Carrots are good for you.
I don’t need to tell you that. We all know that.
But did you know they come in a variety of colors? And it’s easy to grow them in your garden?
I hope you’re now interested in growing some of your own. So let’s look at the things you need to consider when growing those awesome carrots.
What are carrots?
Carrots are hearty root vegetables. Carrots originated in Europe and Southwest Asia. Today, they are grown around the world and used in nearly every ethnic cuisine.
While carrot leaves and seeds are edible, most people only consume carrot roots. The vast majority of cultivated carrot roots are orange. However, there are also red, purple, white, and yellow varieties.
Are Carrots Nutritious?
Carrots are considered very healthy vegetables. They contain several vitamins and minerals, including vitamin A, vitamin K1, vitamin B6, biotin, and potassium.
According to the National Institutes of Health, carrots contain several antioxidants, including beta carotene, alpha-carotene, lutein, lycopene, polyacetylenes, and anthocyanins.
According to researchers, a carrot-rich diet may help you avoid cancer, lower your blood cholesterol, and lose weight.
What are some carrot varieties?
There are many heirloom and hybrid varieties of carrots.
Danvers carrots have a classic appearance, marked by long, spindly taproots. These carrots were developed in the coastal town of Danvers, Massachusetts.
They are one of the least picky varieties of carrots. They have the potential to thrive where other carrots cannot.
Today, there are several variations of Danvers carrots. Most of them are long, orange, and flavorful.
Nantes carrots were developed in Brittany, France. They tend to be far rounder and stouter than most supermarket carrot varieties.
Early Nantes and Scarlet Nantes are two popular varieties of this French carrot.
Amsterdam carrots are known for their short, blunt appearance and sweet flavor. These tiny carrots can be consumed raw or cooked.
Popular varieties including the Amsterdam Forcing and the Amsterdam Sweetheart.
Imperator carrots originated from Nantes and Chantenay carrots. There are heirloom varieties as well as man-made hybrids.
These delicious carrots are the ones dominating most grocery store shelves.
These bulbous carrots are rather unusual. They are fun to look at, and the perfect size for a quick snack.
Popular varieties include Romeo and Paris Market.
Chantenay carrots aren’t known for their length. Red-Cored and Royal Chantenay carrots are two of the most popular varieties of this root vegetable variety.
Not all carrots are orange. In recent years, supermarkets have begun offering even more colorful carrot mixtures.
If you’re looking to sow a rainbow of root vegetables, opt for kaleidoscope or rainbow seed mixtures.
You may discover carrots that are purple, white, yellow, or red. Keep in mind that carrots retain their bright colors even after being cooked.
Where should you grow carrots?
Carrots prefer to grow in loose, sandy soil. If your soil is filled with rocks or contains clay, you should amend or till it before sowing carrot seeds.
Carrots thrive in full sun. Sow your carrots in a patch that gets 6 and 8 hours of sunlight each day.
While most carrots fare well when exposed to minimal shade, it’s best to leave these root vegetables under the sun.
Raised beds or Earth
Carrots need a lot of room to grow. Make sure that you till the earth to a depth of 12 inches before planting your carrot seeds.
These hearty vegetables can be planted in raised beds or regular rows.
When should you grow carrots?
Carrots are cool-weather plants that can be planted in early spring and fall.
According to the Farmer’s Almanac, you can plant your first carrot crop 3 to 5 weeks before the last winter frost.
The Farmer’s Almanac offers a frost date estimate for each planting zone in the United States.
The estimates are created using data gathered by the NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information.
Throughout the Planting Season
If temperatures do not typically exceed 85 degrees in your geographical neighborhood, you can continue to plant carrots throughout the spring and summer months.
Carrots thrive between the temperatures of 40 and 85 degrees. They are also able to tolerate light frosts.
They germinate at temperatures between 60 and 65 degrees. Most take 60 to 65 days to fully mature. You must look at your local climate to figure out an ideal planting window.
You can sow a final crop of carrots in early September. These should be ready to harvest in November.
Don’t leave fall carrot crops in the ground too long. Hungry animals will devour them in preparation for the upcoming winter.
How to prepare the soil?
Use a tractor, rototiller, or fork to loosen the soil in your garden. Make sure to remove any rocks, roots, and other debris.
Break up any dense clumps of earth. Do this to a depth of 8 to 12 inches. Drainage is important to carrots.
