Carrots are among some of the most popular root crops grown and consumed in the world. Root crops like carrots are hardy and grow best under cooler conditions. Carrots will survive light frosts, making them a great crop to start off your garden in the early spring. Some varieties also grow well in the fall and even into the winter.
Carrots are originally from the Mediterranean region, but now people consume and grow them throughout the world. They are actually biennial plants that are treated like annuals when grown in the garden.
Long and orange dominates our images of carrots, but there are actually a number of different colors and shapes of carrots out there. Many gardeners enjoy growing carrots with unique shapes and colors, such as purple, white, and round carrots. No matter what kind of carrot you grow, you’ll enjoy their health benefits including high quantities of vitamin A.
This site is a guide to growing carrots in the home garden. We feel the best way to grow any vegetable in your garden is without the use of potentially harmful chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Thus, this site has lots of tips on growing your carrots naturally. You’re going to eat the carrots you grow, so why not use the most natural and healthy methods possible to grow them!
Soil and Climate Conditions for Growing Carrots
You can plant your carrots as soon as the last hard frost of spring has passed. If you experience a minor frost during the spring, not to worry as carrots will survive a light frost.
As carrots are a root crop, soil temperature is important in determining the quality of their growth. An electronic soil tester is a useful tool for monitoring soil temperature, pH, etc.
If temperatures are too hot or cold, your carrots may not have an ideal shape, color, or flavor. A prolonged soil temperature of about 65 degrees F is ideal for growing attractive and flavorful carrots.
Most experts say that a pH of around 6.5 is ideal for your carrots. If your soil is too acid, you may have problems. If you monitor your soil’s nitrogen with your soil tester, take into account that your carrots won’t need a high level of nitrogen to grow well, so avoid high nitrogen fertilizers. High nitrogen levels may cause your carrots to form multiple roots instead of a single root.
When you grow carrots, the soil should have a consistent texture and should drain well. Compacted or rocky soil can interfere with root develop and may cause deformations in your carrots. Adding organic compost that you can make yourself with a composter is a great way to loosen your soil and add the nutrients that your plants will need to grow strong and healthy.
When you add compost to the soil, make sure it is fully decomposed. Moreover, don’t overload your soil with compost, as your carrots may start to fork as they grow.
To ensure a good looking carrot, keep your soil free of stones and chunks of compacted soil. The first weeks of growth are critical to the shape of a carrot. This is when the carrot sends down the long taproot that will later mature to be the carrot. Uneven soil can interfere with proper root growth.
If you don’t have much space to grow your carrots, consider growing them in containers and raised beds. This way, you can control the quality of your soil and maximize the quality of your crop. The deeper the container is, the better. However, there are a number of carrots you can grow in shallow soils. Please see our list of carrot varieties for more tips.
Tips for Planting Your Carrots
When you plant your carrot seeds directly in your garden, make sure you work your soil early in the spring so that it is loose and well draining. When there is no risk of a hard frost, plant your seeds about 3/8 of an inch into the soil. You can space your rows about 15 inches or a little wider if you prefer.
Note that carrots are not usually grown as transplants because when you place them in the garden, the roots have a propensity to fork.
Cover the seedlings with a thin layer of organic mulch such as straw or shredded bark. This will keep your soil moist while the seedlings are developing. Once your seedlings emerge, you can add more mulch around the plants. A layer of mulch about 3-4 inches deep is recommended after the seedlings emerge.
Once the carrot seedlings begin to appear, you should thin them out a bit. They’ll need at least ¾” between plants. As the carrots mature, thin them out to about 3-4 inches apart. As a general rule, the larger the carrot you want, the wider the spacing should be. Wider spacing also helps with an easier harvest.
Thin your carrots when they are about 1 inch tall. Be careful not to disrupt the other plants while you’re thinning your garden. Root vegetables are often sold as pelleted seeds. These seed varieties will help with even spacing and will reduce the time you spend thinning out your carrots.
If you want to have carrots throughout the growing season, you can grow a new batch after the first carrots have grown for about 3-4 weeks. Carrots will germinate after about 2 weeks, and sometimes your plants will germinate unevenly throughout your garden.
If you want a fall crop of carrots, give yourself at least 2-3 months before the first fall frost. This will ensure that you carrots will be ready to harvest before a hard frost hits.
Check with your local extension agent to get an idea of when the first frost is likely to occur in your area.
Tips for Using Fertilizers to Grow Carrots
In most cases, good quality compost is all you need to enrich your soil and ensure healthy carrots. However, there are a number of environmentally friendly and safe fertilizers and soil enhancers that you may consider using.
For example, Mycor root builders are excellent soil builders that contain Endomycorrhiza, Ectomycorrhiza, Scleroderma, Kelp, Zeolite, and Humate. These will stimulate beneficial soil fungi and allow your plants to take more advantage of soil nutrients and water.
Whether or not you choose to you use fertilizers in your garden, make sure you use the appropriate amount. Too much fertilizer can result in deformed carrots with forked roots. Please note that you should never use a weed and feed type fertilizer as it may end up killing your vegetable crops.
When you grow carrots, the soil should have a consistent texture and should drain well. Compacted or rocky soil can interfere with root develop and may cause deformations in your carrots. Adding organic compost, which you can make yourself with a compost bin, is a great way to loosen your soil and add the nutrients that your plants will need to grow strong and healthy.
