Planting carrot facts
- Hardiness: Semi-hardy (can withstand light frosts, but not heavy frosts or freezing; roots can tolerate colder temperatures than tops). Biennial (a plant that requires two growing seasons to complete its life-cycle) but treated as an annual.
- Planting: Direct seed into deep, loose, well-drained soil that is free from rocks, clods, or debris. Plant when the soil temperature has reached at least 45°F. Carrots take several days to germinate, so for a spring crop try marking the rows by sprinkling a few radish seeds in with them (harvest radishes before they compete with carrots). Cover seed with ¼ to ½ inch of soil and keep seedbed evenly moist. Carrots are best planted in the spring and fall. They do not grow well during hot weather. For a fall crop, plant 10 – 12 weeks before the first frost. Raised beds work well for carrots. Full sun requires direct light at least 6 hours/day; prefers 8 - 10 hours/day.
- Days to maturity: 65 - 75 from seed.
- Spacing: For the most efficient use of garden space, plant in wide rows and thin to 1 to 2 inches apart.
- Fertilizer needs: Light to medium requirement for nutrients, either from soil organic matter or fertilizers. Incorporate fertilizer prior to planting. Refer to Fertilizing Vegetables for details.
- Approximate yield (per 10-foot row): 2 to 6 pounds, depending on the row width.
Growing and care of carrots
There are five main types of carrots:
- Chantenay type- 2 to 2 ½ inches in diameter at the shoulder and 5 to 6 inches long with a medium to large neck. Color is medium to light orange with a red core. Better for shallow, heavy soils than the long, skinny Imperator types.
- Imperator type- the main, commercial, fresh-market type. They are 7 to 8 inches long with a top diameter of 1 ½ inches. Roots are deep orange in color with a lighter orange core. Roots become woody when fully mature, but are excellent when harvested at their prime.
- Danvers type- conical with a top diameter of 2 to 2 ½ inches and length of up to 7 inches. Deep orange with a light center. Quality is excellent in young roots; becomes fibrous with age.
- Nantes types- cylindrical with a blunt tip, 6 to 7 inches long and 1 ½ inches in diameter. Roots are bright orange with a small core. Tops are often small and require careful digging at harvest.
- Miniature and Oxheart types: Baby carrots are sometimes termed Amsterdam types. The roots are 2 inches in diameter and only 2 to 3 inches long. Stump-rooted or round carrots are suitable for heavy, clay soil or container gardening.
- Watering - Requires plentiful moisture. In dry weather, water lightly each day until plants are established. Ease up on watering near time of harvest, as excessive moisture may cause roots to crack. Uniform soil moisture is critical to producing sweet, crisp, carrots.
- Weeding - Apply mulch to control weeds. Use only shallow cultivation, if necessary, and avoid root disturbance.
- Thin to 1 - 4 inches apart when plants are about 2 inches tall. Cut seedlings rather than pulling them out, to avoid root disturbance. Hill soil over the tops of the roots to prevent the development of green shoulders.
- Pull or dig when roots reach the appropriate size for the cultivar. Pull the largest roots when they are big enough to eat, leaving the smaller roots to grow.
- For fresh use, harvest carrots before they exceed 1 inch in diameter or about 65 – 75 days after planting.
- Fall planted carrots can be harvested throughout the winter months if mulched with an organic mulch of straw or shredded leaves before the ground freezes.
Storage and preservation of carrots
- Topped carrots can be stored for up to 4 to 5 months at 32°F and 90% - 95% RH without noticeable loss of quality.
- Immediately after harvesting cut off and compost the green tops. This will decrease moisture loss from the roots and help them stay crisp.