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Berlin! meet your weeds- Wild Carrot & how to grow carrots on your balcony

Above: rush hour on Planet Carrot Flower

Below I'm going to give an overview of this lovely weed Wild Carrot (known as Queen Anne's Lace in America) Then I'm going to give you an easy way to grow carrots on your balcony. You don't need a field to grow your own carrots!

Rush hour:

Summer is full flower rush hour as demonstrated in the above video of a busy carrot flower in the easybeeberlin garden being bombed by bees, wasps, ants, flies and flower beetles (the little black creeping guys called pintail beetles (Mordella sp)

The flower in the above video is of the domestic carrot and is what happens when you plant any old orange supermarket carrot and let it grow wild.

I grew these carrots from seed last July and let them flower this year so I could enjoy the flowers and save the seeds to grow more carrots.

The true wild type is very similar to the domestic carrot flower except it has a tiny pink dot in the centre of the flower head like this:

Above: flower of wild carrot (Daucus Carota) with tiny red flower in the centre that looks like a bug.

Wild Carrot has a long white gnarly tap root that is unsuitable for eating. Beware the plant resembles many others in the same family (Umbellifer family) which are poisonous.

The Wild Carrot is the parent of our domestic carrot and was a work in progress for hundreds of years switching costumes from white, red, orange and now rainbow roots

( multi coloured carrots are popular again)

You can identify the real Wild Carrot by this tiny red flower in the centre of its umbel (flower head) and by the fact it grows in open sunny places with grasses while it's poisonous relatives lurk in damp and shady places under trees.

All parts of the Wild Carrot have a lovely carroty fragrance.

Theories about why the Wild Carrot has this tiny red flower in the middle? as it looks like tiny bug it may be a decoy placed there to either attract insects or keep away insect pests. Nobody is sure which theory is true.

Wild Carrot is starting to flower now in Berlin. It is a huge attractor of all types of insects whether wild or tame as you can see in the video. It is useful to grow next to fruiting crops like tomatoes to insure they are effectively pollinated by insects.

Right now:

The secret of an Autumn carrot harvest is sowing seed now. Though Autumn is the last thing on our minds in high Berlin Summer carrots are slow growing so this is a good time to sow them.

Here's how to do it on your balcony:

1 Container:

Pick a seed variety based on the depth of your container.

Carrots need a lot of root space if they are long varieties.

Grow a ball shaped carrot like 'Parisian' if your containers are shallow.

(They grow radish shaped roots and need much less space)

Parisian can be grown in regular window boxes.

Above: Parisian carrots

If you have long containers it is possible to grow long carrots. It's important that the container has excellent drainage so make lots of holes in the bottom and use porous terracotta rather than plastic.

2 Placement:

The container should be in a half shaded place to allow the seeds to sprout and then moved to a sunny spot for the continued growth of the plants. Carrot seeds find it hard to germinate in dry soil but the adult plants grow well in dryer conditions.

3 Soil

Soil should be free draining and sandy. Sand mixed with regular compost works fine.

4 Sowing the seed

Carrot seed is very small and easily lost or sown too thickly so mix a sprinkle of seeds in a bit of sand to make sowing easier. Mix the seed with sand in a small container and sprinkle it by hand where you want the carrots to grow. Sowing this way gets the seeds more evenly spread rather than too many seeds landing in clumps. Carrots should always be sown direct where they are to grow as transplanting causes the roots to be deformed.

Tip for the seeds:

To germinate carrot seeds successfully make sure the soil does not dry out for at least 2 weeks after sowing. Carrot seeds can often fail to come up if the soil is dry and are slower than other seeds to germinate. After they germinate they prefer the soil to be a bit dryer so cut back on watering after the seeds become small plants and let them grow in a sunny place.

Tip for the plant:

Carrots are biennial which means they live for 2 years if you do not eat them at the end of their first year. In the first year they produce a rosette of leaves and the tasty root that we harvest. If you leave these 1 year old plants in the soil over Winter the next Spring they will use up all the stored energy of their root in creating a beautiful flower like the one in the video. You can let this flower dry out and save the seeds to continue your carrot growing adventures for free.

Enjoy your carrots both wild and tame, enjoy their insect visitors!

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