I Often Read The Carrots Need Sand Myth. It’s So Untrue & I’m Not Sure Who Started This Misleading Urban Myth. In This Article I Explain The Carrots Need Sand Facts
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It’s one of those myths that grows out of partial facts. They say carrots need sand. But its untrue. Carrots prefer a light soil rather than a heavy clay soil and people interpret that as meaning they need to add sand to a heavier soil.
I’ve even seen people say carrots prefer to grow in sand and they definitely don’t.
In fact carrots don’t even need sand, just lighter soils. For example huge tonnages are grown on the Fens where it’s all peat and no sand.
Where Do Carrots Naturally Grow?
The carrots we grow in our gardens all started as wild plants. I grow wild carrots in my wild flower meadow and they grow on the coast near me. They grow in most of the coastal soils around me. The wild carrot, Daucus carota, is a biennial (Meaning it flowers and seeds in year two) and has a coloured root. In nature it’s not normally orange though, more often its yellow or even purple. Early in its domestication these were the normal colour of garden carrots. Then the Dutch selected orange roots, some say to celebrate William of Orange, and orange became the normal root colour of garden grown vegetable carrots.
The thing is that in nature carrots grow in most soils. They don’t just grow in sand or very sandy soils.
So Why Do People Think Carrots Need Sand?
The roots of some carrots are quite big relative to wild carrots. And if we want them to grow straight and look good its best if they don’t have to grow around any stones in the soil. So some gardeners sieve their soil to ensure all the large stones are removed.
And if the root is big, then clearly a softer well drained soil is easier for the root to expand in. To an extent that is true. But if the soil structure is good, if soil porosity is good and the soil is fertile, the difference is almost negligible.
Clearly if the soil is heavy compacted cold clay then growth will be restricted. But that is also true of many of the crops we grow in gardens, it’s not just carrots.
In very heavy soil I’d not add sand as its going to need a huge amount to make a difference in a heavy deep clay soil. I add compost. It attracts worms and they pull it down into the soil and that aids drainage. At the same time soil porosity is improved and that means all crops do better.
And if my soil were very heavy I’d grow a shorter variety of carrot. One with stubby roots or even globular roots. I’d do this until I’d improved my soil with compost.
Why Do Competition Carrot Growers Use Sand, Sieve and De-stone Their Soils?
Competition growers are not trying to grow a crop for the table. They are after a perfect looking carrot of significant size. And if you give them perfect growing conditions then the carrots will be perfect. But for the average gardener we don’t need total perfection. We just need a good edible crop, which is entirely different.
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