Growing Carrots From Seed
So You Want to Learn How to Grow Carrots?
You have come to the right place! Carrots are my number one favorite vegetable to grow because there is nothing in your supermarket that compares to the sweetness and crunch of a carrot fresh out of the garden. They are also great plants for a permaculture garden with taller-growing plants like peas or beans. They generally don't get tall enough to compete for sunlight with plants like this. And they also grow well with plants like onions, garlic, chives, leeks, and shallots, whose strong scents confuse the carrot fly—the number one pest and threat to a carrot crop.
The only downfall with growing carrots is that they are a one-shot deal. You plant one seed. You get one carrot. Not like cucumbers or tomatoes where you plant one seed and you are overrun with produce in a few months.
All in all though, the good outweighs the bad, and they are a part of my garden every single year. If you read on, you can also learn how to make them a part of yours.
Preparing Your Soil for Carrots
If you are going to plant carrots in your native soil, it's best to start them as early as the soil can be worked. Till, fork, or dig it about 12 inches deep and work the soil well. Work in lots of compost or composted manure and remove any rocks. It also won't hurt to mix in a time-released fertilizer that is formulated for growing root vegetables. If you can't find a specific root targeting fertilizer just pick one that is high in potassium and phosphorous.
If you are going to be growing in raised beds or containers, choose a fluffy, crumbly soil with a lot of organic matter in it. Tamp the soil in gently when adding it to reduce any major air gaps, but don't pack it in tight. Another way to do this is to fill your bed or container, and then water it as if you were watering a plant. This makes the soil settle more naturally into place.
Planting Carrot Seeds
To start a carrot patch in your native soil or a raised bed, dig furrows 1/4 of an inch deep. Then drop the seeds into the furrow with two-inch spacing in between them. After the desired amount of seeds have been places, fill the soil back into the furrow and tamp it down. Gently water in your carrots with as fine of a mist as your watering tool can produce. Carrot seeds are easily displaced by water, and a heavy stream could mess up all of the work you put into planting and spacing them out.
When planting carrots in containers about 24 to 30 carrots will fit in a 12-inch pot. Fill the container to just under where you want the soil level to be. Then measure in about one inch from the lip of the container and place your first seed. Measure two inches in all directions from that seed and place another seed at every point. Keep on spacing like that until you have reached all edges of the container. After you are happy with your spacing, apply a 1/4 of an inch layer of soil over the top of the seeds and tamp it down gently. Water your seeds in with as fine of a mist as your watering tool can produce and keep the soil moist but not too wet until the seeds germinate.
Caring for Carrots
- Water the carrots regularly enough to keep the soil moist but not soggy.
- A two to three-inch layer of mulch around the carrots will help greatly in suppressing weeds that will rob your carrots of vital nutrients. Mulching will also help retain water in the soil by protecting it from the sun.
- When it comes to fertilizing your carrot crop, lean towards a liquid fertilizer that is heavier in phosphorous and potassium than it is in nitrogen. Though carrots will make use of a little nitrogen for the growth of their greens, phosphorous and potassium will promote healthy root growth.
- If a carrot should have to be picked for whatever reason, DO NOT lay it on the ground near your carrot patch. The sweet smell will attract carrot flies to your patch to lay their eggs and ruin your crop.
Harvesting Your Carrots
After 70 to 80 days, your carrots will start to push their "shoulders" up out of the soil. This means that your two and a half months of caring for them are over. They are ready to harvest.
To harvest a carrot from a raised bed or native soil bed, gently stick a garden fork in the ground around your carrots and wiggle it back and forth to loosen up the soil. Then grab the carrot greens at the base of the soil and pull straight up, unearthing your carrots.
Harvesting carrots from a container is super easy. Turn your container upside down over a larger container or a tarp and gently tap the container around the outside until the soil comes loose and they all come out at once. Grab the greens two or three at a time and shake them loose from the clump and then shake them a few more times and most of the soil will fall right off.