Common Name: Carrot
Indian Names: Gajar (Hindi)
Botanical Name: Daucus carota
Vegetable Type: Root vegetable
Varieties: Exheart, Danver, Royal Pak, Scarlet Nantes
Design Ideas: Popularly cultivated in raised beds
In North India, carrots are mainly known for the sweet delicacy, ‘Gajar Halwa’, but when carrots were first cultivated, it was for their leaves rather than their roots. However nowadays, with the numerous health benefits associated with the root part, it is the main part which is consumed. They are said to improve vision, promote healthier skin, slow down the aging of cells, and even prevent cancer. Carrots are one of the most produced vegetables in the world, with almost 50% of the production coming from China. Let’s take a look at this worldwide plant’s main features.
Height: Stem – 60-100cm (25-40in) Root – 10-25cm (4-10in)
Width: Up to 5 cm (2 in)
Flowering Season: Around spring in the second year of growing
Flowers: Small, white, sometimes with green or yellow tint
Foliage: Rosette of leaves grows around the root in the first year
Sunlight: Partial sun, i.e. 3-4 hours of direct sunlight, and part shade
Water: Moderate watering, allow the top 1 cm of the soil to dry before re-watering
Sowing Season: Carrot is a hardy plant, so it can be sown any time from late May to late July
Sowing Method: The seeds should be planted around 1 cm deep in the soil, and the plant will germinate in around two to three weeks. They should be planted in rows with spacing around 15 cm from each other. This spacing should be thinned to about 8 cm apart once true leaves start to appear. If the thinning is delayed, then baby carrots can also be harvested.
Care: Generally carrots can grow even in drier soils. The optimum soil pH is around 6 and carrots will also require a light feeding of mulch or some other organic nutrients. Make sure that the nitrogen content is not too high though, as this will cause the plant to have too much top growth thus choking the roots. Usually carrots grow well with a companion plant such as radishes or turnips, planted in between them in rows, which is beneficial to both crops.
Pests: The fungus Sclerotinia sclerotiorum causes a white mold to cover the carrot root. This can be avoided by making sure the soil gets proper oxygen, and is watered evenly.
Harvest: About 2-3 months after the roots have reached a diameter of 1.3 cm, then your carrot is ready for harvesting. Usually carrots that have gone through one frost are a sweeter variety than normal. When they are harvested, first the soil area around the roots should be gently dug out, and then the base of the stem should be firmly gripped and pulled out. The roots should be washed before refrigeration and storage.
Propagation: Carrots can either be propagated by seeds or by carrot tops. Usually the first method is preferred, but the latter is also used moderately. For this method, the carrot tops need to be cut off along with the green leaves on the top. These should then be planted about 2.5 cm deep, and the root will again start to develop.
Overall, carrots are a popular crop due to the fact that they can don’t require high soil quality and can grow in cooler climates. They also make an attractive crop with their numerous flowers, and give the opportunity for other crops to prosper as well. So go ahead, and give this crop a try, and reap the healthy, crunchy benefits for yourself!