If your soil is very moist, your carrots may fall victim to fungal infections or oversaturation.
Add pulverized leaves to your soil to reduce its density. Then, mix in organic amendments and fertilizers to optimize the nutritious profile of your soil.
You may add NPK, potash, and/or kelp. Check your fertilizer bottle to see how much product should be added per square foot.
Consider adding a second fertilizer application when your carrot plants are between 5 and 7 weeks old.
These elements will help your soil maintain moisture and nutrients. These materials will also add important nutrients to the soil as they decompose.
How to grow carrots?
Carrots should be sowed from seed. Most carrot varieties can be started in late spring.
Carrot seeds are small and spherical. They should be placed 2 to 4 inches apart and 1/4 to 1/2 inches under the earth.
Carrots should be thinned shortly after their leaves emerge from the ground. Young carrot plants grow best when they are 1 1/2 to 2 inches apart from each other.
Carrots should almost always be grown from seed. Transplanted carrots may grow crooked or become stringy.
You may attempt to replant the seedlings you remove during thinning. If you do this, ensure that the young plants are watered after being placed back in the ground.
You may wish to repeat the thinning process a second time. During a second thinning, removed carrots should not be replanted. However, you can enjoy these baby morsels with your next meal.
Every time that you remove carrots from the earth, you risk drawing the attention of pests. You can prevent carrot-loving insects by spreading straw or agricultural fleece over recently thinned carrot rows.
How to water carrot plants?
Most carrots need an inch of water each week. You may wish to install a drip irrigation system or employ your garden hose.
Evaluate your soil before watering it. Use a garden spade to reveal the soil below the surface. Add moisture when it is no longer moist. There’s no need to water your plants if you just received rainfall.
Ensure that your carrots receive a long, deep watering. Most carrot varieties grow several inches under the surface of the earth. These lengthy extremities need a reliable source of water.
Keep in mind that stout carrot varieties do not need as much moisture.
How to protect from weeds?
You will need to weed your carrots several times throughout the growing season. Most experts recommend weeding carrot beds before and after sowing.
You should also remove weeds when your carrot greens are roughly 3, 5, and 7 inches tall. Weeds can rob your carrots of essential nutrients and moisture.
Use a single-wheel hoe to remove weeds that are in between your carrot rows. Then, manually pull up any grass or other weeds around your plants.
How to fertilize carrot plants?
After tilling your soil, add a fertilizer that contains nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. These macronutrients are essential to the growth of carrot roots. Without them, your carrots will become deformed or weak.
Fertilizers containing nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium are written as three=part ratios. A 1-1-1, 2-2-2, or 10-10-10 fertilizer should boost the growth of your carrots.
Kelp and Potash
Many gardeners also like to add a little kelp and/or potash to their carrot rows. Kelp is a seaweed that is often used as a powder or liquid fertilizer. It contains several micro- and macro-nutrients.
Kelp contains nitrogen and potassium. It is known to boost the photosynthesis of plants.
Potash is derived from the ashes of plants. It contains high doses of potassium, which is essential to the growth of carrots. In addition to boosting carrot health and growth, potash can reduce soil acidity.
How do I Know What Fertilizers I Need?
You can perform a home-based soil test or send a sample to a lab. Most agricultural extensions offer free or low-cost soil testing.
The results should contain an in-depth look at the nutrients in your soil. You can use these numbers to determine what amendments you need to make.
If soil testing is out of the question, a basic NPK fertilizer is usually a failsafe amendment.
How to manage pests and diseases?
Carrots may fall victim to many pests and diseases. While some pests and diseases attack the tops of the root vegetables, most damage is not discovered until harvest time. In the section below, we offer tips and tricks for staying on top of common carrot predators.
Wireworms are the larvae of yellow beetles. These pesky little things can burrow into the taproots of carrots.
You can steer clear of wireworms by frequently rotating the crops in your garden. Try to plant a wireworm-resistant crop every other year.
You may also bury a small bundle of vegetable waste to lure large masses of these larvae.
Aphids are known for eating carrot greens and leaving them for dead. Aphids are also extremely problematic because they spread diseases upon contact.
If aphids are taking over your carrot rows, you may want to purchase some ladybugs. These pretty insects are natural predators of aphids. And they won’t harm your vegetable plants.
Carrot Rust Fly
Carrot rust flies prey on the delicious roots of carrots. The larvae of these insects will devour the meat of freshly planted carrots.
