Carrots (scientific name Daucus carota) are biennial plants belonging to the family Umbelliferae. They are mainly grown for their dark-colored root vegetable produced in the first growing season. In the second growing season, they bloom with a spreading, umbrella-like inflorescence, which is a characteristic feature of the family. Carrots are a rich source of carotene, sugar, calcium, and fiber. They can be consumed in both, raw and cooked form, but the raw version is most commonly preferred. Commercially, many species varying in shape and color are grown all over the world. Some of the commonly planted varieties are chantenay, baby, small and round, danvers, imperator, and nantes.
Though carrots can tolerate warm summer climates, they are best grown in cooler conditions. Depending upon the climatic conditions of your area, you can opt for a hardy variety. Majority of them are resistant to slight frost, hence serve as an ideal crop plant to be grown in early spring. Carrots can be grown in the gardens as well as in the containers. For both the plantation types, correct soil preparation is necessary, as it affects their shape and flavor.
If you want to grow them in the garden, you should start preparing the soil bed during early spring, as soon as heavy frost is over. While selecting the site for carrot plantation, choose an area that receives maximum sunlight. Once you decide the plantation site, plow the soil to at least a 12-inch depth. Check the acidity of the soil to ensure that it is not highly acidic. Soil below 5.8 pH may affect the root formation.
Another important factor for growing carrots is the nitrogen content of the soil. If possible, measure the nitrogen level with a soil tester. A regular monitoring of nitrogen is advisable, as too much nitrogen often induces the formation of multiple roots. For harvesting better shaped carrots, you can remove stones and chunks from the soil. Farmyard compost can be used in the soil for enriching the plant nutrients.
Carrot Plantation and After Care
After the soil is loosened and supplemented with compost, sow carrot seeds of your choice at the depth of ¼ inch in the ground, leaving a space of about 14 - 18 inches between two rows. For rapid germination, you can soak the carrot seeds in water for about six hours before sowing. Depending upon the surrounding conditions, carrot seeds may germinate within 10 - 14 days.
When the seedlings grow to about an inch's height, you can thin them by creating a space of 3 - 4 inches between two consecutive seedlings. While getting rid of crowded seedlings, make sure that you gently pull off the roots, so that the neighboring plants are not disturbed. Sprinkle the younger plants with water to avoid water logging. At this stage, you can supplement the soil with the organic fertilizers. If the temperature is very high, the young seedlings should be protected by providing partial shade conditions. Within the first few weeks, it is necessary to control weed by cultivating with a garden knife. An effective method of controlling weeds is to mulch the soil.
Based on the variety, the roots may become fleshy and mature within 2-3 months. An easy indicator of mature roots is their diameter and deep orange color. You can harvest the carrots when the diameter reaches about ½ an inch or depending upon the expected size of the variety. Carefully dig the soil around the fleshy roots to remove them without causing any damage. After harvesting, you can cut off the top vegetation and store the carrots in the refrigerator. Under optimum storage conditions, carrots can be preserved for about 5-6 months.