Carrots are one of our family’s favorite garden vegetables. We love the flavor of homegrown carrots; there is nothing quite like pulling up a carrot, rinsing it with the hose, and eating it right in the garden. Learn how to grow carrots with these five tips.
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How to Grow Carrots: 5 Tips for Growing Carrots
1. How to grow carrots: Plant carrots from seeds directly in the garden
Sow carrot seeds directly in the garden. Carrot seeds are tiny and notoriously tricky to germinate (see tip #3 for germination tips).
Seed tape makes spacing carrots quick and easy. Carrot seeds are embedded into the tape at correct spacing intervals, requiring less thinning later.
Pelleted seeds are larger and easier to handle; this allows for more consistent spacing.
Do not purchase carrot transplants. Carrot roots do not like to be transplanted.
- Seed vendors offer carrot colors like purple, white, red, yellow, and orange. Home gardeners can also choose from many shapes and sizes.
- Danvers varieties are sweet, crisp, full-flavored, and easy for the home gardener to grow. Best for eating fresh and shorter storage.
- Imperator varieties have less flavor but store well. (This is the variety commonly found in grocery stores.)
- Chantenay varieties are good all-purpose carrots that can handle heavy soils.
- Nantes types are best for fresh eating, often considered the sweetest and most tender type of carrots.
2. Learn how to grow carrots and take advantage of the long planting season for growing carrots
- Start carrot seeds outside 3-5 weeks before the last spring frost. Many locations often have an additional planting in mid to late summer. Check local planting guides for when you can plant.
- Plant carrots from September 15 through March in the low desert of Arizona. Carrots are one of my favorite parts of fall gardening.
- Plant carrot seeds when soil temperatures are between 45°F – 85°F.
- Carrots taste best when they mature in cool soil (under 70°F / 21°C).
- Choose an area with sandy, well-drained soil that is free from stones and fresh manure. Rake and smooth the bed carefully before planting. Carrots also grow well in containers.
- Thinly sow seeds ¼ inch deep.
- Plant carrots every 3 weeks for a continual harvest.
3. Carrots need consistent moisture to sprout and grow
After planting, soil must be kept moist for 10 days. Spray lightly twice a day in very sunny weather. Seeds will not germinate if they dry out.
During hot weather, cover the planted seeds with burlap to keep the seeds moist. Remove the burlap once sprouts appear.
Once seeds have sprouted, regular watering helps them grow quickly and continuously.
Watch the video below for a quick tip for germinating carrot seeds.
4. Thin carrot seedlings for larger carrots
Thinning the carrots ensures each carrot has enough room to reach mature size.
Two weeks after the plants germinate, thin any carrots that touch each other.
In another two weeks, thin carrots to 2 or 3 inches apart.
Use scissors to cut off young seedlings rather than pulling them by hand.
5. Harvest and store carrots correctly
Harvest the largest carrots first to give the smaller carrots room to develop. Fully-developed carrots will have a bit of blunting at the end of the tip and have good flavor.
If you aren’t sure if carrots are ready to harvest, remove soil from around the tops of the carrot roots. Harvest carrots when tops are about 3/4 to 1 inch in diameter. The top may begin to “pop” out of the soil.
Leave carrots in the ground until ready to eat, but harvest carrots before the summer heat if you live in very hot places like Arizona. (The heat can turn them bitter.)
A tip to remember — the shorter variety carrots are best eaten fresh, while longer carrots are more suited to storing.
Carrots store best if you clip the foliage, leaving about 1 inch of stem. Leaving the greens on the carrots draws moisture out of them, causing limp carrots.
Let washed carrots air dry before storing them in the refrigerator. Store them in a sealed ziplock-style bag, and they will last for months.
When ready to use harvested carrots, scrub, but don’t peel them! Many vitamins are in the skin or close to the surface.
Freeze-drying carrots is a simple way to preserve extra harvests. Learn more about freeze-drying in this blog post.
Get my favorite recipe for garden fresh vegetable stock in this post.