Thinning out vegetables is a vital part of getting a good harvest, but one that many people forget to do. Carrotsdefinitely need it if they are to develop strong, long roots.
Make sure you only start thinning when the plants are big enough to handle well – around 7–10cm (3–4in) tall is a good marker. This means you can get a good grip on them and remove them cleanly from the soil – all the better to replant any well-lifted, large healthy seedlings into a second row for another harvest of carrots or salad leaf pickings.
To thin, hold the carrot plant between your finger and thumb at soil level. Pull to dislodge the plant by the root, and mound some soil around the top of the roots of the remaining plants, as carrots can discolour if this area is exposed to sun.
Comb through the drill, removing excess and weak foliage, as well as any seedlings that are too close together, and what should emerge is a recognisable row of individual plants.
After about four weeks, further thin your carrots to around 8–10cm (3–4in), and at this point you’ll be able to harvest some tiny carrot trimmings, perfect for salads or garnish.
If you’re growing baby carrots, you won’t need to space the thinnings out that much – 5cm (2in) will be enough.
Step-by-step guide to thinning out carrots
Start by weeding around the drill, so that burgeoning carrot plants have all the access to light, moisture and nutrients they need.
Water carrots well before thinning them out, which helps avoid breaking their roots – the smell of broken root can attract carrot fly.
Thin out congested and weak seedlings and leave about 2–4cm space between each strong young plant.