These insects have a short breeding period, meaning your carrot crops could be hit twice during a single planting season.
Stay on top of carrot rust flies by removing damaged carrots and planning your planting window around their hatching cycle.
Bacterial leaf blights leave carrot leaves looking discolored and curled.
You can fend off this type of blight by removing damaged leaves and weeding your garden beds. Excess darkness and moisture may also cause bacterial blights..
Alternaria fungus causes a leaf blight that turns carrot tops yellow, brown, or black. You can fight back against this fungus with the help of copper insecticides.
You should also remove any dead or damaged carrot tops to prevent the fungus from spreading.
Cercospora is a leaf blight that turns carrot greens brown. Copper insecticides are a popular remedy for this fungal infection.
You should also take care to sterilize any gardening tools that have come in contact with infected plants.
How to harvest and store carrots?
When to Harvest Carrots
According to the University of Maryland Extension, carrots should be harvested when they “exceed 1 inch in diameter.”
Some varieties may be pulled when they are just 3/4 inches around the top. Or, they may be pulled from the ground after 65 to 75 days.
Harvesting times may vary depending on the weather or the carrot variety. Most carrot varieties are harvested in fall.
However, these frost-tolerant root vegetables have the potential to stay in the ground throughout the winter months.
Keep in mind that ripe carrots may fall prey to hungry scavengers.
How to Harvest Carrots
If the soil in your garden is loose, you may be able to pluck your carrots with ease.
If the soil is compact, you may need to use a garden fork or hoe to loosen it before removing the fruits of your harvest.
Do not attempt to force the carrot out, as it may snap in half.
How to Store Carrots
There are plenty of ways to store the carrots you harvest.
First, brush the dirt off of your carrots. Avoid the temptation to wash the carrots. Water will draw in bacteria and moisture, potentially destroying your vegetable stores.
When you’re finished, use a sterile knife to remove the green tops. Carrot greens can be eaten and stored elsewhere. However, if you leave them on carrots, they will suck up the roots’ much-needed moisture.
Refrigeration or Naturally Cool/Dry Area
You may wrap some of your surplus carrots in a clean plastic bag. This can be placed in a refrigerator crisper or a cool, dry area.
The temperature should be between 39 and 46 degrees. Take care to monitor your carrots, removing excess moisture as need be.
You may also submerge your carrots in a bath of clean, untreated sawdust. Sawdust is an ideal cover for a root cellar or other cool, dry storage space.
Keep your carrots away from fruits and vegetables that may emit flavors or moisture.
How do I store the leftover greens?
Carrot greens taste best when they are only a few days old. However, you may also consider washing, drying, and freezing them.
Another option is to mix them into canned condiments and concoctions. Dried carrot tops can also be stored like herbs. They may be added to a variety of tasty dishes.
You may also opt to can your cooked or raw carrots. Canned carrots tend to be mushier than fresh carrots. However, canning is a failsafe way to preserve your surplus vegetables.
Canned carrots may be kept in brine, vinegar, or broth. Depending on the storage conditions and pH of your canned carrots, they may last anywhere from 2 to 5 years.
Dehydrated carrots can be used in a variety of dishes.
Washed, peeled, sliced carrots can be dehydrated for storage. Most experts recommend heating the carrots to 125 degrees for 12 to 24 hours.
Monitor the carrots as they cook. Remove them from the dehydrator when they have been stripped of moisture. Then, store them in a sterile, airtight container.
You must clean your carrots before freezing them. You may blanche them. However, this step is not necessary.
Frozen carrots may be stored for 3 months. When you are ready to consume your frozen carrots, dethaw them in the fridge.
They may lose some of their crispness. However, you’ll never be able to tell if you put them in a casserole or soup.
Carrots are one of the easiest vegetables to grow. If you loosen your soil and toss in some carrot seeds, you should be able to harvest these hardy root vegetables in the fall.
It can be challenging to not know what’s going on below the surface. After all, the tastiest part of these plants is completely covered by earth.
Many beginner growers fail to adequately thin and water their carrot crops. Crowded, malnourished plants may not be tasty or attractive. You can improve your carrots by planting them alongside beneficial companion plants, including beans, lettuce, and onions.
When in doubt, check with your local agricultural extension to hone in on the ideal planting window and discover tips for fending off local pests and diseases.