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Growing carrots can sometimes seem a bit challenging getting everything right. Once you figure it out, they are such a great vegetable to grow in your garden. It’s always exciting to pull a large carrot from the soil.
Carrots seeds can be grown directly in the ground, in raised beds, and even pots. There are many different varieties and colors of carrots as well. Not all are orange, many varieties are purple and even red or white. Most are resistant to pests and disease but they do have their challenges that like to bother them.
Lets getting busy learning all about carrots.
Carrots are a cool season crop that prefer to be planted in the spring and in the fall. They are rich in vitamin A and minerals and just good for ya. They are planted directly from seed and can take 3-4 months to mature. Probably the biggest challenge to growing carrots is the soil loose and deep enough so they can easily grow.
Prepping the Soil
Before sowing your seeds, remove all rocks and debris from your soil. It needs to be loose and rock free about 8-10 deep. Carrots are a vegetable root that will find their way through soft and clay free soil. If carrots come in contact with a rock or other object in their way of growing, they will either A) stop growing or B) find their way around the object causing an irregular looking carrot. It can end up crooked or forked in shape.
When soil is soft and free of rocks and debris you are in good shape. If not, it’s best to prepare your soil in the fall by forking or tilling about 10 inches deep and adding a fine leaf mulch and aged manure to it. This will get your soil all well and prepared for spring crop planting.
Carrots need to be planted 3-4 weeks prior to last frost. You can find your frost date here. They prefer a soil pH of 5.5 – 7. Soil needs to be soft, rich in organic matter and not contain a lot of nitrogen. Too much nitrogen will cause your carrots to be “hairy.”
The seeds are super tiny and can be a challenge to plant one at a time. Since I don’t like to “over plant” and then have to thin out to give them grow room. A great way to be able to plant them properly is by using seed tape which can get pretty expensive. But Anna, over at Celebrating a Simple Life has written a great article about how to make your own seed tape and to do it organically! You could for sure try this, I plan too.
Plant seeds directly into the soil 2-3 inches apart. Since they are so tiny, it’s almost impossible to use your fingers to pick up only 1 seed, so this is why I think the seed tape is so awesome. Lay off your row about 1/8 inch deep and drop your carrot seeds into it.
Rows need to be about 6 inches apart. Once your seeds are planted, cover them with an organic mulch to help with keeping the soil moist. You will need to water regularly if it doesn’t rain often enough. Carrot seeds need to be kept moist in order to germinate.
Caring for Carrots as They Grow
Carrot seeds should germinate in about 2 weeks. If you didn’t use a seed tape and you over sowed, plants will need to be thinned when they are 2-3 inches tall. Once the thinning is complete, you will need only to keep them well watered and moist during their growing time. Adding the organic mulch, such as crushed leaves, leaf mold or grass clippings will do the trick.
If your carrots a sown real thick, clipping the tops off may be a better choice for thinning rather than pulling them from the soil. Pulling them can injure the roots of the others that are next to them. If you choose to clip, use a good pair of garden scissors to reach in and gently clip the top from the unwanted carrot. Trimming will also help to prevent the smell of the carrot from being released into the air and help to keep away various carrot pests. (TIP – Add the trimmed pieces to a salad, they are great!)
While your carrots are growing, there some garden pests that you may need to deal with. One of them being the Carrot Fly. To prevent the notorious carrot fly, whose maggots eat on carrot roots, this article from Gardner’s World Magazine will help.
To learn about other carrots pests and how to control them, this is a great article to read.
You can harvest carrots at any size. Many people like to harvest them when they are small, but I prefer to leave them in the soil until they are larger. A good indication of the size the carrot actually is to take a look at the top of the root that is sticking out of the soil.
To harvest a carrot, push some of the soil back away from the root, and gently pull upward to release the root. Depending on the size, it may be necessary to remove some of the soil using a gardening fork. I like to use my Hori Hoir because it is slim and doesn’t interfere with other carrots near the one I am pulling up.
(Note – when you are harvesting your carrots, unless you are harvesting them all at once, it’s a good idea to remove every-other-one – this will allow them room to grow even larger).
The juice from carrot tops can also irritate your skin so wearing gloves to harvest is a good idea. The irritation is called Phytophotodermatitis, you can read about it here.
How to Store Carrots after Harvesting
Carrots can be stored a few different ways. They can be freeze-dried, dehydrated, frozen or pressure canned. You can also store them as they are in a root cellar or cool, dark place. If stored in a root cellar, leave the garden soil on them, cut the tops off to about 1 inch in length and place in a box filled with sand, leaves or saw dust. It’s best if the root is covered completely and they do not touch.
Carrots will begin to become “limp” after being exposed to air. If you are storing them in the frig, leave the soil on them, place them into an airtight bag and put them into the coolest part of your frig. Wash them as you need to use them. They will keep for about 6 weeks this way.
Carrots may sound a bit finicky but they are a pretty simple vegetable to grow. Not only are the great on salads and as snacks, they can be added to soups and stews as well. There are so many different ways to preserve carrots and the best part is, you can grow them twice a year.
Since you love gardening, I’m sure you will enjoy:
- How to Grow Healthy Tomatoes
- Everything You Need To Know To Grow Potatoes
- Growing Green Peas
- How to Grow Cucumber (Plant, Grow, Harvest)
- Green Beans – Plant, Grow, Harvest
Do you grow carrots in your garden? I’d love for you to share your thoughts about growing and storing carrots. Feel free to leave any thoughts you may have in the comments below.
Dianne Hadorn is the owner of Hidden Springs Homestead nestled in the hills of East Tennessee. She is a Master Gardener and enjoys helping others learn how to grow and preserve their own food and sharing tips for living a more self-sufficient lifestyle.