Did you buy a pack of carrot seeds with the expectations that growing carrots would be super easy? Maybe you had envisioned a field of carrots growing in your garden, but your results were less than impressive? Growing carrots is easy when you know what kind of conditions carrots will thrive on in your garden.
Carrot Harvest by woodleywonderworks via CC BY 2.0
Choosing the right carrot for your garden
There is more than one type of carrot you can grow. If you didn’t have success growing carrots your first time, make sure you chose the right kind for your garden’s soil. Rounded carrots like Round Romeo and stumpier carrots like Chantenay Red will do better in heavier soil that hasn’t been amended with compost or that is shallower. Whereas the slenderer varieties will need deep, very loose soil that they can really penetrate.
When to plant carrots
If you’re growing carrots in Zone 8 and warmer, plant carrots in fall and winter. Those of us in colder climates should start planting carrots seeds about 3 weeks before our last frost date. Yes, it is still cold then, but carrots are cool season crops and should be planted in the cool of early spring and again in early fall.
Preparing soil for growing carrots
If you have heavy soil, you need to amend the soil with a lot of compost. To produce the best carrot crop you can grow, loose fine soil is what you are after. Clear the soil of any debris like rocks and stones that will prohibit the carrots from growing. Rake the soil surface to a nice smooth finish to help you see where you will be planting seeds. Make sure to kill the weeds in the area you want to grow carrots because they will compete for resources your carrots need.
Carrots in the Garden by Caitlyn Childs via CC BY-SA 2.0
How to plant carrot seeds
Carrots can be planted by broadcasting, meaning, you can take a bunch of seeds in your hand and scatter them where you want them to grow. But for easier weeding or growing, making a number of rows to plant your carrots will be better. Aim for about 6 seeds per inch and cover them with 1/4″ to 1/2″ of fine top soil or screened compost. Keep the soil moist until the seeds start to germinate. Make sure you water gently so as not to wash away your seeds and seedlings. Carrots will germinate within 1-3 weeks, with 3 weeks being normal during colder temps.
Thinning carrot seedlings
It may seem counterproductive to thin seedlings that you went to through so much trouble to grow, but perfect carrots require some thinning. The first round of seedling thinning should happen when the top of the carrots are 2″ high. Then thin one last time 2 weeks later, making sure carrots are 3″ – 4″ apart.
Carrot Bounty by Clark Weber via CC BY-ND 2.0
If you prepared your soil by amending it and were thorough in your seedling thinning, you are on your way to a perfect crop of carrots. Don’t let your carrot seedlings dry out, and gradually remoisten your soil over a few days to prevent your carrots from splitting and cracking.
As your carrots mature the tops (crowns) of the carrot will push up from the soil. It is recommended to cover the carrot’s crown with soil or compost to prevent them from turning green and bitter.
You can harvest carrots whenever they are big enough for you to eat. Harvest them when they are the size of man-made baby carrots, or wait for them to mature and harvest them all at once. Finally, harvest your carrots by pulling them with your hands. You can loosen the soil around them, but trying to use a garden fork, shovel or spade may result in bruised and damaged carrots.