Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or brand-new to the hobby, you can be successful at growing carrots!
A bonus to growing carrots yourself is that you can choose which variety and color you’d like to grow! Grocery stores tend only to carry the orange varieties, but there are so many more to choose from.
Read on for a step-by-step guide to growing carrots!
Some Information About Carrots
Carrots are root vegetables typically one inch in diameter and can be anywhere from 1-12 inches long. Orange is the most popular color of carrots, but they also come in purple, white, red, and yellow.
Homegrown carrots taste better because you can eat them immediately after harvesting, making them sweeter than store-bought carrots. Carrots tend to lose their sweetness the longer they sit on grocery store shelves.
Did you know? Carrots were the first vegetable to be canned commercially!
Growing Your Carrots
When to Plant Carrots
Carrots grow well in cool weather. This makes them a prime vegetable to harvest in the late spring and fall. Due to the extreme heat of the summer, you may not be as successful growing carrots during that time. The perfect soil temperature for carrots is between 45 and 85 degrees.
Because of the carrot’s large, central taproot, they do not react kindly to being transplanted. Plan to plant your seeds directly into the ground three weeks before the last frost date for spring carrots.
For a fall harvest, plant ten weeks before the first frost of winter.
Where to Plant Carrots
Find a location that will receive full sun to partial shade. It must be sunny for at least 6 to 8 hours daily, with some afternoon shade.
The soil should be lightly acidic, somewhere in the 6.0 to 6.8 pH range.
Carrots must have loose, well-drained soil to grow to their full length. This makes growing carrots in a raised bed or a wide, deep container ideal.
Prepping Your Soil
When you’re ready to prepare your soil for planting, be sure the area will have good drainage. Consider double tilling to ensure the soil is nice and loose. This will also help as you sift through searching for stones and rocks. Remove anything that will hinder the carrots from growing.
Add compost or up to six inches of sandy topsoil to your bed if the soil isn’t as loose and airy as required.
Time to Plant
When it’s time to plant, create shallow furrows in the ground about ¼ inch deep and two to three inches apart. Sprinkle the seeds in each furrow and cover them lightly with soil. The seeds are tiny, so you’ll probably drop a few in the same furrow. Don’t worry, you’ll thin them later.
For easier planting, you can purchase a mini seedmaster tool
Plant your rows two to three feet apart. Cover with a thin layer of compost to prevent a hard crust from forming.
The seeds must be kept moist constantly until they’ve germinated. After that time, you can change to watering about one inch a week, increasing to two inches per week as they grow.
When the sprouts are three to four inches tall, you can thin them out to be sure they have plenty of room to grow.
Succession planting rows of carrots every few weeks throughout spring will ensure you always have sweet carrots for the dinner table!
When growing carrots, don’t forget to use a marker with the name of the crop and the date you planted it.
When to Harvest Carrots
Your carrots will be ready for harvest in 50 to 75 days. To be sure you know when to harvest your specific variety of carrots, use the harvest guide listed on the back of the seed packet.
For the sweetest carrots, don’t harvest them too soon. This will not give you sweet baby carrots. Baby carrots are a specific carrot variety that you must plant. Immature carrots will taste bland and unsatisfying.
Something to note when growing carrots is that they become sweeter when exposed to colder weather. This is one reason why planting in early spring and having a late fall harvest will benefit you. You can even wait until after a frost to harvest your carrots.
Dig down to the top of the root to check to see when it’s time to harvest. It should be at least as big around as your thumb. Plan to harvest within three weeks of maturity.
Before pulling the carrot from the soil, use a trowel or a fork to loosen the surrounding soil. From there, you can gently pull on the stem of the carrot to wiggle it out of the ground.
Once you’ve harvested the carrots, remove the leaves and stems immediately, as they can draw some of the sweetness from the carrots and can make them limp.
For more information on harvesting carrots, check out our post When to Harvest Carrots.
Growing Carrots in a Container
Growing carrots in a container will follow the same process as planting outside. Be prepared to keep your carrots in the container for the season, as they don’t like to be transplanted.
The container should be 12 to 24 inches in diameter and at least 12 inches deep. If you’re worried about your carrots outgrowing the container, try planting a variety like Oxheart that only grows a couple of inches long.
Again, the most important thing to remember when growing carrots is to keep the soil soft and loose. Your carrots won’t grow if there’s any resistance.
One idea is to fill the container with a mixture of half potting soil and half sand. This will ensure the soil stays nice and soft for the duration of the season.
Carrots grown in a container must be watered more often than those grown outdoors. Plan to water deeply once a week.
Storing Your Carrots
Because carrots are root vegetables, they keep longer than other vegetables.
Wash them well and allow them to air dry. Keep them in an airtight plastic bag in the refrigerator so they won’t go limp. For more information on storing carrots, check out our post How to Store Carrots and Keep Them Fresh.
Your carrots will last 2-3 weeks in the refrigerator. But consider eating them as soon as they’re harvested for the best-tasting carrots!
For longer-term storage, you can freeze carrots or can them and enjoy them year-round.
Different Varieties of Carrots to Grow
There are dozens of varieties of carrots to plant in your garden. Here are just a few!
The Danvers Half Long is an early variety known for their easy growth. They tend to be sweeter than other varieties, as well. This variety tolerates heavier soil better than others.
Imperator carrots are heirloom carrots. They are known as a long variety that maintains their sweetness and crunch while in storage.
The Napoli carrot is bright orange with a super sweet flavor. It’s a variety that is easy to grow.
The little finger carrot is an extra sweet carrot that usually grows three inches long.
Paris Market carrots, also known as Thumbelina carrots, are easily identifiable by their plump, round, bite-sized appearance!
The atlas variety of carrots is small and round. They mature faster than other varieties.
Bolero carrots are another sweet variety that has improved resistance to pests and diseases. Expect these carrots to grow to seven to eight inches in length.
The dragon carrot is recognizable by its purple skin. These carrots perform well in heavier soil. They tend to have a sweet but spicy flavor.
Yellow Moon carrots are lighter colored than other varieties. They grow to a length of six to seven inches.
The Yaya carrot is one of the quickest to mature. They have blunt, barrel-like roots.
Nantes carrots are evenly cylindrical, not tapered. This variety is also extremely sweet and crisp.
Quick Tips on Growing Carrots
If your carrots are growing too closely, take the time to thin them out to give them more room. They should be one to two inches apart, so they don’t touch as they grow.
Plant your carrots next to radishes! These vegetables make a great companion vegetable that will prevent the soil from crusting over and help the carrots thrive.
Be sure to keep your carrot patch free of weeds.
Protect your carrots from pests, and extend your growing season by covering them with a floating row cover.
Time to Start Growing Carrots!
Now that you know how to grow your own carrots, it’s time to start digging. Remember to keep the soil loose, don’t overwater, and allow your carrots to thrive when it’s cooler out.
For more information on growing carrots, storing them, and other varieties to plant, visit our Carrot Plant page.