Learning how to grow carrots is not difficult at all.
Originating from the Mediterranean region — and famed as Bugs Bunny’s favorite food — carrots (scientifically known as Daucus carota) are among the most popular vegetables grown and consumed throughout the world. Associated with the color orange, carrots are also available in a host of other colors, including the Red Samurai, the Purple Haze and the Yellow Carrot. Full of fiber, vitamins and many other nutrients, carrots are especially good when naturally grown without the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
Root crops like carrots are hardy and grow best in cooler conditions. Carrots survive light frosts, making them a great crop to start off the garden in early spring. Some varieties also grow well in fall and winter but they perform best in temperatures between 60 and 75 degrees F. Carrots can tolerate a small amount of shade but areas with abundant sunlight would be ideal for optimum growth. Carrots grow well in containers or pots, as long as the pot or container allows for at least 12 inches of soil, otherwise the growth can be stunted, particularly with the longer variety (such as, Nantes: 6 to 7 inches and Imperator: 8 to 10 inches) of crop.
Preparing the soil:
The soil may need to be worked well and heavily composted, depending upon the variety of carrot crop. Even when planting in clay or heavy soil, carrots do better with good compost (organic or commercial) mixed into the soil. Shorter varieties (such as, Thumberline or Little Finger that come as small as two inches) of carrot crops may do well in rocky soil, but removing larger rocks, stones, branches and other debris is beneficial to prevent hampering of growth.
Preferably the soil should be loose and high in nitrogen with sandy to finely loamed texture, as carrots need to push through the soil easily, as well as have wiggle-room for their roots. Carrots grow downwards, so anything that gets in the way may stunt its growth or result in a deformed vegetable.
Carrot seeds are tiny in size and usually directly seeded into the garden bed. The trick is to prevent the soil from drying out before the seeds germinate. Gardeners with incredible patience take their time and painstakingly place the seeds onto the soil one by one.
Recommended tools for planting:
- Carrot seeds
- Garden shovel
- Gardening gloves
- Short sticks (such as Popsicle sticks)
- Fence or garden netting
- Work the compost into the soil using the garden shovel, turning and mixing the soil until the compost is evenly mixed into the planting area.
- Seeds should be sown in rows spaced about 12 to 18 inches apart, at a depth of about one-quarter inch.
- Avoid compressing the soil on top of the seeds as this may inhibit germination and growth.
- Mark rows with the help of short sticks, so it’s easier to trace the planted seeds.
- Place a fence or gardening net around the area, along with a wind chime or wind-catcher to help deter birds and other garden pests.
- Water sparingly until the seeds sprout and take hold (about 10-15 days for most varieties).
- Garden hose
- After the seedlings have emerged, thin them to one inch apart. Either use the clippers to cut the green part off at the base of the stem or gently pull the entire carrot out of the ground.
- When the tops of the carrots grow thicker, thin them to about two to three inches apart. Either use the clippers to cut the green part off at the base of the stem or gently pull the entire carrot out of the ground.
- Be generous with the mulch throughout the growing season, cultivating it lightly into the soil at the base of the leafy stem.
- Weed around the carrots regularly, as an excess of weeds can sap vital nutrients away from the carrot root and inhibit growth.
- When cultivating the soil around the plant, either to weed or to mulch, keep it shallow to avoid disturbing the root’s growth.
- If the top of the root pokes through the soil (i.e. you notice orange bulging up under the green leaves), cover it with mulch. Exposing the root to the sun will result in a bitter, tough carrot.
- Keep the carrots well-watered throughout the growing season, but cut back on water as they reach maturity to avoid having the root split.
- Harvest after the appropriate time frame (this should be indicated on the seed packet, but it’s generally between 65 and 75 days). It is advisable to pick carrots a little earlier than indicated on the seed packet if you prefer to have a more tender and juicy vegetable.
- When harvesting the carrots, push away some of the soil so that the root is exposed. Grasp the carrot by the root (not the greens), push down slightly, wriggle the carrot in a circular motion to loosen it and pull up firmly. If the carrot doesn’t budge or the soil is too hard to wriggle, try wetting the area down thoroughly before harvesting.