One of the simplest vegetables to grow is carrots. Simply sow carrots seeds, water, and wait. If all goes well, you will harvest one of the tastiest root vegetables, a staple ingredient in most kitchens.
However, growing carrots is not always as easy as one thinks. Things can go wrong, resulting in heartache and disappointment. Either your carrot seeds don’t germinate, or you end up with forked and stunted roots. Carrot fly tends to also be a problem for many, attacking carrot roots and causing black tunneling and rot.
Over the past 13 years, I have learned a number of tricks that have produced an abundance of carrots in my garden. In this post, I will share 12 tips for growing your best carrots. They work in my garden, and I hope they will work for you too.
12 Tips for Growing the Best Carrots!
Many seeds can be started indoors, however, carrots have sensitive roots and won’t transplant well from seed trays or pots. A disruption of their roots can cause them to split and fork, making them difficult to use in the kitchen.
If you find carrot seedlings sold in plant nurseries, you would be better to leave them where they sit and instead purchase a packet of carrots seeds. Most carrot seed packets contain hundreds of seeds and cost only a few dollars. Since each seed will produce one carrot, you can grow an abundance of carrots for years, from just one seed packet.
Space rows 4 to 6 inches apart
More is more when it comes to carrots. The extra row space will prevent carrot roots from being crowded and will give them plenty of space to grow outwards into the rows. Sow your carrot rows spaced at least 4 to 6 inches apart for the optimal space.
Don’t thin carrots
Sow seeds spaced approximately 1-inch apart. Thinning is not required as carrots will grow outwards into the rows and have plenty of room to expand and grow together. Not thinning will also help to deter carrot pests. (More on this subject under Tip #11)
Choose loose, well draining, loamy soil
Carrots grow best in a free-draining soil, that won’t hold water. Although they require regular watering during active growth, a wet and soggy soil can cause disease. Compacted, clay soil can also cause carrot roots to fork and split. If you have issues with heavy soil, consider growing your carrots in a raised bed, container or grow bag.
Remove any weeds, rocks or roots left behind in the soil
In order to prevent carrot roots from splitting and to encourage straight carrot growth, rake over your soil and remove any weeds, rocks or roots left behind from old plant material. The looser the soil, the better your carrots will grow.
Choose a fertilizer higher in phosphorous or the “P” number of the N-P-K ratio
Phosphorous is an essential plant nutrient that helps to promote healthy root growth. Avoid using fertilizers higher in nitrogen or “N”, which promotes lush, leafy growth and smaller roots. Some good options include Carrot Fertilizer 1-9-3 from West Coast Seeds or Big A@@ Carrots 1-9-3.
To help create a more manageable harvest and to prevent your carrots from coming up all at once, consider timing your seed sowing over a longer period of time. Sow a few rows, wait 3 weeks, then sow a few more rows.
By the time you sow your last rows, your first rows will be nearing harvest time. Each successive sowing will come up spaced weeks apart and be ready for harvest before the next sowing. This will help to make harvesting carrots much easier to manage.
Sow a late season crop
These carrots would be sown in mid to late June and will remain in the soil for the longest period of time. The result is much larger and longer carrots.
Keep the soil moist after sowing carrot seeds
Carrot seeds have a tendency to take longer than expected to germinate. That, in addition to inconsistent watering, delays carrot seed germination even further. In order to help speed carrot seed germination, water well and consider covering the soil with a wooden board or piece of cardboard. This added layer of protection will help to keep the soil moist and protected from wind and drying. Consistently damp soil is just the ticket for carrot seeds to germinate. After germination, remove the covering and continue to water regularly until plants establish.
To prevent carrot rust fly and carrot weevils
If you’ve grown carrots and experienced black channeling into the tops or bottoms of your carrots, your crop has been affected by carrot rust flies, carrot weevils or both. To prevent an infestation of either, delay seed sowing until the second half of June, in order to avoid the egg-laying season.
After sowing, create a physical barrier with a floating row cover and secure it to the soil, or lightly bury it. This will help to prevent pests from accessing the soil and laying their eggs on the surface. Alternatively, sow seeds but don’t harvest carrots until after the first frost. At that point, the pests will have concluded their life cycle and won’t be present to attack your crop.
Carrot rust flies are attracted to the carrot scent. Disruption of carrot foliage and roots will disturb the soil, attracting them. If you want to have continuous harvests throughout the growing season, but avoid carrot pests, sow smaller patches in different locations of your garden and harvest the entire crop all at once.
Choose carrot fly resistant varieties
If carrot flies have been a problem in your garden, consider sowing carrot fly resistant varieties. These are not guaranteed to prevent any and all attacks, but they will help to reduce infestation levels. Some varieties to consider include, ‘Resistafly’ and ‘Flyaway’.
For the sweetest carrots
Leave carrots in the ground and don’t harvest carrots until after the first frost. A frost will sweeten them and help to create a crisp and crunchy texture.
There are many carrot varieties to choose from when planning your carrots in the garden. Their versatility also makes them easy to grow in most containers. Choose a raised beds, a large container, wooden box, grow bag, or anything that allows for your carrots to grow to a depth of at least 1-foot. If your in-ground garden soil has a light, loamy consistency, prepare your soil as mentioned above and sow directly. Sow your first carrots from early spring and continue making successive sowing throughout the growing season. You’ll love the taste of your fresh carrots!
Here are the tools that I mentioned in the post.