Homegrown carrots boast a flavor and texture that is quite different from their grocery counterparts. Enjoy the snappy crunch of this vegetable’s tap root when eaten raw. Cook carrots (their sweetness intensifies) to create dishes that dance the line between sweet and savory. Full sun and loose, well-drained soil will produce baskets of carrots throughout the growing season.
Carrot Care Must-Knows
Carrots grow best in full sun. They also need regular and plentiful moisture (at least 1 inch of water or rain a week), and well-drained soil that is deep, loose, and free of stones and heavy clumps that can distort the roots. If you have clay soil, add plenty of compost, manure, and topsoil before planting. If your traditional, in-ground beds present challenges, plant carrots in raised beds that are at least 10 inches deep or in large containers filled with quality garden loam or potting soil. Water regularly as raised beds and containers dry out faster than traditional planting beds.
Plant carrot seeds directly into the garden; it is difficult to transplant vegetables with taproots. Make sure your soil is as free of stones and clods of clay as possible. Then, once the danger of frost is past, sow seeds ¼ inch deep and ½ inch apart in rows that are 18 inches apart. Carrot seeds are tiny, so don't get overly concerned about spacing. You will thin the plants after they emerge. (If desired, use seed tape to get evenly spaced plants and straight rows, and reduce the need for thinning.)
Keep the seedbed evenly moist by watering every couple of days until the seeds germinate (about 14 days in 60-degree soil). When seedlings are 2 inches tall or less, thin plants to 1- to 4- inch spacing, depending on the size of the taproot desired. The thinning process allows the remaining carrots to grow larger without becoming misshapen. When thinning, cut rather than pull to avoid disturbing nearby plants.
Once the carrot seedlings are established (at least 2 inches tall), spread a layer of finely shredded mulch or well-aged compost around them to conserve soil moisture and keep the soil cool. Leave about 2-3 inches around each plant free of mulch to prevent rot and mildew. For a continuous harvest of carrots into fall, sow seeds every 3 weeks until midsummer. Expect your carrots to take 60 to 80 days to mature. Prevent diseases by planting carrots in a different spot every year.
Begin pulling carrots as soon as they develop full color. For winter storage, wait to harvest until after the tops have been exposed to several frosts; the cold will increase their sweetness. You can also overwinter carrots in the ground by mulching them heavily with straw. Dig them throughout winter or in early spring before new growth starts.
Related: 34 Tasty Carrot Recipes