How to Grow Carrots

Carrot leavesCarrots are a cool-weather vegetable. Sow carrots in the garden 2 to 3 weeks before the last average frost date in spring. Succession crops can be planted every 2 to 3 weeks until about 12 weeks before the date of the average first frost in autumn. Where winters are mild grow carrots in autumn and winter. Carrots require from 50 to 80 days to reach maturity; baby carrots can be harvested in about 30 days.

Description. 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.

Yield. Plant 30 carrots per household member.

Site. Grow carrots in full sun; carrots will grow more slowly in partial shade. Plant carrots in loose, well-worked soil. Turn soil to 12 inches before planting and add aged compost to the planting beds. Remove clods, rocks, and roots from planting beds; carrots will split, fork, and become malformed if they grow into obstructions. Carrots prefer a soil pH of 5.5 to 6.8.

Planting time. Carrots are a cool-weather crop best grown in spring, early summer, and autumn. Sow carrots in the garden 2 to 3 weeks before the last average frost date in spring. Succession crops can be planted every 2 to 3 weeks until about 12 weeks before the date of the average first frost in autumn. Where winters are mild grow carrots in autumn and winter. Carrots require a soil temperature of about 40°F to germinate; germination will be slow in cold soil.

Planting and spacing. Sow carrot seed ¼ to ½ inch deep about 1 inch apart; thin carrots to about 4 inches apart in wide beds and about 2 inches apart in rows. Space rows 12 to 24 inches apart. Wide row planting of carrots gives a good yield form a small area. In warm, dry weather sow carrot seed deeper than ½ inch.

Water and feeding. 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. Spread wood ash over planting beds to provide extra potassium for root growth.

Companion plants. Chives, onions, leeks, tomatoes, peas, rosemary. Avoid planting carrots with dill.

Care. Keep planting beds well weeded. Shallow cultivation is necessary to avoid damaging the roots. Mulch carrot beds to keep soil temperatures even. Mulch across the tops of carrots to prevent chlorophyll discoloration of root shoulders which will leave a bitter taste.

Container growing. 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.

Pests. Carrots have no serious pest problems.

Diseases. Carrots have no serious disease problems.

Harvest. 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 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 or with a spading fork so that they don’t break. Pull carrots when the soil is moist.

Storage. Carrots can be left in the ground until ready ti use as long as the ground does not freeze. Carrots will keep in the refrigerator for 1 to 3 months. Blanched carrots will keep in the freezer for up to 6 months.

Carrot Varieties.

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).

Cylindircal (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).

Common name. Carrot

Botanical name. Daucus carota

Origin. Europe, Asia

Grow 80 vegetables: KITCHEN GARDEN GROWERS’ GUIDE