It’s no mystery why carrots are one of the most popular vegetables grown in the home garden: they're easy to grow and healthy to eat. Carrots are also one of the most versatile vegetables in the kitchen and can be used in everything from soups and stews to muffins or stir fry. And of course, most people can enjoy crunching into a carrot fresh out of the garden, too.
There are a variety of carrots available to plant. They range in color and size, from thin yellow carrots to hefty orange varieties. The type of carrot you choose will depend on your personal preferences, but the basic rules for growing carrots remain the same no matter what variety you grow.
Tips for Growing Carrots this Fall
- Carrot seeds can be sown directly outdoors. Before planting, you can soak carrots seeds overnight to speed germination.
- Since carrots can endure cooler temperatures, they make a great fall crop in many regions. Seeds will germinate even at temps as low as 40 degrees Fahrenheit, but they'll fare better at 50 degrees or above.
- If you want a fall or winter harvest, plan to sow your carrot seeds about 10-12 weeks before the first expected frost. In cooler regions, this means late July or August. For warmer climates, carrots can be planted well into September or even early October.
- Carrots need full sun. Even partial shade can produce an inferior crop.
- Since carrots are a root vegetable, it’s important to clear the soil well before planting. Debris in the soil can warp and damage your growing carrots. A twelve-inch depth of soil should be turned and cleared of all sticks, roots, and rocks.
- Carrots do best in sandy, well-drained soil. If your soil is dense, work in a good amount of organic matter like compost and peat moss to aid drainage.
- Planting depth depends on temperature: in warm weather, carrots can be planted just under the surface of the soil, but during colder months they should be planted up to half an inch deep.
- If you are planting several rows of carrots, keep them about one to two feet apart.
Growing Carrots: Maintaining Your Carrot Garden
Carrots are hardy plants that don’t require much maintenance, but there are a few steps you can take to produce a better harvest:
- Carrots should be thinned as they grow. Keeping them at least two inches apart will prevent their leaves (and ends!) from becoming tangled.
- Mulching every few weeks with compost will deter weeds and prevent sun from coming into contact with the carrots, which can affect their color and taste.
- Weeds can interfere with growth, so remove them as soon as they appear to prevent problems.
- Carrots rarely need water except in extremely dry conditions, but too much moisture can be a problem. Keeping the soil well-drained will prevent most diseases.
- If you mulch your plants, fertilizers are generally unnecessary. If you do feed your carrots, avoid fertilizers that are high in nitrogen, which will promote top growth instead of root growth.
Growing Carrots: Harvest Time
When 50-60 days have passed since planting, you can start checking to see if your carrots are ready to harvest. Most carrots can be harvested when their color reaches a deep, bright orange, but of course this will depend on which variety you chose to plant.
Carrots can be left in the ground several weeks after they are mature. If temperatures drop below freezing, you can lay out a covering of mulch to keep the ground from getting too cold. Leaving the carrots in the ground too long, however, may affect their taste.
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Please note: I wrote this post while participating in the Sowing Millions Project by Real Food Media on behalf of Seeds of Change. I did get some free goodies (i.e. seeds!), but of course my thoughts and opinions are my own and not those of Real Food Media or Seeds of Change.