Protect your beautiful carrotsPosted By: rocket veg Category: Growing Veg, Pests and Diseases
How to recognise signs of carrot fly damage
When you pull the first carrots from the row of beautiful plants and, to your utter dismay, find that the roots are riddled with brown-edged tunnels, you will know that the carrot fly has been hard at work. Just to confirm the worst, you might even spot one of the elongated, creamy coloured maggots which have done the damage as they eat their way through the tender flesh.
Carrot flies are tiny, black insects whose lifecycle begins when the adult fly lays its eggs in the developing foliage of carrots, sometimes targeting celeriac, celery, parsnips and parsley. Before the crop is lifted, tell-tale signs of carrot fly infestation appear as brown rings around the top of the root from where the foliage grows, but the real damage is taking place underground. No method will guarantee protection from carrot fly, but a combination of these suggestions should help.
Erect a barrier
Carrot flies stay low to the ground as they fly in search of somewhere to lay their eggs. For this reason, erecting a physical barrier around specific crops is a good start and sowing carrots in a raised bed with high sides might even do the trick. Where space is limited, try sowing carrots in an old bucket.
Cover your crops
Horticultural fleece is a boon to gardeners and one of its many uses is for protecting crops from pests such as carrot fly attack. Mesh works too, allowing more sunlight to reach the plants than fleece, but it needs to be fine enough to prevent the tiny carrot flies from getting through.
Sow seed thinly
Carrot flies are attracted by the smell given off by young carrot plants, especially when pulled fresh from the soil when thinning out crowded rows of seedlings. To avoid this, sow thinly - which can be tricky as carrot seed is very fine and hard to space along a drill.
Plant garlic or chives nearby
Some gardeners swear by this, the smell given off by garlic and chives masking that of carrots and other crops targeted by carrot fly.
Time the sowing of carrot seed to avoid the fly’s laying season
Carrot flies lay their eggs in two main cycles: late May–June and again in August-September, so carrots sowed late in May miss the first generation of flies and lifting carrots before the end of August avoids the second generation.
Carrot fly resistant varieties to try
These include ‘Flyaway’ and ‘Resistafly’ and although they are claimed to help reduce the risk of fly attack, they don’t provide full resistance.