumpy carrots come harvest time. Some of our raised beds have better soil than others, growing potatoes (helps to break up stubborn soil) and adding organic matter has helped with improving the soil structure, but not quite enough to grow carrots successfully, it seems.

Being reasonably inexpensive to buy and readily available all year round, am I ever tempted not to grow my own carrots? It’s true they are fussy little blighters when it comes to soil type, making them tricky or almost impossible to grow for some. So are they really worth my time and effort? For me, the taste of a home-grown carrot is superior to any mass-produced, shop bought, plastic bag carrot. I don’t mind them being forked (some shapes are hilarious!) and I enjoy the sensation of pulling carrots that I’ve grown from the earth, a sweet carroty aroma drifts in the air with each satisfying pull. Soft, feathery leaves sway in the gentlest breeze making carrots an attractive crop to grow. For these reasons, I think carrots are well worth growing.

carrot leaves

This year we’re determined to grow some decent allotment carrots, like these….grown in our previous vegetable garden.

carrotsharvesting carrots

To solve our heavy soil problem we identified a raised bed with soil that had improved the most and filled it right up to the top with good quality compost. Pushing my hand down into the compost to check the depth, my entire hand and wrist were buried deeply before my fingers found the heavier soil. This should be deep enough for our carrots to be happy. Finally, I covered the rows with plastic tunnel cloches to keep the soil warm, helping the seeds to germinate.

Carrots can also be grown in containers of compost, try using large plant pots or get creative and thrifty by using things like trugs, barrels, crates, toy boxes, car tyres or emptied water butts with the bottom removed. As long as the soil is light and the container is reasonably deep (don’t forget drainage holes), just place it in the sunshine and you’ll be pulling carrots of your own.

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36 Comments

  1. Our carrot attempts are varied but poor too. Even though we have sandy light soil. Carrot fly seems to win.

  2. Tasty carrots and beautiful pictures :) I going to sow our carrots a lot more thinly this year we just chucked them in (I wasn’t positive we’d get any?) I did a little dance, sung to them a bit and they came out piddly but tasty :) good luck with your carrots :) your photography is as ever so inspirational xx

  3. Yes, carrot fly are a nightmare. I’m assuming you already use carrot mesh? Companion planting with onions is another trick to confuse the fly, or grow carrot fly resistant varieties such as ‘Flyaway’ (although even these are attractive!), but I think the flavour of these isn’t so good. Growing in pots helps with carrot fly, they’re poor fliers and often cannot reach pot grown crops.

  4. Thank you Kaz! I really must have video evidence of you singing and dancing to your carrot seeds, your pancake flipping video made me giggle ;) x

  5. We stick with growing them in high sided cement buckets at home. The fly has yet to figure out where we live. Last year we also sowed at the plot very late and missed the fly. Carrot mesh is hard to come my in the Netherlands though.

  6. Other plot holder use fine mesh old net curtains, they seem to work rather well. I won’t mention your address next time I spot a fly ;)

  7. Cool! I think we’ve got a mosquito net I seem to remember that they didn’t fare well after exposure to the elements but I might give it a try.

  8. I’ve not had much success with carrots in the past, but I keep persevering. Quite often I’ve lost whole rows to slugs overnight. We eat so many though, it would be lovely to have some home / allotment grown ones. And the guinea pigs love the tops as well.

  9. David Buckingham

     /  April 6, 2014

    You have convinced me, last year my carrots were so misshapen so I thought, give em a miss but? We now have a rabbit I found in a skip, yes, a skip, a beautiful female English spot who now lives in the house with the cats(house trained in 3 days so cleaner than the cats) I digress, carrots, she lives carrot leaves she loves the carrots too ad they are full of sugar and rabbits have a sweet tooth so we will restrict that part of it. The carrot plot is now 500mm derp loam so carrot fingers crossed

  10. A skip :( Poor bunny, lovely to hear she has a great home now. Best of luck with your carrot growing, not that you’ll get many of them now ;)

  11. CJ, our piggies love the carrot tops too, I hope you have better luck growing carrots this year.

  12. Its such a shame that so many people struggle with clay soils (and Im absolutely one of them!), because home grown carrots are such a joy – the flavour is so much better! I work with a similar system as you do – I create a raised garden bed, then fill with a special soil blend and plant the carrots into that. Most of my beds I work with the previous soil, turning it over with the natural soil in the area and rotate around the plot. Good to see you’re persevering, and good luck!

