By Laura Crombie published
Learning how to grow carrots is a rite of passage for any amateur gardener, whether you've got a proper vegetable patch or just a couple of containers. This tasty and nutritious veg is easy to grow and come in lots of fun varieties. Even the pickiest dinner party guests are sure to be impressed if you've grown your own purple, red and yellow carrots.
The good news is that carrots need nothing more than a sunny spot with fertile, well-drained soil. They're split into two main types – early and maincrop, which relates to when they're planted and are ready to harvest. Early varieties can be sown in February or March, while maincrops are sown from April to the end of June. The great thing about carrots is that if you choose later maincrop varieties, they can be picked all the way through winter – perfect for Christmas dinner! If you're in any doubt which kind of carrot you've bought, just take a look at the seed packet.
Here's our simple guide to growing carrots, including how long it'll take, the best varieties to try and how to avoid common problems. And if you want to know how to grow other tasty fruit and veg, head to our grow your own hub.
Where to buy carrot seeds online
- Buy carrot seeds at Crocus
- Buy carrot seeds at Suttons
- Buy carrot seeds at Dobies
- Buy carrot seeds at Thompson & Morgan
Step-by-step guide to growing carrots
1. Prepare your soil a couple of weeks before planting. Use a fork to break up any lumps and remove stones, then added some well-rotted organic matter and dig through.
2. For early varieties, plant outdoors in February or March and cover with cloches or agricultural fleece to protect from any frost. For maincrop varieties, plant between April and the end of June.
3. Place your seeds 1cm deep and 5cm apart and cover in soil. Make sure rows are at least 20cm apart.
4. Water your seeds well with a watering can with a rose head attached.
5. Keep the surrounding soil weed free and water occasionally.
When are carrots ready to harvest?
When your carrots are ready depends on the variety. Early varieties will be ready after about 10 weeks, while maincrops will be ready in 14-16 weeks.
Make sure you water your carrots before picking them as the moisture in the soil helps prevent the veg from breaking.
If you've got a bumper crop, you can store them covered in sand – making sure the carrots don't touch each other – for a couple of months.
Best varieties of carrot to grow
- Autumn King 2 – classic orange variety
- Parmex – a short variety, perfect for growing in pots
- Purple Haze – has dark purple skin with orange flesh
Common problems when growing carrots
The biggest issue you'll face are carrot flies, whose larvae feeds on the roots of carrots, causing them to rot. There's nothing you can do once you have an infestation, so it's all about prevention. Sow your carrots thinly and be careful not to damage the foliage as the smell attracts flies. You can also surround your carrots with two-foot plastic barriers, which stops the low-flying flies in their tracks, or you can cover your plants with agricultural fleece.
More grow your own advice:
Laura has been writing about homes and gardens for 14 years. She started out as a newspaper reporter, then was editor of a regional magazine, and editorial manager for a travel company (who doesn’t love a free holiday?). She started at Real Homes magazine in 2015 as Deputy Editor and then become Editor before taking on her current position, which focuses on video and events (you may have seen her presenting Real Homes TV). She loves spending time in the garden with her toddler and has a bizarre passion for moving lawns!
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