Carrots can present a challenge to the home gardener, but offer sweet rewards for a job well done. Here are some facts about growing carrots, and a few tips that can make the venture worthwhile.
Posts may contain affiliate links, which allow me to earn a commission at no extra cost to you. This helps keep costs down so that I can continue providing high quality content to you for free. I appreciate your purchase through the links! (full disclosure)
Facts About Growing Carrots
- They take a long time germinate: 12-15 days on average (and longer if it’s cool, like in early spring) so don’t give up if you don’t see sprouting right away
- They take a long time to grow to maturity (3-4 months). You can pull and eat carrots at anytime but the best size for flavor and texture is finger size. Plan to have carrots occupying a particular garden space the whole season because of their slow growing habit.
- They don’t take up much space. Grow 16 carrots per square foot or grow them 2 inches apart in rows. That means you can sneak them in just about anywhere you find an opening in the garden or landscape. Just be sure to use the tips below.
- They attract the eastern swallowtail butterfly caterpillars, which eat the carrot foliage above ground. This activity will not damage the carrot crop, so I prefer to let the caterpillars do their thing and be rewarded with lots of visiting butterflies!
3 Tips for a Successful Carrot Crop
TIP #1: Timing and Temperature
I always grow early season carrots, beginning in early March. This means that early carrot eating isn’t until June-July. Doesn’t sound so early, huh? You can help your carrots along by using row cover to keep the germinating seedlings warm (and growing faster) in those cool months.
I continue sowing carrots every 3 weeks throughout the season, that way I keep a carrot bed constantly producing, and the continuous sowing reminds me to keep the carrot bed well watered for good germination.
But truthfully, these are not the best tasting carrots. Here’s why: Ideal conditions for carrots are warm temperatures for seed germination (70s) and cool temperatures for developing sweet, fat roots (40s). What time of year do we see those temperatures? You guessed it: Late summer and into fall.
This is the time of year that I get really excited! Sow fall carrots by mid- to late- July and expect to harvest some sweet carrots by October and November. After a few hard frosts the flavor is really sweet.
The good news is that once the baby carrots are established, you can mulch them well (I use leaves), cover them with row cover or a cold frame, and continue harvesting right through winter (or at least until January here in zone 6).
TIP #2: Soil Depth
Carrots are divas with their specific temperature needs, but they also need a well-prepared bed to thrive. They love deep, loose soil. Use your spade fork to loosen the soil well prior to sowing carrot seeds. The best growing area for carrots is a raised bed or planter.
Even a container with a 12-inch depth will work great. I have never had more success than when I grow carrots in our 18-inch tall raised beds, because of the loose soil.
But since I like to rotate my crops each year, I don’t always get that optimal growing space, in which case I just make do.
TIP #3: Keep your Friends Close
Carrots benefit from being near onions, rosemary or sage, all of which help repel the carrot fly, according to the book, Carrots Love Tomatoes. I’ve never had a problem with the carrot fly, but if you can work these plants into your garden design, it’s not a bad idea to have them intermingled with your carrots.
Also, carrots are beneficial to tomatoes, perhaps at the cost of their own stunted growth, as the literature says. However, my carrots near the tomatoes didn’t do any worse than other carrots I’ve grown in the ground.
The ‘red core chantenay‘ variety grows well in my clay soil because it is a stockier carrot that only grows to about 6 inches.
Have you had success at growing carrots? What tips do you have?