Harvesting carrot seeds from your garden is more than just a cost-effective option for gardening. It can be a fun learning experience and often gives you a great return on investment. Plus, you will always be confident in the quality and source of the carrots you’re growing!
Read on to learn everything you need to know about how to harvest carrot seeds…from technical terms to the step-by-step process and more.
Why It’s Important to Know How to Harvest Carrot Seeds
Knowing how to harvest carrot seeds is one of the most cost-effective gardening investments you will ever make. This skill set can help you gather a great return on investment by planting carrots year after year.
To put things in perspective, every individual carrot plant has the potential to produce over a thousand subsequent carrot flowers. That means a thousand carrots for everyone that you let go to seed now! That’s just one compelling reason for learning how to harvest carrot seeds.
Another thing to consider is the quality of your carrots. Many potential issues can arise when you don’t know the source of your carrot seeds or how high quality they are.
However, if you find really great seeds one year and learn how to harvest carrot seeds from that crop, you can confidently consume all of the carrots that grow from the initial source.
Choosing the Best Carrot Seeds to Harvest
The first key to learning how to harvest carrot seeds is to know how to select the best carrot seeds for harvesting. Bear in mind that harvesting carrot seeds is a biennial process; you will need to grow carrots specifically for seed, not to harvest, to kick off your seed process.
So, in the first year, you will need to choose the right carrots to grow, harvest their seeds, and sew those next season. Choose between five and twenty carrot plants to ensure strong genetics and overall hardiness. Then, sew the seeds about 10 to 20 yards away from the rest of the garden.
You will need to start with high-quality, open-pollinated carrot seeds rather than hybrid seeds, which are artificially pollinated. This means they will not produce the same offspring as their parent plants–if they are capable of producing viable seeds at all!
Open-pollinated carrot seeds, meanwhile, will be pollinated by pollen carried on the wind or by visiting insects. The seeds these carrots produce will have the same characteristics as the parent plants, so you will know exactly what you are getting from that harvest.
To avoid this hybridization between carrot varieties, you need that distance!
Necessary Tools for Harvesting and Storing Carrot Seeds
A couple of tools will help maximize your skills as you learn how to harvest carrot seeds.
The first is a mesh sieve, which will help you separate the chaff from the seeds. You may have one of these already in your kitchen, used for things like draining pasta. This will be a perfect tool when learning how to harvest carrot seeds.
Secondly, having a plate or tray on hand will be crucial for catching the seeds as you harvest them. This will help ensure minimal loss of seeds.
In addition, you will also need some kind of storage after you learn how to harvest carrot seeds. The preferred method for storing carrot seeds is in envelopes. This will allow you to label and identify them easily.
Some designated seed envelopes can be a great option for storage after you harvest your carrot seeds.
How to Harvest Carrot Seeds – A Step-by-Step Process
A Waiting Game
The biggest learning curve in knowing how to harvest carrot seeds is that this process differs from harvesting other garden veggies. You will need to let your seeding carrots overwinter (i.e., do not harvest them at the end of the season) in order to harvest seeds from them the following year.
To do this, you will want to leave your seed carrots in the ground after you have harvested your edible carrots. Mulch around them to protect them from the cold of winter.
Suppose you live in a region where winters are particularly brutal. In that case, you can gently pull up your seed carrots, place them in a perforated plastic bag inside a ventilated container, and store them somewhere cool and dry.
If you go this route, be sure to line the container with some substance, such as dry leaves, wood shavings, or even sand, to help retain that dry, cool atmosphere that your seed carrots need. Then, once spring rolls around, you can replant these carrots with their tops showing about two feet apart.
Your overwintered carrots should have much taller and noticeably bushier green tops than harvest carrots. Their flowers should come and go and, finally, begin to brown. Once this happens, it is time to take the next step on how to harvest carrot seeds.
Start With the Tops
How to Safely Harvest Carrot Tops
You will not want to use your bare hands to remove the carrot top safely and minimize the loss of carrot seeds. Instead, you can snip the dry tops from the carrot using sharp pruners. If you like, you can do this over a small tarp or sheet to ensure you don’t lose any of the tops.
Drying Out The tops
The next step for how to harvest carrot seeds is to finish drying out the tops. To do this, you can store them loosely in a brown paper bag, ensuring they have enough ventilation space to reduce the risk of molding. These bags can then be placed somewhere cool and dry, so the tops can finish drying out.
Another option is to spread the carrot tops out on a screen or flat surface where they have some good ventilation and allow them to dry that way. Whatever you choose, ventilation is really the key here.
The drying process is considered complete once your carrot tops turn brittle and have no pliancy left. Now it’s time to begin harvesting the seeds!
Removing the Seeds
Luckily, no special tools are required when removing the carrot seeds from the tops. Simply hold the carrot top over a dish and rub the tops between your fingers! This should free the seeds, and they will drop into the dish.
Once you have rubbed the seeds free of the tops, it’s time to sieve the seeds from the chaff. Pour all of the contents through your mesh strainer to remove large debris. Then, you can remove the finer bits by lifting and dropping the seeds in front of a fan turned on low. The seeds will drop, and the chaff will blow away.
Storing the Seeds
Your carrot seeds will need to be stored somewhere dry and cool. Optimally, you would want them to be kept between 40 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit, with the relative humidity at around 40%. These conditions will allow for the seeds to remain viable for several years!
Each year, you can repeat this process, setting aside between five and twenty carrots for seed carrots and overwintering them, then harvesting their seeds. Following these steps for how to harvest carrot seeds will ensure you have a bountiful harvest of seeds and carrots for many years to come!
Frequently Asked Questions
How long will my carrot seeds be viable?
Carrot seeds can last for up to four years when stored in proper conditions, with appropriate humidity and temperatures.
What should I do if my seeds crumble while removing them from the top?
Occasionally, you will find that some of your carrot seeds crumble when handled, such as when rubbing them free of the top. This is usually a sign that those seeds would not retain viability anyway.
Wrapping Up How to Harvest Carrot Seeds to Grow Next Season
Feeling confident that you know how to harvest carrot seeds? Now it’s time to get started choosing the variety you want to harvest from! Check out our Carrot Plant page for resources to help you choose the perfect carrot type–and how to grow, care for, and so much more.