Already know how to grow carrots? Great. Want to learn more? Ok. Carrots require loose, well-fertilized soil, and will grow best in cool temperatures. They like full exposure to the sun and are a great candidate for successive planting. Store them correctly and you can enjoy flavorful carrots for most of the year!
The Five Major Categories of Carrots
Here are the five major categories:
Small "golf-ball" shaped carrots that grow well in heavier soils such as clay.
These carrots can grow to about 5 1/2 inches long, are stout, and taper to a snub-nosed tip. They also grow well in heavier soils. Chantenay carrots become sweeter with storage.
Danver carrots grow to approximately 7 or 8 inches long, are easy to pull from the ground due to a strong top, and are very sweet and tender. Grow best in aerated, loamy soil.
Taper slowly from the shoulders to a blunt tip. They have a high sugar content, mature quickly, and also do best in loose soil.
Longer carrots that require deep, loamy soil. Great in salads.
How to Grow Carrots - Soil Preparation
The ideal soil for growing carrots is soil that is loose, free from rocks, loamy, well-aerated, porous, well-drained and fertile. To prepare the soil, double-dig (if you have the time) or cultivate the soil to a depth of 12 inches, working in an inch of aged compost. Avoid the use of fresh manure as it will damage the roots. Water the soil deeply before planting.
When to Plant Carrots
The best time for planting carrots is in early spring or late summer. Plant carrot seeds outdoors about two weeks before the final frost. In late summer, plant seeds about two months before your first frost. Carrot roots grow best in temperatures that are between 15-18°C/59-65°F. If the soil temperature is above &10degC/50°F, carrots will usually germinate within 2-3 weeks. Carrots can also be planted successively (every ~3 weeks) in order to provide maturing carrots throughout the growing season.
Planting and Growing Carrots - The Right Steps
Below are the general guidelines for how to grow carrots:
- Dig a narrow trench that is half an inch deep, for the length of your row.
- Keep rows 12-18 inches apart. Note: Carrots do well in multiple rows(2-3).
- Plant carrot seeds (follow seed directions for spacing: usually 2-4 seeds per inch) and cover with a 1/4 inch of soil. Firm very lightly overtop.
- Keep this top layer moist (water gently or the seeds will wash away!) until the seeds germinate.
- Thin seedlings to ~1 inch apart once the seedlings are about 2 inches high. Thin again in two to three weeks so that carrots are space 4-6 inches apart, depending on the size of the variety. Carrots need adequate space to grow so space thoroughly. Competition will retard growth.
- As the growing carrots begin maturing, they will push up out of the soil. Hill dirt around the top of the root in order to prevent green shoulders.
Carrots require even watering and should not be allowed to dry out. Carrots require ~1 inch of water per week. Be aware that sudden water shocks (if the soil has dried) may cause the root to split.
Weed carrots gently. Pulling weeds that are in close proximity may also pull or damage the growing carrots feeder roots.
Carrots can be harvested at any time during their growth, but taste best the longer they mature. Thinning carrots is a great way to enjoy younger carrots, without reducing future harvest. Carrots should be pulled from the ground to reduce the chance of injury. Watering the soil beforehand, or loosening with a trowel, are two ways to make pulling carrots easier. Be aware the leaving carrots in the vegetable garden longer then necessary leaves them exposed them to pests! See our page on preventing pests in order to protect your carrots.
Carrots are best stored at temperatures slighlty above freezing. Cut off the tops to avoid allowing moisture to be drawn into the root. They can be stored in a crisper, in sand or peat. Some folks leave the roots in the garden, cut the tops off, pile dirt on the roots, and pull carrots as desired.
How To Grow Carrots - What Can Go Wrong
- Carrot Rust Fly - lays eggs in the crown of the carrot and damages the root. Best prevention is to not leave carrots in the ground over winter and see your local nursery for a recommended pesticide. Row covers will also help keep the fly away, as will companion planting near onion, parsely or rosemary.
- Hairy and misshapen roots can be caused by excessive nitrogen in the soil, over-crowding or over-watering.
- Tops will bolt due to temperature dropping below 65°F/18°C for prolonged periods.