By Sally Mulambya for AgriCoop News
Many can testify that garden grown carrots are full of flavor and texture; they are popular, long lasting and can be grown in different climatic conditions. Carrots are easy to grow as they are planted in loose sandy soils during the cooler periods of the growing season.
Depending on the variety and local growing conditions carrots take any where from 2-4 months to mature. Therefore, soil preparation is important for carrot growing. Below is a process of growing carrots on a large scale.
Soil/ Land Preparation
Till down 12 inches and make sure there are no rocks, stones or even soil clumps to impede your carrot’s growth.
Avoid amending the soil with nitrogen-rich material such as manure and fertilizer, which can cause carrots to fork and grow little side roots
Carrots need a location that receives full sunlight, though they can tolerate partial shade too and because they are a cool climate season, when grown between 15-20 degrees Celsius they develop well.
If the soil is heavy clay or too rocky, you need to plant carrots in a raised bed at least 12 inches deep and filled with fluffy, sandy soil.
Allow 25-35cm between rows. thin out at one to two weeks after emergence. Do not thin out later than four weeks emergence. If the crop is not thinned out later than four weeks, this should result in 4-5cm within the roll (80- 120 roots / m)
Sowing Your Carrots
Rake the soil surface to a fine-tilt seedbed before sowing the small carrot seeds directly in the soil, carrots can not be transplanted Sow seeds directly in the ground. Try to distribute seed in an even fashion so seeds don’t grow together or use a seed-sower or thin vigorously to the right space
Put the seeds in the palm of one hand, take a substantial pinch with the fingers of the other hand and rub between finger and thumb as you move your hand forwards and backwards along shallow 1.5 cm deep) furrows until the desired sowing rate is achieved.
Sow ¼ inch deep, 3 to 4 inches apart in rows 1 foot apart. Cover with a layer of fine compost to prevent a crust from forming which could hamper germination
Carrots are sometimes slow to germinate. They may take 2 to 3 weeks to show leaf, so don’t panic if your carrots don’t appear right away.
To spot the first appearance of their tiny leaves, mix carrot seeds with quick germinating radish seeds or sow radish seeds in rows between carrots.
Gently mulch to retain moisture, speed germination and block the sun from the roots once plants are //about 3cm tall, thin so they stand 10 to 15 cm apart depending on the variety’s maturity time. Snip them with scissors instead of pulling them out to prevent damage to the roots of remaining plants.
For multiple harvests, sow seeds about every 3 weeks, keep the soil moist with frequent shallow watering’s for small carrot seeds to germinate the soil mustn’t form a hard crust on top, if you place your finger in the ground, it should be moist, but not wet to the middle knuckle.
Water at least one 2cm per week and weed diligently.
Fertilize 5-6 weeks after sowing. Crowded carrots will produce crooked roots.
However, sowing times vary according to different weather conditions and locations globally and for Zambia the best sowing time for Eastern province, Sesheke and Shangombo, Northern, Luapula, Copperbelt, Sandveld plateau of central Eastern, Northwestern parts of Central, Lusaka and Southern province is between March and July
Harvesting Your Carrots
How do you know when your carrots are ready to harvest?
Carrots take 10- 12 weeks from emergence to harvesting depending on the cultivar and the temperature.
Considering the fact that you can’t see them there are a few things to look out for. Firstly, carrots are usually ready to harvest two to three months after planting. Most notably the tops will be thick bright green,
Make sure the soil is wet when you harvest carrots to make them easier to remove, either pulling out by hand or the first loosening them carefully with a fork (start 15cm away from the base of the plants) and then pulling them out again.
Harvest carrots when they are fully mature as this increases their shelf-life. Do not harvest early in the morning when the soil is cold, as this may cause the roots to crack horizontally and remember to never leave carrots in the sun after harvesting and remove the leaves before storing to extend their shelf life.
Remember however, that there are no registered disease control chemicals for carrots, fortunately enough you could use the following recommendations.
Plant in well-drained soil
Water early so that leaves can dry before nightfall
Burn diseased plants
Do not over irrigate
Control weeds in and around the field
Remove all plant residues from the field after harvesting.