Carrots are a hardy crop that can be planted in the garden in early spring. Carrots require larger amounts of moisture than other popular edible garden vegetables, they are not tolerant of drought. Prolonged hot weather in their later stages will retard carrot growth and generally result in an undesirable strong flavor as well as a coarse undesirable woody, fibrous texture.
At the other extreme, prolonged temperatures below 50 degrees F tend to make the roots longer, more slender and paler in color than expected. The best temperature for highest quality roots is between 60 and 70 degrees F.
Direct seed carrots into a well-prepared soil early in the spring. Suggested planting depth is 1/4 inch deep in rows spaced 12 to 18 inches or more apart depending on the method of cultivation used.
It is important to avoid crusting of the soil around the seed-bed. Covering the seed with vermiculite or fine compost and keeping the soil evenly moist until the seedlings have emerged will help prevent this problem.
The soil should be worked enough to remove any physical obstruction to root development.
When the carrots have sprouted, thin them out so the plants are approximately 3-4 inches apart to avoid overcrowding. . When the tops of the carrots grow thicker, thin them to about two to three inches apart.
Some seed companies are now offering pelletized seed, making the seeds easier to plant and thin out.
After plants are established, mulches will help conserve moisture and prevent excessive weed growth. Cultivation, if necessary, should be shallow in order to avoid root injury.
Carrots require an evenly-distributed and plentiful soil moisture supply throughout the growing season. However, avoid too much moisture towards the end of the season as this will cause roots to crack.
Watch for the appearance of orange crowns at the soil level as the plants mature. If this occurs, mulch with soil or compost as the sunlight will turn them green. Carrots that are exposed to the sun turn green and bitter-tasting.
To keep them orange and sweet, make sure the roots stay completely covered with soil.
To prolong the harvest, you can make succession plantings every two weeks until the temperature hits about 80 degrees F, then, when temperatures cool in autumn, plant another crop for winter harvesting.
Like most vegetables, carrots need at least 1 inch of water weekly during the growing season. Always soak the soil thoroughly when watering. this helps to promote good root development, but not excessively ,so as to avoid rot. Inexpensive Water Timers are available.
Good garden companions when planting carrots are Peas, lettuce, chives, onions, leeks, rosemary, sage, tomatoes, Bush beans, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, onions, peppers, red radishes. Sage planted with carrots will enhance the carrots growth. Avoid planting carrots in proximity of Pole beans, strawberries, and especially Dill as it stunts their growth.
Fertilizer and Soil
Carrot plants thrive in deep, loose, well-drained soil rich in organic matter. Avoid stony, cloddy or trash-laden soils as they increase the incidence of root defects. Because raised-beds usually have loose soil and receive little compaction from foot traffic, they are an ideal location to grow carrots. Carrots grown on heavy soils may produce considerable leaf growth and forked roots.
Be certain to track the soil pH 5.5 - 7.5 is best for carrots. See soil pH for information on adjusting the pH range of Garden soil.
Carrots need lots of potassium. Boost your soil's supply by sprinkling wood ashes over the planting area before you sow the seeds.
Avoid manure and other fertilizers high in nitrogen; they'll encourage top growth at the expense of good root development. If your carrots turn out with a branch or two, it means they're getting too much nitrogen.
Root crops- such as onions, beets, carrots, potatoes and turnips- need the support of soil that's rich in potassium and phosphorus. See: Understanding Fertilizer Labels
Generally you begin harvesting carrots when they turn bright orange - 60 to 80 days after planting, depending on the variety,but they are also harvested as soon as they are at a usable size, such as baby carrots.
I prefer to wet the bed, uh ... the ground that is, with water first, making the carrots easier to pull.
Cut the leaves off as soon as carrots are out of the ground; as long as they're attached, they'll keep growing and drawing moisture and nourishment from the roots.
Carrots destined for storage must be handled carefully during and after harvest to avoid bruising and breaking the skin.
Carrots can be left in the ground and covered with mulch until early-mid winter as long as they don't freeze. When kept at just above freezing, they become sweeter and keep quite nicely until harvest. Some growers cover their carrots at the onset of winter with a cold frame to prevent the snow from piling up on the carrots.