Carrots don't survive transplanting, so they must be sown straight in the ground or in containers

Carrots first originated from Afghanistan. While the wild variety was bitter and spindly, and in colours purple, red and white, the ubiquitous orange carrot was hybridised later in Holland around the 1500s and then spread to the rest of the world.

The hybrid carrots come in short and long-root varieties, but to home gardeners, the short one is preferred as they mature faster and need less soil depth.

The vegetable can be grown almost year-round in Bangalore except in summer when long exposure to sun and shortage of water can affect quality.

Carrots do well in deep, well-drained, loamy soil. Make sure the ground is dug deep and stones and old roots are removed. Carrots grown in compacted soil expose the roots to the sun and turn green. Condition the soil with plenty of cocopeat and vermi-compost. If mature compost is not available, work a handful of super phosphate into the soil. Avoid fresh manure or very rich compost as these result in forking or excess of fine root hair.

Rules to follow

Carrots as a rule resent transplanting. So they have to be sown straight on the ground or in containers. Since these seeds are tiny, they should be mixed with sawdust or sand to disperse them evenly. Mark little rows in the soil, about 30 cm apart and sow seeds thinly along it and cover with a fine layer of soil.

Make sure the soil is moist and the seeds will germinate in 10 to 14 days. When the plants are 5-cm tall, thin them by gently pulling out the extra ones so that the plants are 2 to 3 cm apart. When they are 15 cm high, thin them again to keep them 5 cm apart. The second thinning provides space for the rest to grow to full potential and will probably give you baby carrots big enough to be eaten. Potassium promotes solid, sweet carrots.

Before watering, periodically sprinkle some wood ash which contains soluble potassium. Proper watering makes a difference and soaking well helps root development. Carrots will be ready to pluck in three months. Harvest as many as you want and leave the rest in the ground till you need them.

Aphids and carrots fly are the common pests of the carrot. Use neem oil and soap spray. Onions and marigold are good companion plants that discourage carrots fly.

Beta carotene

Carrots are rich in beta carotene — the precursor of vitamin A — that enhances vision and lowers the risk of cataract. Lutein, an anti-oxidant found in carrots, protects against age-related eyesight degeneration. Carrots are also rich in vitamin C and B and minerals. Just a quarter cup of boiled carrot provides for our daily requirement of these nutrients.

Keywords: carotenevitamin A

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