Carrots are a great staple, but can be hard to grow successfully due to the dreaded carrot fly. The received wisdom when growing carrots is that we sow hundreds of seeds and then thin out to the desired spacing. However, thinning the seedlings attracts carrot fly and can lead to a ruined crop.
A couple of years ago, I tried a method which, while arduous, did work and I’m using the same method this year. First, I want baby carrots and I want them fast! I’m concerned that the longer they’re in the ground, the more chance there is of infestation and a ruined crop. I’ve already planted out a carrot called “Eskimo” as the seeds were just lying around in my seed box, but these are maincrop, overwintering carrots, so I’ve now bought some “Early Nantes”which should mature in 60 days (or less for baby carrots).
Last Autumn and over winter, I dug lots of pelleted chicken manure into my plot and, turning a few beds over last week, I could see lots of worms which is a good sign. This year, I’ve decided to make my beds “straddle-able” which simply means they’re around 15 inches wide so I can straddle the bed whilst planting, sowing or weeding. Before I start sowing the carrot seed, I dug in some more chicken pellets (about a handful per square foot) and then compressed the ground by walking over it. I then use an old fork handle to bore holes in the ground (the handle is just under 2 inches in diameter). I space most things so I can get a hoe between the plants as I find this easier to weed. I then fill the holes with a fine compost and sharp sand mix (50:50). This mixture is tamped down to get a firm growing medium. I then poke a little hole into this mixture with my finger and place ONE seed per hole. The seeds are then covered with a little compost and then watered. Now, this isn’t the most efficient method as you could space the carrots closer, and, if the germination rate is poor, you’ll probably have two thirds of your bed unproductive, but, you won’t get bothered with carrot fly and you can always plant more carrot (or other vegetables) into the holes that haven’t germinated. You can feed the carrots weekly to encourage better growth.