Carrot Rust Fly Damage

Guide to Growing Carrots

This is what my carrots looked like this year: riddled with tracks from the disgusting, putrid, foul, menacing carrot rust fly. Those little buggers can sniff out a carrot with superhero powers so I planted carefully and didn’t have to thin them (thinning releases the smell and attracts the flies), but the females still found my carrot patch, laid eggs, and a week later the larva fed on the hidden roots. There’s nothing worse than lovingly growing a patch of beautiful carrots only to have them eaten up by unwelcome guests. Bummer.

Guide to Growing Carrots

However, there are steps you can take to prevent disease and pests from interfering when growing carrots. The suggestions out there to avoid damage range from scientific to witchcraft, so trial and error is your best bet. Here are a few suggestions for keeping your carrots healthy once they’re planted.

  • 1. Cover your crop with a lightweight, permeable row cover that will let both light and water in, but keep flies out.
  • 2. Rotate your crop as a good practice for all veggie gardening to reduce instance of disease, pests and nutrient depletion.
  • 3. Plant a fly-resistant variety like Fly Away which they don’t like that much. Then plant another patch farther away of bait carrots that they will hopefully choose instead.

Of course, the better start that carrots have, the more likely they are to stay healthy as they mature. Try these tips for growing carrots for the best results:

  • Plant carrot seeds in fertile, well-drained soil that has been sifted to remove any stones or hard debris that will obstruct the root growth (and make funny shaped veggies).
  • Sow seeds according to the plant depth and spacing as recommended on the seed packet for each variety.
  • Carrot seeds are quite small, so it will be necessary to thin out your plants when they grow. You can do this by cutting (not pulling) out the seedlings that are the weakest, leaving the strongest lots of room to grow a yummy root.
  • Keep seeds moist while they germinate. Once sprouted, make sure they get lots of sun (eight hours per day) and water (don’t let them dry out on hot days). As they grow they will push up their shoulders from the ground so mound soil around them periodically.
  • Plant carrots in spring and summer for a fall harvest or plant over-wintering varieties in late summer for a winter harvest.

About the Author : Stephanie Rose

A city girl who learned to garden and it changed everything. Author, artist, Master Gardener. Better living through plants.

View all posts by Stephanie Rose

  1. Genevieve
    GenevieveApril 17,10

    Oh my gosh, Stevie, you are cracking me up here.

    Don’t ask me how to grow carrots either – my damn chickens scratched up all of mine! I think before I’m ready to go check out the carrot posts from Abby I need to check into a “how to build a fence” post!!

    • Stevie
      StevieApril 17,10

      Ha ha – Gen – that’s funny! My neighbour’s dog likes to dig up and eat her carrots. I guess they are a fan favourite.

  2. Abby Palmer
    Abby PalmerApril 17,10

    Ohhh, Stevie! What a shame! Such beautiful colours in those carrots – I’m sure they would’ve tasted delicious!

    Thanks so much for putting in good word about my carrot posts – I hope some of the suggestions will help combat that stinkin’ fly.

    Ding, ding! Next round: Stevie: victorious; Fly: nowhere to be seen.

  3. Stevie
    StevieApril 17,10

    You’re welcome, Abby.

    I did contemplate eating the carrots by just cutting off the edges – but as I got in there I couldn’t stomach it so they went into the bin. It was sad. I said a few words. I’m moving on now.

  4. Bren
    BrenApril 19,10

    Hey Stevie – your carrots are amazing! I would love to bite into that dark one. I have a pack of those colorful carrot seeds that I am going to try and get into my zone 5b garden today!

    WOnderful to make the garden connection with you on twitter and your blog!

    LOVE IT – Happy Spring!

  5. 2sweetnsaxy
    2sweetnsaxyApril 19,10

    I commend you on trying. I’ve yet to try to grow anything edible. That dark carrot looks fascinating.

  6. Debbie
    DebbieApril 19,10

    I make my own seed tapes and mats. This lady has a great tutorial on haw to make them. I have tried it and it works great, no more thinning and you really save seed.
    It actually takes less time to make the mat than to thin and I can make them at my kitchen table and don’t kill my back and knees bending over. Here is the link and good luck.

  7. Stevie
    StevieApril 19,10

    Thanks for all the support everyone! I guess you all know the pain you feel when someone gets your precious veg before you do.

    Bren – you would NOT want to eat those carrots. Not only were the critters still in there, but the buggers change the flavour of the carrots too. Grrr.

    Debbie – THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU! I’m so grateful for the link.

  8. Dan
    DanApril 20,10

    I’ve had those carrot flies before, little buggers. I hope they left you some of the crop. You can make your own seed tape with white glue and toilet paper, here is the link:

  9. Dan
    DanApril 20,10

    Well I should read first, Debbie beat me to it :-)

  10. Anja
    AnjaMay 6,10

    This site has some suggestions of some good companion plants to try to keep the flies away:

    Thanks for the heads-up, I am planning to try carrots this year!

  11. Ron McDonald
    Ron McDonaldJune 3,10

    I’m trying some of those herloom purple carrots this year myself, and some yellow ones. Damn! hope I don’t end up with those flies!
    This post looks to be pretty informative thanks to all the comments. I’ll follow them in the morning while sipping a cup of tea.

    • Stevie
      StevieJune 3,10

      Ron, you’re welcome. I found it very helpful too. This year I have some nematodes, a floating row cover, and a new spot for the carrots. Wish me luck (and best of luck to you too).

  12. Lisa
    LisaApril 21,12

    Hello- Just found your website thru Pinterest (regarding starting seeds) & really enjoying reading! I grew carrots for the 1st time last year & it was successful. I hope this year I won’t have to deal with these lil buggers. I read (& cannot recall where) that the flies don’t fly above 18″ or so….. I use a raised bed system, my carrots are only about 12″ above ground, so we’ll see. Buy an idea anyway to try- at least a tall raised bed would be beneficial for deep root crops anyway! Good luck~ Lisa

    • Stevie
      StevieApril 21,12

      Hi Lisa, I haven’t heard of low flying flies so not sure about that. My carrots were in raised beds when they got them though so in practice, at least for me, it’s not the right solution. So glad that you have great luck with your carrots and thanks for stopping by! Isn’t pinterest great!?

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