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Growing Carrots: From Seed To Harvest

Growing Carrots

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If you’re planning on growing your own carrots you’ll need to start with seeds since carrot seedlings do not transplant well. However, unlike some vegetables grown from seed, there’s a good chance you’ll be successful.

In general, carrots are easy to grow if you give them the right soil, a sunny spot, keep an eye on any pests – and if you’re patient. Carrot seeds are slow to germinate, but depending on the variety, you’ll be harvesting them in about 70 to 80 days.

Some History

Picture a carrot and I’ll bet you think of the orange kind. However, carrots have been that color for only the past 400 years when cross breeding of different colors occurred. Before that it’s thought that the original carrot color (around 1000 years ago) was white, followed by domesticated varieties of carrots that were yellow and purple.

So, when choosing your carrot seeds, keep these heirloom varieties in mind as they are now readily available. If you have room in your garden, why not plant a variety of colors to see which ones you prefer?

Varieties

Not surprisingly, there are many different carrot varieties with a range of flavors and colors. Here are a few of the less common ones you might want to try:

  • Atomic Red – coral red with a mildly sweet flavor
  • Pusa Asita Black – purple-black with a mildly sweet, earthy flavor
  • Purple Dragon – Purple on the outside, orange inside with a sweet-spicy flavor
  • White Satin – White with a mild sweet flavor
  • Jaune Obtuse Du Doubs – Yellow with sweet, strong carrot flavor
  • Lunar White – Pale white with a mellow sweetness
  • Purple Haze – Purple with a sweet crunch
  • Yellowstone – Bright yellow outside, paler inside with a sweet, earthy taste
  • Red Samurai – Red skin and reddish pink flesh with a sweet-peppery flavor

Regardless of the variety of carrot you choose, they all have similar care and maintenance needs.

carrots growing in ground

Soil Needs

The soil should be rich and loose with good drainage. It needs to be free of weeds, stones and debris since any rocks or large pieces of plant material or clumped dirt can cause the carrot roots to split when growing. Adding some sand or compost can help with this, but avoid anything with a lot of nitrogen as too much nitrogen can also cause the roots to split or become hairy.

The soil pH level needs to be fairly neutral, around 6.5 to 7.0. You can easily check this with a soil test kit. If you don’t have one, a soil test kit is an essential tool to help you get the soil pH level just right for each different fruit or vegetable you grow. We recommend you analyze your garden soil with an inexpensive pH testing kit such as the Sonkir 3-in-1 Soil Moisture/Light/pH Tester, and amend it accordingly.

If your garden doesn’t have suitable soil, if it’s a clay soil for example, consider making a raised bed and filling it with a suitable compost or a mix of soil and compost. However, if you’re not handy with a hammer and nails or if you don’t have the time, you can buy a raised bed kit that takes very little time to assemble.

Planting and Watering

You should choose a sunny location for growing carrots. The seeds need to be planted in the spring or fall as they don’t germinate well in hot weather.

Carrot seeds are small, so take your time sowing; it will save you time thinning them out later. Sow the seeds 1/4-inch deep and spaced about 4 inches apart. If you’re sowing in rows, the rows should be at least 8 to 10 inches apart.

Give them a watering and keep the soil moist until the seeds germinate in 2 to 3 weeks. Because of this slow germination period, some gardeners plant radishes alongside the carrots as place holders.

As the seedlings grow, depending on your climate, water thoroughly every week to encourage a steady growth. Never let the soil dry out completely.

Thinning The Seedlings

Your carrots will need thinning from time to time while they are growing. First, start when the seedlings have grown a little and have their first true leaves. Don’t transplant them, but pull up some of the seedlings so the remaining ones are 2 inches apart.

A few weeks later, pull every second one to allow the remaining carrots to develop fully. Don’t forget to eat these mini carrots you’ve pulled up!

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How to grow carrots

Pests and Weeds

Weeds are the bane of any gardener’s life and this is certainly true when it comes to growing carrots. Weeds will take nutrients from the soil and therefore away from the young seedlings. This could result in their growth being impeded, so it’s important to keep the soil weed-free at all times.

Mulching with shredded leaves or straw can help keep the weeds down and will also help protect the tops of the carrots from going green.

Unfortunately, carrots attract a few pests such as carrot rust fly and slugs. At the first sign of any pests, use a natural pesticide to help ward them off.

A more “dangerous” enemy of your crop are deer. They love love carrot greens. So, if you’re in an area where deer roam, make sure your carrots are protected from them with a fence or barrier.

Harvesting

Depending on the variety, carrots take 70 to 80 days before they are fully grown. Of course, they can be harvested earlier if you want tender, juicy baby carrots; they just won’t feed so many people. When harvesting, to avoid breaking the carrots, use a garden fork to loosen the soil before you pull them up.

If you have the time, do several plantings throughout the growing season. Start planting your first seeds after the threat of frost is gone and plant again every two to four weeks. This will give you a continuous supply of carrots to harvest until the fall.

Final Thoughts

Rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber, carrots are well recognized for their many health benefits. And growing carrots can be extremely satisfying since they’re some of the easiest vegetables to cultivate. If you have the right soil and mild weather, and if you water regularly, you’ll be enjoying fresh carrots in about two and a half months!

Amy Martens

Amy Martens

My interest in growing my own food stems from many sources: enjoyment of gardening, concern about chemicals and pesticides, and the desire to eat fresher, healthier fruits and vegetables. I believe the more we do this, the healthier we’ll all be, while helping our planet at the same time.

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