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When To Harvest Carrots

Home gardening is a fun and rewarding hobby that many can enjoy. Carrots, specifically, are perfect for at-home gardens. Although they prefer cooler weather, these vegetables are able to withstand a range of temperatures, soil types, and sunlight access, making them an excellent choice for beginner and experienced growers alike.

Once you’ve planted and grown this root vegetable, the hard part is done, right? Maybe, for some. For others, you may struggle with knowing when to harvest carrots to ensure the success of this hard work.

If this sounds like you, keep reading to learn how and when to harvest your carrots.

Gardener showing when to harvest carrots with fresh bunches in the garden

Note the Differences in Varieties

From baby to heirloom, there is a wide variety of carrot types. Specifically, there are four main carrot categories (all with numerous sub-types), and each has an impact when it comes to the best time to harvest carrots.

Baby carrot types take about half the average growth time needed for larger carrot varieties, such as Imperator or Nantes. Check the growing instructions on your seed packs for more information and specifics on your plants’ needs.

How Long Does It Take for Carrots to Grow?

On average, larger carrot varieties, like the Imperator or Nantes types, take anywhere from 55 to 100 days after planting to reach maturity.

Smaller varieties can take 30 to 60 days from planting until they’re ready for harvest.

When Is the Best Time to Harvest Carrots?

The best time to harvest carrots depends significantly on the climate and seasons of their growth. Luckily, carrots have a bit of flexibility when it comes to their ideal growing seasons, despite their preference for cold weather.

In warm climates, carrots can usually withstand growing through the winter months. This makes them ready for harvest throughout the Spring months.

However, the best time to harvest is in late autumn if you’re in an area where temperatures are often below 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Because carrots prefer colder weather, they are ideal for planting in early spring or late summer. This will have them ready for a colder-weather harvest.

Fall carrots that are harvested before the cold season often have sweeter flavors. They’re even sweeter when harvested after a frost! Carrots naturally have a built-in defense against freezing which converts starches into sugars, producing this sweet taste.

How to Know When to Harvest Carrots

Most of the time, you’ll know it’s time to harvest carrots when their shoulders (the top of the roots, just under the green stems) are about one-half to three-quarters of an inch in diameter. Again, it’s essential to check the instructions on your seed packs to ensure you have accurate and specific information about your carrot variety.

To check if they’re big enough without pulling them from the ground, dig your finger under the soil and gently circle it around the top of the carrot to estimate its size.

Close up of carrots growing in garden

When they’re ready to be pulled from the ground, you may also notice the top of the carrots popping out of the soil. This doesn’t always happen, but if it does, this is a great indication that they’re ready to be picked.

Another helpful way to know if your carrots are ready is by checking the vibrancy of your crop’s color. Whether an orange, purple, yellow, or red variety, a brighter color is always better!

How to Harvest Carrots

Now that you know when to harvest carrots, it’s time to understand how to harvest them. Here are a few helpful tips when it comes to harvesting carrots.

To avoid breaking the root off the leaves, it is important to loosen the soil surrounding the carrot, as the root is likely embedded deep into the ground.

Place a small hand shovel or trowel about four to six inches from the plant. Next, gently maneuver the soil surrounding your carrot back and forth until it’s loose.

To pull the carrot from the ground, take a firm grip around the leafy stems. Gently wiggle the carrot in the loosened soil while pulling upwards, taking care not to rip it off.

Keep pulling until the entire root is out of the ground, and you have a freshly harvested carrot! Place your harvest into a Hoss Tubtrug colander, and you can wash the dirt off with your garden hose before tracking it inside the house.

How to Store Fresh Carrots

Now that you’ve harvested your carrots, you may wonder what to do with them. There are a few ways to store carrots to maximize their freshness.

After washing, carrots can be stored in the refrigerator and remain good for about three to four weeks. Submerge them in water or wrap them in a wet paper towel and place them in an airtight container, and they’re ready for storage.

You can also store your carrots in the freezer for long-term storage (as long as ten to twelve months!).

Bowl of diced carrots on a cutting board with a bunch of fresh carrots in the background

To do this, blanch your fresh vegetables in boiling water and promptly cool them. Completing this step before freezing your carrots helps to preserve their flavor, color, and texture by slowing down enzymatic activity. After blanching and drying your carrot, it’s ready for freezer storage!

Again, ensure they’re always stored in an airtight container to preserve their freshness.

For more details, check out our post on How to Store Carrots and Keep Them Fresh. Here you’ll find specific information on the different and proper ways to store carrots, along with ways to use them.

Frequently Asked Questions

If I harvest carrots early, will I get baby carrots?

Some people believe that harvesting carrots early is how baby carrots are produced. However, this is not always true. Some baby or miniature carrots can be grown in your garden, but they don’t look exactly like the store-bought ones.

Actually, the baby carrots you see in stores are just larger ones that have been cut and shaped into this smaller version.

You should harvest carrots no sooner than 30 to 40 days after planting. You can tell if you have harvested too early if the carrot is far below the average size for its variety. Early-pulled carrots will also be dull in color and flavor.

What if I wait too long to harvest carrots?

Thankfully, most varieties of carrots can last in the ground for a few weeks past their prime harvesting time. Usually, they can withstand about two to three weeks after maturity without being harvested.

However, if you wait longer than this, your carrots can become tough and woody. If you wait too long to harvest, you may also notice the roots split while underground.

How do I measure the size of my carrots if they’re underground?

You can accurately estimate the size/readiness of your carrot by looking at the top’s diameter. If the top of your plant isn’t sticking out of the ground, brush away some of the surrounding soil until you can see the shoulders. This area should be about half an inch across when harvesting standard carrots.

Person harvesting fresh carrots from the garden

If you’re not confident in your estimation skills, you can use your knuckle as a reference! The length of the tip to your first knuckle is likely about one inch long. Simply hold your thumb along the top of your carrot for a quick size estimation.

Wrapping up When to Harvest Carrots

Now that you know more about when to harvest carrots, it’s your turn! Whether your crops are ready for harvest now or you’re just getting started on your growing journey, you have all the tools you need to guarantee the success of your carrot yield.

Are you looking to learn more about growing, harvesting, and enjoying specific carrot varieties? Check out our All About Carrots page for all your carrot knowledge needs!