by Jennifer Poindexter
Do you have a favorite vegetable to grow?
Carrots are my absolute favorite. When I first began growing them, I failed miserably. Over the years, I learned a few tips and tricks to make growing them a success.
I want to share them with you. By providing a few specifics with their grow space and caring for them properly, most gardeners should be able to grow carrots with few to no problems.
Here’s what you must know to grow carrots successfully around your home.
Growing Conditions for Carrots
Carrots have only a few needs for an ideal grow space. They handle cold well but still should be planted in full sun.
They also need well-draining soil. If they’re planted where water pools, it will cause your harvest to rot. Therefore, planting them where the water will drain away from the plants is vital to their growing success.
The greatest importance in a grow space for carrots is loose soil. If the carrots can’t dig into the soil and have room for growth, they’ll be stunted.
This was my biggest hang up when I began growing carrots. I struggled to get the soil loose enough in the ground where I created a carrot bed.
Over the years, I began growing carrots in raised beds and even large containers. I’ve had much success since using different gardening methods because it allowed me to control the planting environment more so than by simply planting them in the ground.
This will be your choice how you achieve the necessary growing conditions, but ensure all these criteria are met to give your carrots the greatest chance.
How to Plant Carrots
Have you ever seen carrot seeds? They’re tiny. This is why it’s not recommended to start them indoors and transplant.
It would prove difficult to do this, and carrots don’t like to be disturbed once planted. When planting carrots, start by choosing the right time of year.
If you plant them in the spring, do so a month before the last frost. If you’re planting in the fall, do so two months prior to the first frost.
In some planting zones, carrots can be grown in containers in a greenhouse over the winter. I live in planting zone eight and do this each year.
Once you have a planting location picked out, begin loosening the soil in this area to a foot below where you’ll be planting.
Be mindful not to amend the soil prior to planting. Too much nitrogen in the soil will cause the carrots to split.
Sow the seeds by casting them over the prepared area. It’s okay to sow them thick through the area. This increases your odds of germination.
Lightly cover the seeds with only ¼ inch of soil. Water after planting and continue watering the seeds for two weeks.
The water helps break down the coating covering the seeds which will result in easier germination. However, be sure you practice shallow watering.
Too much water can be harmful to the seeds. They’ll take approximately three weeks to germinate. After this time, you should see sprouts and assess your germination rate.
Once you begin seeing leaves form on the sprouts, thin the plants where they have two inches of space around them.
You’ll want approximately two plants per square foot in your garden. Obviously, carrots don’t need much space around them as they’ll produce beneath the soil. These basic steps should get you on your way to producing a carrot harvest.
Caring for Carrots
I love growing carrots. Not only are they easy to plant, but they’re extremely low-maintenance. I grow all my carrots in containers which allows me to vary some of the care tips I’m going to share with you now.
However, if you grow carrots in a raised bed or an in-ground gardening space all the tips will prove useful.
To begin, carrots should be watered deeply after germination. Water them once per week to ensure they receive one inch of water each week.
If you raise carrots in containers, they may need to be watered more frequently than once per week because there’s less soil surrounding the plants.
The next step in caring for carrots is to mulch the garden beds. This will help to keep weeds down and moisture in the soil.
Even if growing in containers, mulching is still a good idea. Though you may not encounter as many weeds, it can help with keeping moisture in the soil.
Lastly, a month after planting carrots, add a low-nitrogen fertilizer to the plants. Too much nitrogen will cause bushy carrot tops but small roots.
The fertilizer should be high in potassium and phosphate as this helps with producing better roots. These are the only things it takes to care for carrots properly.
Garden Pests and Diseases for Carrots
Carrots have quite a few pests which can impact their growth but only two common diseases. The disease which is most likely to impact carrots is aster yellow disease.
This disease is spread to carrots by a bug known as a leafhopper. When it feeds on the carrots, it passes the disease it has picked up from another infected plant.
The best way to avoid this disease is to keep the weeds out of your garden, which will attract a variety of bugs, and spray your crops with an insecticide.
Black canker is another disease which impacts carrots. It’s a fungus which the spores spread through wind and land on plants or in soil.
Once black cankers have impacted a plant, there’s no way to treat it. It’s best to prune infected areas or get rid of the plant all together.
However, you can treat carrots with a fungicide as preventative measures. You should also keep carrot rust flies under control because the larvae of these pests could expose the plant to this fungus, if living in the soil.
There are a variety of pests which will feast on carrots. You should be on the lookout for carrot rust flies, flea beetles, root-knot nematodes, and wireworms.
Carrot rust flies are best prevented by using row covers. This stops adult flies from laying eggs among your plants which ultimately brings the infestation to your crops.
If you suspect flea beetles have moved into your carrots, sprinkle them with talcum powder as this will deter them.
Root-knot nematodes are harder to get rid of. It’s best to plant varieties of carrots which are resistant to these pests.
If you can’t do this, consider heating the soil you’re planting in prior to planting. It should be placed in your oven at the temperature you’d use for roasting vegetables.
Allow the soil to be heated through and then fill your containers or garden beds for planting. These pests don’t like marigolds either.
Planting these flowers among your carrots might help deter them as well. Finally, wireworms are another difficult pest to treat.
The best way to handle them is by prevention. Practice crop rotation and add beneficial nematodes to your soil to keep these pests at bay. Carrots have a few enemies, so stay aware of what’s happening with your plants to better protect them.
How to Harvest Carrots
Don’t rush to harvest your carrots once you think they’re done. Carrots take about two to two and half months to be ready to harvest.
When the time approaches, pull a carrot out of the ground to see if it’s ready. If so, you can assume the rest of the harvest is ready too.
However, carrots can be overwintered in the garden. The coolness actually adds to their sweetness. If you live where you get a lot of snow, place markers around your carrot bed. This will allow you to know where they are and harvest as you need them.
If you’d prefer to harvest the carrots at once, pull them out of the ground and cut off their tops. Rinse them in cool water and allow them to air dry.
Once dry, place them in airtight containers and refrigerate. If you’ve grown a larger harvest and would like to store them in a root cellar or basement, you can.
Place them in containers filled with wet sand or dry sawdust. Layer the carrots between layers of the chosen medium.
As long as the carrots aren’t touching, it should help keep rot at bay. Do check your harvest every week to make sure you catch any rot that might occur. The sooner you catch it, the less likely it will spread and damage anymore of the harvest.
Harvesting and storing your carrots isn’t a complicated process. Pick the method which works best for your size harvest and storage solutions.
Growing carrots began as one of my biggest struggles as a gardener. Once I learned what works for me, I now look forward to growing them throughout the year.
Hopefully, these tips will help you to grow carrots successfully and with great confidence. Though homegrown carrots look nothing like store-bought carrots, they taste delicious and are a great vegetable to have on hand anytime of the year.