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Growing carrots can sometimes seem a bit challenging to get everything right. Once you figure it out, they are such great vegetables to grow in your garden. It’s always exciting to pull a large carrot from the soil.
Carrots seeds should be directly sown in the soil. They will grow well inground, raised beds and 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 challengers that like to bother them.
Let’s get busy learning all about carrots.
All About Carrots
Carrots are a cool-season crop that prefers 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 mature for 3-4 months. Probably the biggest challenge to growing carrots is the soil loose and deep enough so they can easily grow.
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 vegetable roots 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.
You are in good shape when the soil is soft and free of rocks and debris. If not, it’s best to prepare your soil in the fall by forking or tilling about 10 inches deep and adding 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 before the 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 it can be challenging to plant one at a time. I don’t like to “over plant” and then have to thin out to give them growing room.
A great way to be able to plant them properly is by using seed tape, which can get pretty expensive. This article is about how to make your own seed tape and do it organically! You could for sure try this; I plan to give it a try.
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.
To make the most of the space you have, before you begin, create a garden map to maximize your space – spacing, rotation, succession planting, and more!
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.
RELATED: Take the guesswork out! Use the easy formula worksheets in The Canning Garden Workbook (printable) to figure out how much to plant, for canning, to feed your family for a full year!
Caring for Carrots as They Grow
Carrot seeds should germinate in about 2 weeks. If you didn’t use 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 organic mulch, such as crushed leaves, leaf mold, or grass clippings, will do the trick.
If your carrots a sown really 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 are 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.
This is a great article to read to learn about other carrot pests and how to control them.
You can harvest carrots of 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 of 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, removing some of the soil may be necessary using a gardening fork.
I like to use my Hori Hori 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
Carrots can be stored in 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 a 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 them in a box filled with sand, leaves, or sawdust.
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 they great on salads and as snacks, but they can also 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.
Easy Recipes Using Carrots
- Fiery Spicy Hot Pickles
- Perfect Slow Cooker Pot Roast
- Oven Roasted Carrots
- Easy Carrot Top Pesto
- Quick and Easy Chicken Pot Pie
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.
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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.