How to Grow Perfect Carrots and When to Harvest Them


Super easy to grow and oh so good to eat, these radical root veg are well worth adding to your home growing list.

Carrots are packed with beta-carotene which our bodies convert to vitamin A. Interestingly, cooking your carrots helps them to release much more beta carotene, 40% in fact, compared with just 4% in raw carrots. Vitamin A is important for normal vision, hence the ‘carrots help you to see’ expression (though we’re not sure they’ll improve your night vision!). 

Carrots will grow well in a container, provided it’s deep enough for the roots and in the ground, so you can grow these delicious vegetables on a balcony or in a vegetable garden. You can expect to harvest baby carrots around 50 days after sowing seeds and larger carrots around 75 days after planting.

What carrots should I choose?

There are several hundred different carrot varieties and you can grow a rainbow of these striking roots from bright red to deepest purple.

There are 4 main types of carrots that you can grow:

  • Imperator: These elegant, long-rooted carrots are sweet to eat and impressive to look at. They will need plenty of room and loose, sandy soil to grow.
  • Nantes: A beautiful French heirloom, these carrots have a more rounded appearance than the other types. These carrots like loose soil and are a good choice for container growing.
  • Chantenay: These carrots have short, stocky roots, a sweet, earthy flavor and are great for growing in soil that’s heavy in clay or rocky.
  • Danvers: The classic carrot, medium-sized and well flavored, and they’ll tolerate heavier soil than Imperator carrots, but need looser soil than Chantenays.

Some champion carrot varieties include: 

  • Deep Purple Hybrid: A beautifully colored, sweet variety, perfect for adding color to salads.
  • Tendersweet: An impressively long imperator carrot with one of the sweetest flavors.
  • Danvers 126: A great tasting, heat-tolerant variety
  • Parisien Heirloom: An interesting, round-rooted variety that’s good for containers and shallow soil.
  • Kaleidoscope: A glorious blend of 5 different colored, delicious carrots.

How to grow carrots

Carrot seedlings don’t like to be moved so you can plant the seeds directly where you want them to grow. If you’re container growing, you can grow carrots most of the year-round, if you’re sowing into the ground it’s best to start them from early spring onwards. You can sow carrot seeds every 2 weeks to ensure a continual crop.

  • Carrots will grow best in looser soil so if you’re container growing, you can easily choose the right mix. Choose your carrot variety based on the soil you have because some types, like Chantenay carrots, will do fine in heavier soil, whereas others will need plenty of depth and loose soil to grow their long roots.
  • If you’re sowing carrot seeds into the ground, good prep is key. Loosen the soil well with a fork and remove any stones and clumps of earth.
  • Carrot seeds are minuscule, so a good tip is to mix them with some sand before scattering so you can easily see where you have sown them.
  • Sow carrot seeds thinly in rows, or scatter them evenly across the container and cover lightly with about ¼ inch of soil. Sowing the seeds thinly should avoid the need to manually thin the seedlings.
  • Because carrot seeds are so small and can easily be washed away, it’s good to cover them with floating row covers or a piece of burlap while they germinate.
  • Keep the seeds moist and remove the burlap once they’ve sprouted.

How to care for carrots

Carrots are so easy to care for, their main requirement is a weed-free growing environment. Although carrots are made up of 88% water, they don’t need to be drenched, 1-2 inches of water per week should be enough.


When to harvest carrots

Like all root vegetables, it can be tricky to know exactly the right time to harvest carrots. As a general rule, carrots are ready to pick when the tops are between ½ and ¾ inch in diameter and a good, bright color. This will, of course, vary depending on the variety you have grown.

Make sure that the soil is moistened before you pull your carrots up. It might be tempting to leave carrots until you want to eat them, but carrots left in the soil too long will become woody and lose their sweet flavor. If you’ve got a bumper harvest, you can store carrots in the sand in a cool place for a few months. 


Common carrot complications

The carrot rust fly is an unwelcome visitor to carrot crops. The larvae feed on the juicy roots and can cause tremendous damage. The best way to prevent the flies from laying eggs is to cover the carrots with floating row covers or horticultural fleece. You can also try trapping the flies with sticky tape and sprinkling an organic insect solution around the plants.

Companion planting can also be an effective, natural repellant, try growing onions nearby to deter the flies.

Overwatering can lead to carrots developing forked roots, or splitting. If you’re container-growing, making sure that your pot has adequate drainage will help.


Conclusion

With a little preparation before you sow the seeds, protection from pesky flies, and the right amount of water, you can grow deliciously sweet, seriously crunchy carrots in your backyard to enjoy all year round.

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