You sow, you water, you wait, but all that comes up is weeds! If this sounds like your experience growing carrots from seed, then you’re not alone. It can be disappointing when seeds don’t sprout but once you learn a few tricks, you’ll enjoy excellent germination time and time again. Here are a few secrets to sowing success.
A packet of carrot seed can last a long time, but when it’s close to its use-by date, the percentage of viable seed is greatly reduced. A fresh pack of seed might be all you need to improve your germination rate.
Carrot seed is very small and fine; therefore, the soil that surrounds the seed also needs to be fine and crumbly to make good contact and stimulate germination. To do this, you can work the top few centimetres of soil with a steel rake to break up any chunky bits. Alternatively, spread a 3–5cm layer of well-rotted compost on the surface, and sow into that. Moistened compost provides the perfect conditions for germinating carrot seed.
Too shallow, and these tiny seeds will dry out. Too deep, and they just don’t have the energy to make it to the surface. The ideal depth for sowing carrot seed is 6–10mm.
It’s vital to keep carrot seed constantly moist for good germination, and there are a few tricks that make this easy. Before you sow, make a shallow trench along your row and fill it with water a few times. This gives you a nice moist bed for laying down the seed. Water again after sowing and covering the seed, and keep the trench in place, because it makes it easier to direct your watering to where it’s needed. To stop the soil from drying out, cover the row with a hessian sack or a length of timber.
Carrot seed takes 1–2 weeks to germinate, sometimes longer. Make a commitment to lifting your surface cover every day to see if the soil needs more water. Once you start noticing pairs of little green leaves appearing, you can remove the cover completely, but you need to continue watering daily, if necessary, until the seedlings are well established.