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Carrot Thinning - The What?, Why? and How?

Ever Wondered why your Carrots weren't performing well? Were a little bit weedy, or had multiple carrots merging into one carrot? It's probably because they were planted to close togther, to solve this, we use a method called 'Thinning'.

Carrot Thinning

What is Carrot Thinning?

Carrot Thinning in its simplist form is the optimisation of your crop and its harvesting potential. Thinning is the removal of young carrot seedlings, that are growing too close to the other seedlings. This gives the remaining carrot seedlings the best opportunity and the access to nutrients they need to grow larger and stronger. You do not have to thin out carrots, however your crop may end up smaller or have instances of multiple carrots merging and distorting into a single carrot. These carrots are all perfectly edible and will be just as delicious as the rest of the crop, they're just not as desirable.

Do you have to thin out carrots?

Nope. You can leave them as you planted them and you'll end up with equally as delicious, all-be-it smaller and somewhat distorted carrots. Carrot seeds are so tiny, it can be difficult to plant them equally spaced out. However, planting the seeds at a good distance from each other (10-15cm depending on variety) can help to minimise the amount of thinning required later on, but this is not an easy task.

Why Do We Thin Out Carrots?

Thinning out your carrots, gives the carrots that are left, access to the limited resources that are available to them - nutrients within the soil, water and sunlight. With less competition for the resources, the carrots would effectively now have the lions share of those resources available to it, they will grow larger, stronger and quicker.

Carrot Thinning test

In the example shown, the carrots were all planted in the same plot at the same time, but the size difference, shape and consistency of the crop are vastly different. The carrot on the left was part of a thinned out crop, whilst the carrot(s) on the right were left as they were planted. With little to no competition, the carrot on the left has grown strong, quicker and to a more consistent shape. The carrots on the right however, were too close togehter and were all competiting for the same resources. This competition forced the carrots to grow towards each other and compete, creating a single, distorted carrot that is actually three separate carrots merged into one.

All of these carrots will taste virtually identical and are all perfectly good to eat. However, the difference is quite clear and you'll have a much stronger and productive crop if you give them the best chance to grow well.

How to Thin out Carrots

Thinning out carrots is easy, and is best done when the seedlings are just starting to get a bit bigger, with several leaves visible. Looking over your crop, gently and slowly pull out the ones that look the weakest or are growing the slowest.

Tip: Ensure the soil is moist when thinning, either perform this during the early hours of the morning or water well prior to thinning. This will minimise the amount of damage you cause to the carrot seedlings you remove, allowing you to attempt to transplant them again.

The idea would be to leave a gap of around 10cm between the seedlings. Smaller varieties can have a smaller gap and larger varieties may require up to 15cm. As hobby growers, trial and error will be the best way to learn.

You can perform a second 'thinning' within 3 to 4 weeks, as the carrots begin to mature. The carrots that you remove (providing they're not damaged and they're roots are intact) could be planted back into a new patch to continue to grow. Equally, they make for great snacks whilst you're working.