Carrot Seed Starting Tips

Carrot seedlings

Carrots are a cool-season crop; they are best grown in spring and fall.

Grow carrots and other root crops in light-textured soil free of pebbles and stones. This will ensure roots do not split or become malformed.

Plant carrots for winter harvest and storage in late spring or early summer when you plant tomatoes; they will mature in cooling autumn soil. Carrots that mature in cool soil are the most flavorful.

Quick-maturing carrots are a good choice for planting in spring; they will come to harvest before warm summer weather arrives.

There are many varieties of carrots to grow; miniature carrots have round or short blunt roots; some long-root varieties have blunt roots; some have long tapered roots. Carrots are always orange on the inside but the color outside can be orange, white, yellow, and even purple.

Carrots mature in 50 to 100 days depending on the variety.

Sowing and Planting Tips:

  • Carrot seed is viable for 3 years.
  • Direct-sow carrot seed in the garden 4 to 2 weeks before the last spring frost; moisten the soil before planting so that the tiny, light seeds do not blow away.
  • Lay the seed on the seed bed then cover with ¼ inch of fine soil; then sprinkle the soil gently with a fine spray of water trying as best you can to avoid disturbing the seed. Cover seed with no more than ½ inch (1 cm) of fine, loose soil.
  • Sow seed 2 inches (5 cm) apart or plan to thin seedlings to 2 to 3 inches apart.
  • Planting carrots on a raised row is a good way to know exactly where you’ve planted; rake loose soil into a raised 8-inch wide mound and then sow atop the raised flattened row and cover with soil.
  • Space rows 6 to 8 inches (15-20 cm) apart; space 3 rows in a 30-inch-wide (0.75cm) bed and 4 rows in a 36 inch (0.9m) bed.
  • Perhaps the easiest way to not over sow is to simply and carefully sow just one or two seeds at a time; this will take time, but you will likely not need to thin seedlings later.
  • Keep the soil evenly moist until seeds germinate. Avoid creating crusted soil; carrot seeds will struggle to emerge through crusted soil.
  • Germination will come in about 6 days if the soil temperature is at or near 75°F (24°C)—but sometimes seed can take up to 3 weeks to germinate if the soil is cold. Germination will not occur in soil chillier than 45°F (7°C).
  • A good time to sow carrots is about the time you sow pole beans or set out tomato transplants.
  • It’s easy to over sow carrot seeds; to avoid over-seeding mix seed with sand, vermiculite, or dry used coffee grounds—that way you can see where you sow. Pelleted carrot seeds or seed tapes are an even easier way to sow carrots.
  • If started indoors and transplanted out, allow carrots two additional weeks to maturity as a result of root insult at transplanting; nip off the long thread tip of the carrot root when transplanting.
  • To improve germination sow seed at dusk or on a cool, cloudy day.
  • Add aged compost to planting beds in advance of sowing; compost will feed the soil and aide moisture retention.
  • Make additional sowings at 3-week intervals for a continuous harvest; but time your seed sowing so that crops do not mature in hot weather.
  • Carrots grow best when daytime temperatures are in the 60s°
  • Carrots prefer a pH range of at least 5.5 to 6.5, optimal above 6.0.
  • Grow carrots in full sun for best yield; carrots tolerate partial shade.
  • Avoid planting carrots where celery, dill, fennel, parsley, or parsnips have grown recently.
  • Fertilize with an organic fertilizer such as fish emulsion at half strength.
  • Carrots don’t have significant pest problems, but young carrots will suffer if forced to compete with weeds. Carrot fly can attack maturing carrots; carrot flies are repelled by sage and scorzonera.

Interplanting: Interplant carrots with English peas, lettuce, members of the onion family, tomatoes, sage, and rosemary.

Container Growing: Choose a container at least 10-12 inches (25-30) wide and deep.

Recommended Planting Calendar:

  • 12-10 weeks before the last frost in spring: direct-sow in plastic tunnel or cold frame for a spring harvest.
  • 4-2 weeks before the last frost in spring: direct-sow in the garden for harvest before summer heat. Succession sow carrots every 10 days for a continuous harest.

For Fall and Winter Crop:

  • 12-10 weeks before the first frost in fall: direct-sow in the garden for fall and winter harvest.
  • 12-8 weeks before the first frost in fall: direct-sow in plastic tunnel or cold frame for fall and winter harvest; when freezing weather arrives put a layer of leaves of straw covered with a floating row cover over the crop; uncover roots in winter as needed.

Recommended Types and Varieties:

  • Baby or Mini are small carrots with a range of shapes, usually round or blunt—baby carrot varieties include ‘Amsdor’, ‘Minicore’, ‘Parmex’, ‘Thumbelina’.
  • ‘Chantenay’ is a group of all-purpose carrots—varieties include ‘Chantenay Imperial’, ‘Chantenay Red-Cored’, and ‘Chantenay Royal’.
  • ‘Danvers’ is a group of carrots similar to ‘Chantenay’ but with longer roots—varieties include ‘Danvers Half-Long’, ‘Danvers Red-Cored’.
  • ‘Nantes’ are sweet and crisp, cylindrical and blunt tipped—varieties including ‘Bolero’, ‘Mokum’, ‘Napoli’, ‘Nelson’, ‘Sweetness II’, ‘Scarlet Nantes’.
  • ‘Imperator’ is a group of long, taper-rooted carrots—they are less flavorful than many other carrots.

Botanical Name: Daucus carota var. sativus

Carrots are a member of the Apiaceae also called Umbelliferae family, other members of this family include celery, dill, fennel, parsley, and parsnips.