How to grow carrots: When to plant and how to plant carrots

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Carrots are among the easiest garden vegetables to grow—and the most bountiful–given the right conditions.

Grow carrots in the cool time of the year—spring and autumn. Plant carrots in loose, compost-rich soil free of pebbles, stones or other obstructions.

  • Sow carrots in the garden 2 to 3 weeks before the average last frost date in spring for harvest before the onset of summer heat.
  • Sow carrots again in mid to late summer as late as 12 weeks before the first fall frost for autumn harvest.
  • In cool summer regions, sow succession crops from spring to autumn every 2 to 3 weeks until about 12 weeks before the date of the average first frost.
  • Where summers are hot and winters are mild, grow carrots in autumn, winter, and early spring.
  • Carrots require from 50 to 80 days to reach maturity; baby carrots can be harvested in about 30 days.

Where to Plant Carrots

  • Grow carrots in full sun; carrots will grow slowly in partial shade.
  • Plant carrots in deep, loose, well-worked, and well-drained soil. Add several inches of aged compost or commercial organic planting mix to the planting beds before planting. Turn the soil to 12 inches or more.
  • Remove clods, rocks, and solid objects from planting beds before sowing seed; carrots will split, fork, and become malformed if their roots grow into obstructions.
  • Work rock phosphate or wood ashes into the soil before planting to ensure fertility
  • Carrots prefer a soil pH of 5.5 to 6.8.
  • Planting in raised or mounded beds are ideal for growing carrots.

Carrot Planting Time

  • Carrots are a cool-weather crop best grown in spring, early summer, and autumn.
  • Carrots require a soil temperature of about 45°to 85F° to germinate; germination will be slow in cold soil.
  • Carrots grow best at an average temperature of 60° to 65°
  • Where temperatures stay cool, sow carrots in the garden 2 to 3 weeks for succession crops.
  • It is not worth the effort to grow carrots in very warm soil or weather; success will be limited and flavor will be compromised. Carrots are most flavorful grown in cool weather and soil.
  • Where summers are hot and winters are mild grow carrots from autumn to early spring.

Planting and Spacing Carrots

  • Sow carrot seed ¼ to ½ inch deep about 1 inch apart; in warm, dry weather sow carrot seed deeper than ½ inch.
  • Germination will occur in 14 to 21 days; keep the seedbed just moist until germination.
  • Soil crusting will slow germination. To prevent crusting cover seed with vermiculite or peat moss instead of garden soil.
  • Soak the seed in warm water overnight or for several hours before sowing; this will speed germination.
  • Thin carrots to about 4 inches apart in all direction in wide beds; space plants about 3 inches apart in rows.
  • Overplanting seed will require extensive thinning.
  • Space rows 12 to 24 inches apart.
  • Wide row planting of carrots gives a good yield form a small area.
  • Plant 30 carrots per household member.

Carrot Companion Plants

  • Plant carrots with chives, onions, leeks, tomatoes, peas, rosemary. Avoid planting carrots with dill.

Watering and Feeding Carrots

  • Keep carrots evenly moist to ensure quick growth.
  • Do not allow the soil to dry out. Reduce watering as roots approach maturity; too much moisture at the end of the growing time will cause roots to crack.
  • Add aged compost to planting before sowing and again as a side dressing at midseason.
  • Before planting, spread wood ash over planting beds to provide extra potassium for root growth.

Caring for Carrots

  • Thinning carrots is very important. Thin carrots in two stages: (1) when seedlings are about 2 inches tall, thin plants to stand 2 inches apart in rows; snip off weak plants at the crown; do not disturb the roots of plants that remain; (2) at midseason, thin again; pull up some baby carrots leaving equal space between carrots that will remain to grow on to full size.
  • Keep planting beds well weeded. Shallow cultivation is necessary to avoid damaging carrot roots. Carrots cannot compete with weeds.
  • Mulch carrot beds to keep soil temperature and moisture even. Even moisture throughout the growing season is important for quick root growth.
  • Mulch with aged compost across the tops of carrots to prevent green shoulders—that is chlorophyll discoloration of root shoulders–which will leave a bitter taste.

Container Growing Carrots

  • Standard and large carrot varieties are not a good choice for containers, but short or finger varieties will grow easily in containers.
  • Half-long varieties can be grown in deep containers.
  • Plant carrots in wide rows in square or rectangular containers, or in concentric circles in a round container.

Carrot Pests

  • Carrots have no serious insect pest problems. Occasionally aphids, carrot rust flies, carrot weevils, and cutworms can pose a problem.
  • Aphids, carrot rust flies, and carrot weevils can be excluded by using a floating row cover as a barrier.

Carrot Diseases

  • Carrots have no serious disease problems. Leaf blight and root-knot nematodes may occasionally attack carrots.

Harvesting Carrots

  • Carrots can be harvested any time after they are large enough to use.
  • Mature carrots will be ready for harvest 50 to 80 days after sowing depending upon variety.
  • Baby carrots can be harvested in 30 to 40 days.
  • Lift one or two carrots to check the size and flavor when you are ready to harvest.
  • Regular main crop carrots are usually ready for lifting when they are ¾ to 1 inch thick three-quarter inch thick.
  • Lift carrots gently by hand where the soil is loose. Where the soil is heavy, loosen the soil with a spading fork and then lift the roots gently so that they don't break. Pull carrots when the soil is moist. Do not disturb the roots of carrots that remain in the soil.
  • The last of your crops should be harvested before the ground freezes.
  • Where temperatures reach freezing but the ground does not freeze, cover unharvested carrots with a thick mulch to prolong the harvest for a month or more.
  • Where temperatures do not drop below 20°F, carrots can be left in the ground through the winter as long as they are under heavy mulch.

Storing Carrots

  • Carrots can be left in the ground until ready to use as long as the ground does not freeze.
  • Carrots will keep in the refrigerator or root cellar for 1 to 3 months at about 40°
  • Blanched carrots will keep in the freezer for up to 6 months.

Carrot Varieties to Grow

  • Short (2 to 4 inches): 'Minipak' (60-65 days); 'Tiny Sweet' (60-65 days).
  • Half-long (5 to 6 inches): 'Danvers Half-long' (75 days); 'Gold King' (70 days); 'Royal Chantenay' (70 days).
  • Cylindrical (6 to 7 inches): 'Nantes Coreless' (68 days); 'Royal Cross Hybrid' (70 days); 'Tuchon Pioneer' (75 days).
  • Standard (7 to 9 inches): 'Gold Pak' (75 days); 'Imperator' (75 days); 'Spartan Bonus' (77 days); 'Tendersweet' (75 days).
  • Multicolored carrots: not all carrots are orange; wild carrots and hybrid varieties can be white, purple, yellow, and red–as well as orange. Seed growers offer multicolor blends.

About Carrots

  • Carrots are hardy biennials grown as annuals.
  • A rosette of finely divided fernlike leaves grow from a swollen fleshy taproot which can vary in size, shape, and color.
  • Depending upon variety, carrots can be tapered and cylindrical, short and fat, round, or finger sized.
  • Some carrots grow to 10 inches long; others are much shorter.
  • Carrots are usually orange, but colors can vary from red to yellow to purple.
  • Shorter varieties are a good choice for heavy soil; long types require loose, loamy soil.
  • Botanical name: Daucus carota
  • Origin: Europe, Asia