GARDENING: Conquering carrots

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I’VE been asked a few times why I don’t grow carrots – it’s because where I live seems to be infested with carrot root fly.

These little horrors are attracted to the smell of bruised foliage and then lay their eggs in the soil – and the larvae munch through the roots, rendering them useless.

The only successful year I’ve had is the first time I grew carrots, about five years ago. Obviously, they then got wise.

I’ve tried so-called resistant varieties, growing under fleece, growing very hardy varieties over winter in pots more than 2ft off the ground (the adults can only fly that high) with poor results. I’ve decided to try again with my new hoops and nets. I have three types, Atomic Red, a long, red carrot rich in vitamins and minerals – especially high in the anti-oxidant lycopene. When peeled and cooked, they turn deeper blood red and are particularly suitable for stir frying.

There’s Early Nantes 5, a tried-and-tested variety, excellent for successional sowing, or in frames or under cloches for early roots. For maincrop, sow April-July.

Finally, the only carrot I ever had success with, Mokum. It has a crisp texture and a sweet flavour that makes it ideal for juicing or eating raw.

The long, cylindrical roots reach up to 18cm (7”) long and have a very small core.

They can be sown indoors for early crops, or later in the cold frame or containers on the patio. I can confirm, this is a lovely carrot!

The soil hasn’t had carrots anywhere near it and there’s spring onion Lilia planted next to them, as it’s supposed to mask the smell of the leaves. A pot of mint is supposed to deter them too.

Reduce the risk of an attack by thinning plants in the evening on a still day. It’s important to sow thinly, as removing the excess seedlings is what attracts the carrot root fly.

To thin, water the seedlings well so you don’t break the roots. Leave seedlings at 2-4cm apart. After three-four weeks, repeat so they are 4-8cm apart.

I intend to keep everything in that bed with the mesh on, so let’s hope the little peasants have gone elsewhere.