Why have I grown strangely shaped carrots?

Much of my time is spent answering garden questions from various readers, listeners and viewers. These vary with the season and many are very specific. But some bring up some interesting points that may be helpful to a wider audience. So I will try to feature one a week, as regularly as I can. No names of course.

This week the problem of carrots with hairpin roots. The question concerned carrots that had been grown from seedlings bought in a garden centre. The seedlings had been transplanted and when they were harvested, all had ‘V’ -shaped roots. What had gone wrong?

The answer is simple and is the result of really bad cultivation, but not the fault of the gardener really. As a rule, carrots need deep, light soil that is not stony. A sandy soil suits them best. The first root the carrot makes is a taproot that grows straight down and this will become the carrot. If it hits a stone in the soil it will be pushed one way or the other and will not be straight. In heavy, clay soils where slugs are common then you will get holes. And if the soil is recently manured or has too much organic matter added the roots will branch and be ‘fanged’.

Carrots should be grown where they are sown. It is impossible to transplant the seedlings and keep that taproot straight. If it is bent when dropped into the hole and backfilled the carrot  will be bent when harvested.

Garden centres are filled with vegetable plants in spring and while lettuce and cabbage can be transplanted it is wrong that pots or cell trays of carrots and parsnips are sold at all. These are completely useless. I was given some cell trays with beetroot this year and, with a huge sigh, I carefully separated and planted them. They struggled but they have grown. Because the ‘roots’ actually grow at soil level these have produced half-decent roots but I still don’t recommend it as the way to grow beet.

And you certainly should not transplant carrots. And garden centres should know better.

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5 Comments on “Why have I grown strangely shaped carrots?”

  1. Paddy Tobin
    August 4, 2020 at 8:48 am #

    If ever there was a year to appreciate what we grow at home, it was this year. Fresh vegetables from the garden were a godsent.

    • thebikinggardener
      August 4, 2020 at 3:24 pm #

      I agree. The timber for the raised beds is coming tomorrow (YAY) so too late for this year but even the few veg in the tunnel have been so useful. Growing your own even makes you eat more veg – we have been eating French beans almost every day for weeks – and that can’t be bad.

  2. derrickjknight
    August 4, 2020 at 9:18 am #

    Interesting. We don’t grow veg, though 🙂

  3. tonytomeo
    August 5, 2020 at 11:11 pm #

    Exactly! They should not be sold as seedlings anyway! Nor should corn or beans.

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