Once you have enjoyed the earthy goodness of carrots and parsnips sourced from your own garden, it becomes pretty difficult to return to the store-bought version. Nutritious root vegetables can be grown throughout most of the year. Even when winter’s chill hinders their growth they survive in the soil until you want them. In fact, the cold works as an outdoor refrigerator that keeps them crisp and nutrient-dense.

So, get sowing and prepare your root veggies for a year’s worth of harvest.

The Basics

Seed: Although it is possible to transplant seedlings, the best option is to grow root vegetables from the seed.

Soil: Whether you buy bags of growing mix or dig your own, soil is imperative. It should have a loose, even texture and drain well. Although deformed carrots have a quirky look and still taste fine, to have a clean, neat specimen that is easy to peel, take out lumps of compacted soil and stones that allow young taproots to grow outwards whichever way they choose.

Nitrogen: Go easy on the fertiliser, especially nitrogen, as this will warp your harvest. The idea soil for root vegetables is where a crop of well-fertilised leafy greens once grew. Otherwise, apply a side dressing of liquid feed or balanced general garden fertiliser once the carrots start to grow.

Thinning: When the seedlings are 3-5cm tall it’s time to give up a few seedlings to allow room for others to sprout. Leave 2-3cm between each seedling, and thin the plants more once they begin to grow. Eat the thinning growth.

Water: Water moistens the soil, especially during the summer months.

Root Veggies from the Seed

  • In a sunny spot, create a bed of fine crumbly soil, at least 30cm deep, or fill a container with planting mix. Gently water with a water can.
  • Lightly tap the seeds out of their packet and evenly apply over the soil surface.
  • Sprinkle over a thin (3mm) layer of planting mix or loose soil.
  • If it’s not raining, use a watering can or soft spray hose to moisten the soil without flooding. Carrot seedlings will begin to germinate after two or three weeks of planting.

Carrot Tips

  • Sow carrots every 3-4 weeks for continuous supply. For year-round supply, especially when frost is coming, sow your last batch 2-3 months before the heavy frost sets in. Carrots can survive light frost.
  • Sow carrot and radish seed mixed together. The radishes will grow faster than the carrots.
  • Mix coffee grounds with carrot seeds before sowing. This will help you repel pests and space the seeds.
  • A thin layer of organic mulch, such as pea straw will help prevent a dry surface crust, which blocks germination.
  • In the summer months, carrot rust flies lay eggs in the mix’s soil. Their larvae munch holes in the carrots. Discourage them by planting carrots in different locations every year. Select quick-growing varieties, sow them in early spring and consume them when small. This makes them wholesome before the worst damage can be done. When thinning, push the soil back to stop the tops from going green and repel carrot rust flies.

Container Carrots

Containers, or raised beds, are perfect for growing carrots. You can control the quality of your soil with containers, but they require more attention and watering then carrots that grow in the open garden. Feed with liquid fertiliser ever 2 to 3 weeks to keep them happy and healthy.

Varieties

Carrots come in a range of colours, shapes and sizes. Some are interesting heritage varieties. For heavier soils and containers quick maturing baby carrots are the most ideal option. Ask your garden centre staff what the best option is for your garden.