How I grow carrots in Tasmania
Carrots are a perfect crop for the Tasmanian as you can nearly grow an all year round supply. You really want to sow carrots in loose, compost-rich soil free of pebbles, stones or other large objects. I regularly plant straight into fresh organic compost from the Hobart tip and have never had a problem (touch wood).
- Sow carrots in the garden 2 weeks before the average last frost date (generally late Oct for me so the earliest sowing in my garden is early October).
- Carrots require a soil temperature range of (7-29C°) to germinate; germination will be slow in cold soil and potentially they will rot if it is very wet.
- Some springs I delay sowing until November as I did in 2021, in fact I delayed until mid Nov due to some extensive cold spells and falling snow!!
- Carrots grow best at an average temperature of 14-19C° which is basically the Tasmanian climate.
- I sow carrots again in January and February (mid to late summer) and as late as 12 weeks before the first autumn frost (can be late April but seems to be May for me more commonly in the last decade). These are my autumn and winter carrots so I sow quite a fair bit (maybe 4 to 6 lineal metres on an estimate).
- Never, Ever, and I mean never buy a punnet of carrots. (Same goes for parsnips)
Grow carrots in full sun, in winter they will appreciate every bit of sunlight they can get, the late spring crop it really does not matter. When sowing, add aged compost to the bed and rake it evenly. Water the bed then I take a garden stake and press down as a little drill to sow the seed into. I then sow the seeds quite thickly, and then use a garden sieve to sift compost as a fine soil lightly over the seeds then firm down. I don’t dig the bed over. Many do but I find I had more issues with soil moisture retention, weed germination and general soil structure so I follow the no dig principles.
Some years I add wood ash into the soil before planting. Interestingly, carrots prefer a soil pH of 5.5 to 6.8 however I have not had any issues with the ph of my beds in this range.
The most important step after sowing is TO KEEP THE BED MOIST. I have many customers at market tell me they can’t grow carrots. I would say many fail to keep the beds well-watered, especially the January/February sowing when rain is rare in Tasmania and days are in the 20’s. Some days I will water the bed 4 times a day to ensure optimal germination rates of the carrot seed. You can also lay hessian, wooden planks or shade cloth to keep the moisture in during those first few critical weeks.
If slugs and snails are hammering you, you may need to throw some iron pellets down when sowing to help you through. I have seen relicts of a germinated seed almost not visible to the eye as a slug has feasted on that little cotyledon.
Where summers are hot and winters are mild grow carrots from autumn to early spring. I never bothered with carrots in summer when I lived in Qld, those that grew just didn’t taste right either.
A tip is do not cover the carrot seed with too much soil. People often plant them too deep. Just cover with a light fine sifted compost. I have also used fine sand before and this works well. About 2 to 3 cm apart is ideal but this is a difficult task so I just sow more and then when they all come up. I thin to a fingers width. Expect germination in 2 to 3 weeks, maybe longer in the late spring planting depending on the weather.
Another issue I see often is the top layer of soil crusting which will slow germination. To prevent crusting if you have this issue, cover seed with vermiculite instead of garden soil. A crop of radish which comes up thick can also be inter sown as these break the soil loose and aide the slower growing carrot.
You can also soak the seed in warmish water for several hours before sowing; this will speed germination.
Once carrots have their true leaves, I thin carrots again to about 8cm apart. I try to wait until the thinning’s are just enough to be baby carrots to use. About 45 days after sowing.
Watering and Feeding Carrots:
- Keep carrots evenly moist to ensure quick growth as mentioned for germination.
- Do not allow the soil to dry out. Reduce watering as roots approach maturity; too much moisture at the end of the growing time will cause roots to crack. Yu can’t avoid rainfall however. They are still perfectly find if they crack.
- Potash at planting is useful. I tend to do this every 2nd year as I add wood ash to my homemade compost anyway which goes on the beds in winter. Outside of this I may apply Seasol or Charlie Carp occasionally at a very weak rate but water is really all that is needed. If you are using organic compost of some reasonable quality, there will be most of what is required in that.
Carrots have a two-year (biennial) life span so those January/February sowings will look to begin flowering around August to September. I keep an eye on them at this time and if any inkling of bolting is seen, they are all pulled, leaves twisted off, cleaned and then stored in the fridge as they last months and months. These carry us through till Nov/Dec. In the perfect world, I may be out of carrots for a month while those Oct/Nov sowings size up enough. However, in 2021, the spring was so erratic I went longer as I did not bother sowing until Nov. If you are on your game, you could supply your carrot needs for almost the whole year.
So really carrots are not that hard a crop. You just need to put that effort into watering them regularly after sowing, and timing the sowings based on your weather noting the spring sowing is really soil temperature dependant.