Growing carrots in your backyard vegetable garden or in containers on a porch or patio doesn’t have to be difficult. Check out this helpful information and tips on how to successfully grow carrots at home!
Why grow carrots at home
As with most home grown vegetables, the reason we grow them is superior taste. What you’re growing at home, will almost always taste better than vegetables that have been trucked hundreds (or thousands) of miles to get to you before sitting on a grocery store shelf waiting to be purchased. And since carrots are relatively easy to grow at home, why not give them a try?
Carrots are also a well-loved vegetable, even for the pickiest of eaters. Their bright colors and sweet taste make them a joy to grow for kids and adults alike. And there’s no vegetable my kids enjoy harvesting more than carrots! Full of beta-carotene, fiber, and vitamin K-1, carrots are packed with good stuff for your body, and that leaves you feeling good.
Did I mention carrots are one of the easier vegetables to store for long term use? It’s true! But let’s get down to the business of how to grow carrots.
When to plant carrots
When is the best time of year to grow carrots? This is a great question, and one most gardeners ask before setting out their carrot seeds. Carrots grow well in the cooler months (not cold) of spring and fall. They don’t do well in the blazing hot sun of the summer, so be warned.
If you’re further south, you can begin carrots earlier than most to beat the heat, or start them later in the fall. For northern growers, make sure your soil is workable (try raised beds, so you can grow anytime!) before setting out carrot seeds.
The best soil for growing carrots
Soil is important for all vegetables and herbs but especially carrots. Carrots to NOT like richly composted soil, i.e. soil that is full of Black Kow manure compost or something similar. In fact, carrots do well in soil that may be a touch depleted from a heavy feeding crop.
For example, if you’ve grown corn or tomatoes in an area of the vegetable garden during the summer, consider growing your carrots here afterward. (Carrots Love Tomatoes, right?)
Carrots also like loose, sandy soil for good drainage and for the large roots that you’ll eventually harvest and eat. You can imagine that carrots cannot grow properly in hard, compacted soil. This can lead to short, stunted carrots that are no fun for anyone.
How to plant carrot seeds
Sowing carrot seeds isn’t difficult, but it is a bit different from most other types of seeds. Carrot seeds are tiny, and therefore it’s important to follow these tips for planting:
- Don’t sow carrot seeds on a windy day (you may lose most of them)
- Lightly scatter the carrot seeds in the area you’re planting
- Gently pat the seeds into place, but there’s no need to push them down deep into the soil
- Spray the seeds with a gentle shower of water (we love this rain shower head for our hose.)
- (optional) Consider laying a damp cloth over your new seeds to keep them moist. This cuts down on the chance that they may blow away or get burned by the sun.
- Many carrots take two weeks or more to germinate, so don’t lose heart if you’re not seeing green tops after a week or so. Be patient. (I hear it’s a virtue, especially for gardeners.)
Fertilizing and caring for carrots
Watering: Carrots don’t need huge drenching water sessions, but they do well with light, consistent waterings. Up the amount of water once the carrots roots are established. All that carrot growing, takes a bit more water! Lack of water can result in hairy carrots… just an FYI!
Thinning Carrots: Since carrot seeds are scattered, instead of planted individually, then chances are you’ll need to thin them. This simply means you’ll go through and make sure no two carrots are two close together. Carrot roots do require room to grow, and they don’t like close neighbors. If you can, gently pull the carrot seedling you’re trying to remove, being careful not to disturb the carrot next door.
Another option is to take a small pair of pruning snips and trim off the part of the carrot crowing above ground (the greens). This will keep the lower half from continuing to grow. This method ensures you do not disturb neighboring carrots.
Fertilizing: Once your seedling are established and the tops are growing, feed carrots with a phosphorus-rich fertilizer with low-nitrogen.
How to harvest carrots
Now the fun part, harvesting your carrot crop! Here are some easy carrot harvesting tips:
- Harvest carrots in the morning if possible
- Smaller carrots actually have better flavor, so don’t worry about letting your carrots get to mammoth size!
- If your soil is loose, carrots can just be gently pulled by the green tops.
- For spring carrots, harvest before the heat of summer.
- For fall carrots, feel free to let your carrots go through a frost or two to sweeten the flavor.
Storing and using fresh carrots
Carrots grown in the vegetable garden or in containers can be stored using a few simple tips.
- Wash off carrots and remove the green tops (Compost them!)
- Place washed carrots in sealed plastic bags in the refrigerator
- If you’re further north, and have access to a root cellar, carrots can also be stored here as well.
Common carrot pests and diseases
Garden pests can just be the worst, but chemical fertilizers can be even worse for you and your garden. So what are some common carrot pests and diseases and how can you take care of them naturally?
- Carrot Rust Flies– While the adults won’t harm your plants, the eggs the flies lay at the base of your carrots will hatch, dig down, and feast on your carrot crop. Row covers are an effective deterrent from carrot rust fly.
- Aphids– The uber annoying pest of the garden. These tiny bugs can be blasted off of your carrot greens with water or sprayed with insecticidal soap or neem oil.
- Flea Beetles– Try neem oil or insecticidal soap if you see these tiny black beetles on your crop.
- Powdery Mildew– See our full article on getting rid of and preventing powdery mildew.
Popular varieties of carrots
- Rainbow Carrot Seeds– Eden Brothers
- Parisian Carrot Seeds– Eden Brothers
- Scarlet Nantes– Eden Brothers
- Tendersweet Carrot Seeds– True Leaf Market
- Purple Garden Carrots– True Leaf Market
- Chantenay Red Carrots– True Leaf Market
So get out there and get those carrots growing in your home vegetable garden! You’ll be snacking on sweet and crunchy goodness before you know it!