Easy and versatile and the perfect addition to so many meals, carrots are a staple vegetable for many families. There aren’t many vegetables you can roast, boil, stir-fry, juice, and eat raw if you think about it.
It doesn’t stop there; carrot leaves are just as tasty and nutritious and work well in salads, pesto, or smoothies. You can even grow carrots from your kitchen scraps! The possibilities are endless.
Being one of the cheaper vegetables to buy, carrots may not be the most cost-effective crop to grow. Still, by planting them, you can experience the freshest, sweetest, and juiciest carrot flavor there is, something that store-bought carrots just can’t provide.
Carrots are not challenging to get started; they will take off quickly after planting a seed; however, achieving lovely, sizeable, and tasty carrots in abundance requires a few hints and tips, so here are 7 things to know for a fabulous carrot crop.
1. Plant Direct
There is no doubt that carrots start very well in pots in a greenhouse. It means you can kick start the growing season while it’s still winter.
However, the big glitch here is that carrot seedlings are incredibly delicate and prefer to remain in the same place. This is not to say you can’t transfer them, but there is a high chance you will damage them and produce a small and stunted harvest.
Carrots are hardy vegetables, and light frosts don’t affect them as much as other crops. This is because it is the root of a carrot we consume, which grows below the ground.
So, if you’re still keen to get your carrots started super early, you can attempt using biodegradable pots, which you can put straight into the soil when the weather is warm enough.
Alternatively, you can wait until early spring and pop them straight into the ground, which is the best option.
Use a cloche or fleece to protect the leaves through more extended cold spring snaps.
2. Use Loose and Sandy Soil
Carrots are delicate little seedlings, especially Imperator varieties, and because you eat the plant’s root, you need to take extra special care of what is happenings below the soil.
Preparing the soil before you plant is of the utmost importance if you want to avoid randomly shaped, crooked, or forked carrots.
These deformities tend to occur when something gets in the way while growing southwards. Rocks, stones, and lumps of soil are all culprits and will need to be removed before planting the tiny seeds.
Carrots also do not grow well in heavy soil, so for a fabulous crop, investing in some raised beds that you can fill with fine and sandy soil, free from any clumps, will make your chances of succeeding far greater.
Raised beds are also great because you can weed in and around your carrots without compacting the soil by walking on them.
If removing all small stones isn’t an option, invest in seeds for shorter carrots, such as varieties of Chantaney or Nantes, which can cope with slightly more dense soil.
3. Leave Nutrition Out
Of course, carrots need nutrition, but compared to plants such as tomatoes, topping them up with fertilizers or fresh manure is unnecessary and detrimental to the outcome of your carrots.
The effects of adding too much fertilizer is a smaller, hairier, slightly strange-looking carrot, and too much nitrogen can also cause the vegetable to fork.
Your carrots are likely to grow longer, straighter, and tastier if you leave them to find their nutrition, forcing them to increase further into the ground.
4. Avoid Overcrowding
Carrots need space. There’s no messing around here. Carrots planted too closely together are likely to be smaller and less tasty.
It’s easy to try and squeeze them in so you can produce more, but ideally, you need to plant the seeds around 1 inch apart, although this can be difficult when sewing directly into the ground because the seeds are so tiny.
As your seeds begin to shoot, remove a few seedlings to have 2-3 inch spacing. Without room, the carrots’ root system won’t be able to grow fully.
Keeping carrots free from overcrowding weeds will also help keep your crop healthy. Anything growing in or around your carrots will have a root system that directly affects your carrot.
5. Keep Things Cool
Carrots are cool weather lovers and don’t cope well in tropical or subtropical climates, although that’s not to say they don’t love the sunshine.
Planting carrots in springtime or fall are your best options, but that does depend on where you live.
For carrot seeds to germinate and grow, keeping temperatures at around 55-75 degrees is perfect, and you should see some little green shoots as soon as a week after planting and so long as the soil is kept moist.
6. Don’t Be Too Hasty
Because carrot leaves are so impressive, they can lull you into a false sense of readiness. Carrots need about 70 days to mature, and you’ll know they’re ready when the leaves are big and bushy and you can see the tops of the carrot just peeping through the soil.
The disappointment of pulling them up too early is real because there’s nothing you can do once they’re up.
If you want a continuous supply of carrots throughout the season, sow seeds every two weeks unless the weather in your region is too hot.
7. Provide Carrot Companions
Planting carrots on their own is absolutely fine, but some other plants act as great companions to carrots and help them produce an excellent yield.
Taller climbing plants, such as tomatoes or peas, work well to provide shade and keep the carrots’ soil nice and cool. Pungent crops like onions release odors strong enough to control pests such as carrot fly, as do herbs such as chives.
Avoid planting other root crops close by, such as potatoes and beets, because they will compete for similar nutrients.