Carrots have to be hands down one of the funnest veggies to grow! There is nothing like harvesting fresh carrots from the garden. It is such a delight for kids and adults to pull these beautiful veggies out of the dirt, wash them off, and enjoy. The taste does not even compare to grocery store carrots. Growing carrots does take some patience, but they are oh so worth it!
Below are some great tips to help you get started growing carrots the right way in your own garden.
1. WHEN IS IT THE RIGHT TIME TO GROW CARROTS?
Carrots grow best in the cool season when the temperature is a high of 75 during the day. This is spring and fall in the Central Texas area. You know, the time of year you actually love being outside. My favorite time to grow carrots is in the fall time as we head into cooler weather. Starting by mid to the end of September is a great time to put out those carrot seeds. Carrots can handle frosts, and cold weather actually improves their flavor. If planting in the spring time, February and very early March are best.
2. WHAT KIND OF SOIL DO CARROTS NEED TO GROW IN?
Carrots need good quality soil! They grow best in well draining soil. A great soil mix is 1/3 topsoil, 1/3 good quality compost, 1/3 fill sand (not playground sand). Mix in 1/2" composted manure within the top 6" of the soil mix. Composted cow manure, chicken manure, rabbit manure or worm castings work great. If you are opposed to using manures, then add compost such as leaf mold. It is important that the soil is not heavy clay or have a lot of big pieces of rock or mulch in it. The goal is to be able to easily stick your whole finger into the soil without too much resistance. Lastly, carrots do best with at least 9"+ soil depth to grow in.
3. HOW TO PLANT CARROTS?
Carrots require 6-8 hrs of sunlight a day, so make sure to plant them in a nice sunny location. After your soil is prepared sow the carrot seeds 1/4" deep in rows that are 4"-6" apart. Keep the soil moist until carrots sprout. Covering the area with a strip of burlap cloth can help keep the soil moist. Simply water over the burlap to keep area moist and remove it once the carrots begin to sprout. Plant a succession of more carrot seeds at 2-3 weeks apart to have continuous harvests.
4. HOW TO THIN CARROTS
First thing to take care of is to thin carrots 2 weeks after they sprout or when the greens above the ground are about 1"-2" tall. You will thin the carrots to 2"-3" apart from each other. The best way to do this is by using some sharp scissors to cut the green tops off at soil level to each of the carrots you need to thin out. Thinning your carrots allows for the root to grow properly under the soil.
5. HOW TO WATER CARROTS
Keep the soil moist as the carrots are germinating. Once the carrots are germinated and growing their first leafy tops you will want to make sure to water when top 1" of soil is dry. Water slow and deeply to allow water to reach the bottom of the carrot roots. Drip irrigation is best, but any long slow watering will work great.
6. DO CARROTS NEED TO BE FERTILIZED?
Fertilize carrots with an organic phosphorus and potassium rich fertilizer when the leafy green tops are about 4" tall. Fertilizers come with 3 numbers N-P-K (Nitrogen-Phosphorus-Potassium). The second #, P, is what we are looking for here. This number needs to be in higher ratio than N, the first number. My favorite fertilizer for this is Microlife's Maximum Blooms. Bone Meal is another option you can use at this time.
7. HOW TO HARVEST CARROTS
Depending on the variety of carrot, they are generally ready to harvest anywhere from 60-90 days after sowing the seed. Most carrots are ready to harvest when the shoulder of the carrot is 1/2"-1" in diameter and/or slightly pushed above the ground. To pull the carrot of the soil, first moisten the soil and gently loosen the soil around the base of the carrot. Then grab the carrot top near the base or neck of the carrot and gently pull up. This is the best time to include the kids, but if you want to harvest all those carrots yourself and not share, I won't tell!
8. HOW TO STORE CARROTS
Wash off the carrots and cut off the carrot leafy tops leaving about 1" of green stem. Let the carrots air dry in a cool place and then put them in a perforated bag in the refrigerator drawer as quickly as possible. A ziploc with a few holes poked through it works great!
HAPPY CARROT GROWING!!!