  13. We have been having the same trouble as yourself in the carrot growing department 😟

  14. I’ve never had much luck growing carrots but keep trying. Flighty xx

  15. We’ve been lucky with carrots so far, but have the same problem as you with radishes – supposedly one of the easiest things to grow !! Not sure what we’re doing wrong, but our patience is wearing thin. We’re still undecided as to whether it’s worth time, effort and garden / allotment space in trying to grow them time after time, or maybe we just need to accept it and move on ! :)

  16. Reblogged this on The Smallholder Review and commented:
    Very inisightful

  17. I found radishes do better in light soils, we haven’t done very well with them on our plot either, but our veg garden ones were perfect. I rescued a long wooden trough from a skip a while ago, I’m going to drill some drainage holes in it and fill it with a veg growing compost. Hopefully it will be perfect for radishes.

  18. Have you tried growing them in a tub of compost Flighty? Good luck for this year, they’re so worth it when they do well xx

  19. Oh dear meticulousmick, carrots really are quite tricky for most of us it seems! Best of luck for this year :)

  20. The Sage is determined to persist, personally I love the taste of peas from the pod. 😋

  21. I completely agree about the flavor of home-grown carrots being so much better than the ones from the store. After a few years of working in leaf mulch off and on I think some parts of the plot are starting to become carrot friendly but I’m still years from being able to just plunge my hand in the soil. Last fall experimented with a cover crop of buckwheat on a couple of beds and incorporating a soil conditioning product they use on athletic fields. I wish I just had the means and/or energy to haul in tons of compost an sand but that would almost feel like cheating at this point. I still get good carrots!

  22. You seem to echo not only my experiences but my thoughts too. I have raised beds because of a heavy, grey clay and have been steadily improving one bed with the aim of eventually being able to pull an orange digit that doesn’t resemble a Spielberg alien .

  23. Would mixing fine gravel with the soil help create air pockets and help keep the soil warm as rocks retain heat? I’m asking for your expertise cause we’ve been also unsuccessful and that was what we had thought of this year… that and trying the container thing.

  24. Hi quiltykanuck, sorry to hear you’ve been unsuccessful with your carrot growing efforts. I’m by no means an expert but I would avoid adding gravel to the soil, it can cause carrots to fork, even small stones can cause the roots to become misshapen. A sand mix would be better, or, try using containers. Good luck!

  25. I didn’t know that, thank you! Containers it is. :-)

  26. we’ve been very lucky with carrots. Just sprinkle the seeds in a line and come back later. Soil is sandy enough that we don’t even bother thinning. If you plant garlic nearby where you grow the carrots this keeps the carrot fly down.

  27. Lovely photos — the carrots look so tasty! I’ve tried to grow them in our raised beds here in New Cairo. These avert the carrot fly problem (the beds are 45 cm high and I think the insects can’t manage above 30 cm?) But I can’t solve the soil problem. The beds are filled with a layer of sand and then a top layer of heavy, black soil, typical of the farmlands of Egypt. It’s terrible stuff to work. Despite pulling up and mixing in the sand, with added compost, I couldn’t get the carrots to grow beyond mini-size. I think your idea of containers may be ideal, in order to control the soil properly.
    We can’t manage to grow radishes either! All the leaves are eaten by snails that hide in every nook and cranny of the veg beds. At night there are hundreds of them crawling across the lawn – I’ve no idea where they come from or where they are going to. No natural predators in Egypt as far as I can tell – no song-thrushes.

  28. Hi Sylvia, so lovely to hear from other gardeners across the world! Interesting to hear how you garden and also your struggles. Yes carrot fly are known to be poor fliers and using a high raised bed or high sided containers helps to stop them reaching the growing crop. I hope you have better luck using containers.

  29. Lucky you deweysanchez! Good to hear somebody has some good luck with growing carrots, onions also help to deter the carrot fly.

  30. I’ve always had the same problem and had given up on carrots but might give this a try :)

  31. Do give them another go mariekeates, let us know how you get on :)

  32. Ah i want to try carrots this year too but we have heavy soil as well, lots of clay. Good idea on using containers, thanks!

  33. Wow such a huge response to this already. So I planted carrot for the first time this year and I sowed them thinly into containers. Within a couple of weeks they were just sodden and all but two had died. I repotted them into fresh soil and a week later they were dead. Now I have planted them in a raised bed in the poly tunnel but I am dubious about them. I can’t believe a veg that is such a staple in the UK is so fussy! Thank you so much for this post :P

  34. Your blog is absolutely stunning! What an inspiration! You make me want to get outside and play around in my own garden. This is my second year gardening and I just pulled my first successful crop of carrots this week! Nothing beats fresh home grown veggies. Thank you for all the lovely posts!

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