One of the most popular vegetables to grow in your garden is the humble carrot. Compared to some other vegetables they are relatively easy to grow and can be planted in many different climates. Carrots that are grown in a garden are packed full of flavour – there really is no better feeling that eating produce that you have planted yourself. If you are looking for advice on how to plant, grow and then harvest your delicious carrots then look no further, we have all the information that you need right here!
The ideal soil for carrots to thrive in is loose, sandy soil. Carrots are great for cooler environments as they can withstand some frost which would normally kill other plants. They can take between 2 and 4 months to fully develop depending on their variety and the conditions in which they are grown. If you manage to plant them in the spring and summer seasons, you will have a great harvest throughout fall.
Soil preparation before planting your carrots
In order to get good results, it is important that you prepare the soil before planting the carrot seeds. This is due to the fact that the soil needs to be clear of obstructions in order for the roots to properly develop. This helps avoid misshapen carrots or carrots that have a stunted growth. It is also important to choose a location that gets a lot of sunlight – full sunlight is best, but they can also survive in partial shade.
There are three main steps that you should follow when preparing garden soil:
- To make sure that there are no rocks, stones or large soil clumps that could stunt carrot growth, till down around 12 inches, removing any debris.
- Fertilize the soil – but not with traditional nitrogen rich materials like store bought fertilizer or manure, instead mix in old coffee grounds if possible.
- If you have a clay-based soil, or lots of rocks and stones in it, then choose to plant your carrots in a raised bed that can be filled with more appropriate soil. The soil will need to be at least 12 inches deep to allow for root growth. The lighter the soil the better, as dense and heavy soil can lead to misshapen carrots.
Even after you have followed these steps, it is important to understand that the carrots you plant and grow may not come out looking like the ones you buy from the store. They might be a little wonky and that is fine – they will still taste just as great!
When is the best time of year to plant carrots?
If you are looking to harvest your home grown carrots in the summer, then the best time to sow the seeds would be three to five weeks before the last spring frost date. If you don’t know when the frost date is, this information can be easily sourced online depending on your location.
To make sure you have multiple harvests instead of just one, then plant more seeds once every three weeks all the way through until the end of spring or start of summer.
If you are looking to harvest the carrots in fall, plant seeds slightly later throughout mid to late summer around 10 weeks before the first frost of fall. Again, the frost information can be accessed online.
Planting the carrot seeds
Carrots do not cope well with being moved once they have rooted. Therefore, it is important to sow your carrot seeds directly onto the ground, or raised planter that you want to grow them in. Transplanting is not recommended as this can easily damage the fragile roots.
When sowing the seeds, aim to locate them around 2 to 3 inches apart in a row, with around a foot between the different rows to give them adequate room to grow. They should be planted around ¼ inch into the soil and should be evenly distributed. To help with an even distribution you could use a seed sower, although this is not essential.
Once planted, ensure that the soil is kept moist by watering it often. In order for the seeds to germinate, the top layer of soil needs to stay soft and moist so as not to form a crust. To aid this, perhaps try and pop some fine compost over the top of the existing soil. The soil should be moist, but not soaking wet as this will also inhibit growth. Don’t worry if you can’t see any carrot shoots immediately, some carrot varieties take a while to germinate and you might not see any shoots for between 2 and 3 weeks.
Looking after your carrots
Below are some great tips and tricks to help take care of your carrots when they are growing.
- Add mulch to the soil as this will help speed up germination and retain moisture levels in the soil. Mulch will also block harsh sunlight hitting fragile roots during the initial growing stage.
- Water your carrots at lease an inch every week to start, before building up to 2 inches when the roots are more mature.
- Try and get rid of any weeds in the soil quickly and carefully so as not to damage any of the carrot seed’s roots.
- After the carrots have had time to develop, fertilize them with a low nitrogen fertilizer about five or six weeks after planting. We recommend a high potassium and phosphate fertilizer. Low nitrogen is important, as fertilizer with higher levels of nitrogen will cause the tops of the carrot to grow, but not what is underneath.
Potential carrot diseases to look out for
Keep an eye on your carrots to try and spot signs of diseases or pests, catching it early so it doesn’t spread. Common pests or diseases include:
- Flea beetles
- Wire worms
- Carrot rust flies
- Black canker
- Aster yellow disease
How to harvest your carrots
When carrots grow to be at least half an inch in diameter, they can be harvested from this point onwards. If you planted your carrots in spring to harvest in summer, then try and harvest them before summer temperatures increase too much as this can damage the carrot roots.
If you are harvesting in fall, perhaps wait until there has been a little frost as this makes the carrots taste a little sweeter. This is because the frost makes the plant store energy in the form of sugars. After the first big fall frost however, it is important to protect your carrots by added a larger of leaves to help your carrots last longer.
Once you have pulled the carrots out of the ground, you now need to store them correctly to ensure that they last.
How to store fresh carrots
Once your carrots have been picked, cut or twist the tops so that there is only around half an inch of the stalks left. It is important to wash the carrots to clean away any dirt, before allowing them to dry on the side.
Once dried, the carrots can be stored in plastic bags or tubs that are air-tight. Air tight containers in the fridge will make produce last longer than putting them in the fridge without one.
So, there you have it. Everything you need to know about planting, growing and harvest carrots. So now it is time to go and try it yourself – what are you waiting for?