Growing Carrots in The Northern Territory
Carrots are hardy vegetables that are easy to grow and make a wonderful addition to a vegetable garden. They take a while to mature and don’t like rich or heavy soil. In the Top End, they only have a small planting-window, so be sure to make the most of the short goring season.
Carrots are all about soil. Don’t plant them in heavy soil or soil that contains many rocks, or they’ll have stunted growth and strange shapes. If your soil is very heavy, rather plant carrots in raised beds or containers.
Dig your soil through to loosen it nicely before you plant your carrots. Remove any stones and then rake the top layer so that its really fine. Carrots are a root crop, so don’t add anything that has a high nitrogen content. Too much nitrogen will give them lovely bushy leaves, but underdeveloped roots.
Get your seeds in as early as you can to make the most of the short growing season.
Make a trench 6 mm deep and gently sprinkle your seed into it. Cover loosely with soil and water well. Once the seedlings are up, thin them according the instructions on the packet. Carrot seed is very fine and difficult to sow evenly. There are loads of tricks to make it easier. Some people mix their seeds with sand to get a more even spread. Another good trick is to use a salt shaker to sprinkle the seeds. Sow every 6 weeks for a continuous harvest. Carrots can be grown very successfully in containers, so if you expect drainage to be a problem (as it is in many Top End gardens) then raised beds and containers are your best bet.
It’s usually best to plant carrots from seed, because they are a root crop and don’t like to have their roots disturbed. If you do plant seedlings, take extra care not to disturb their roots when you transplant them.
Carrots need to be thinned twice. Thin them when they are about 5 cm high and again when they are about 12 cm high. The simplest way to thin them is to simply cut the unwanted plants off where they emerge from the soil. This kills the plant, but doesn’t disturb the roots of the plants around it. If you prefer, you can gently pull the unwanted plants from the soil, taking care not to disrupt the plants around them. It’s always a good idea to water your plants well after you thin them to help everything settle back down nicely.
Keep your soil consistently damp. If the soil is too wet or too dry, your carrots can become cracked or misshapen.
Carrots don’t generally need too much extra feeding and definitely nothing with a high nitrogen content. You may feed them lightly every 6 weeks with a balanced organic fertilizer.
A good layer of organic mulch will help to keep your soil from drying out too quickly. Lucerne or sugar cane are good options. Remember, you should only mulch your plants once they are well established and a decent size.
Gently pull your carrots from the soil when the reach the desired size. They can be harvested at any stage, depending on which size carrots you prefer. Smaller varieties will obviously mature quicker. The leaves can be added to your compost pile. Don’t leave your carrots in the soil for too long or they can start to become woody and lose their lovely sweet taste.