If you’re new to gardening with carrots you’ll be amazed at the number of varieties out there. Carrots come in a number of different shapes, sizes, and colors. No matter what season of the year, your experience level, or the size of your garden, you’ll find a carrot variety that’s appropriate to grow in your home garden.
Carrots are usually divided into groups based on how deep they grow. Thin, deep growing carrots (up to 10 inches) are know as Imperator carrots. Danvers grow up to 7 inches long and are also thin. The tops are thicker and the flavor of the Danvers tends to be strong. Nantes are sweet, round carrots that grow to around 6 inches long. Chantenay carrots grow around 5 to 6 inches. They are a wider variety of carrot. Amsterdam carrots are small and thin, growing no more than 3 inches long on average. Paris Market carrots are very short carrots, and grow to about 1 ½ inches in diameter.
Here, we’ve listed some of our favorite carrots for the home garden. Make sure to talk to your local extension agent for recommendations on which carrots are best adapted to your area. Also, ask your favorite nursery for pest and disease resistant varieties which will help reduce the need for pesticides and fungicides.
Our Favorite Carrot Varieties for the Home Garden
Carrots for heavy soils:
Look for varieties that grow shorter and don’t need to penetrate deeply into the soil.
• Amsterdam Forcing 2, Amice
• Autumn King 2
• Chantenay Red Cored 2
• Nantes Half-long
• Little Finger
• Danvers Half-long
• Spartan Bonus
• Five-Star Baby
• Mini Round
Carrots for container gardens:
While you can use containers of various depths to grow carrots, smaller varieties are usually best. Try out some of the following carrots in your container garden.
• Amsterdam Forcing 2, Amice
• Amsterdam Forcing 3 , Sprint
• Chantenay Red Cored 2
• Danvers Half-long
• Spartan Bonus
• Nantes Half-long
• Little Finger
• Mini Round
Carrots for the Fall and Winter:
• Autumn King 2
• Carotene 200
Scarlet NantesScarlet NantesScarlet Nantes:
• Scarlet Nantes
• Royal Chantenay
• Merida, Overwintering
Disease and Pest Resistant Carrots:
• Flyaway. Resistant to the carrot fly.
• Barwon. Resistant to alternaria and leaf blights.
• Bolero. Resistant to alternaria blight, powdery mildew, and cavity spot.
• Magno. Resists cracking and cavity spot.
• Topweight. Resists most carrot pests and diseases.
Carrots with Exceptionally Sweet Flavor:
• Royal Chantenay
• Parmex. Small, almost completely round.
• Belgian White. White skin and flesh.
• Early Horn. An old variety with a reddish skin.
• French Round. Almost complete round.
• King West. Red roots.
• Pakistani. Can be purple to red in color. Very rare.
• Sinclair’s. A yellow variety.
• Cosmic Purple. Deep red to purple skin with red/orange flesh.
• Thumberline. Round carrot.
• Dragon. Purple skin with orange flesh. Highly nutritious.
• Rainbow. Grows as a variety of pastel colors.
The Carrot Museum has an interesting site with a list of different carrot varieties.
Carrot Pests, Diseases and Other Problems
Like most vegetable crops, carrots may attract critters that think they’re just as tasty as you do. Most of the pests listed here are not likely to be a problem for you. However, it’s best to familiarize yourself with them so you can quickly and effectively treat any problems with garden pests. Note that the most common pest for carrots is probably the carrot rust fly.
We of course recommend a natural or organic pesticide for any vegetable crops you grow. Here is a complete list of the pests to be on the lookout for:
Carrot root flies. These are worms that will attack carrots and other root crops. They feed directly on the roots. If you see these pests in your garden, harvest your crop immediately to avoid them spreading and living on after the harvest. Crop rotation and deeply tilling your soil can also help stop this pest.
Flea beetles. These pests will eat small holes in the leaves of carrots and other root crops. They also carry plant diseases, so be especially careful with these pests. Use an organic pesticide to control these pests.
Vegetable weevil. This pest feeds on the leaves of plants and usually attacks at night. This critter is gray to brown and grows to about 5 mm long.
Armyworms. This worm is a light green to yellow color, and sometimes can be light brown. They look like a common caterpillar and feed on stems and leaves. Look for them at night.
Parsleyworms. The parsleyworm is a yellow-green caterpillar with black bands are orange markings. These pests are visible during the day, but are fairly rare.
Yellow woollybear. This is another caterpillar-like pest. It has lots of white hairs along its main body. The larvae gather to feed on the leaves. As the larvae mature, they’ll begin to feed on other parts of the plant.
Vegetable leafminers. These pests resemble tiny yellow maggots. They “mine” through the leaves, leaving a trail in the leaf. Browning leaves and trails may mean the presence of many leafminers.
Aster leafhoppers and Six-spotted leafhoppers. These pests are yellow to green in color and have black spots on the head. Leafhoppers can carry plant diseases, so be careful to get rid of them quickly.
Tarnished plant bug. These are medium sized brownish bugs with antennae and a white marking on the back.
Wireworms. These pests attack attacks carrots and other root crops. Larvae are small, dark colored worms that resemble maggots. The adults are black beetles. They are also known as “click beetles.” Wireworms live best in moist soils, so don’t over water your garden.
Thrips. If you’re growing onions, be aware that onion thrips also feed on carrots. These tiny insects are yellowish to light brown.
If pests are a problem for your carrots, try out a natural or organic pesticide. Chemical pesticides can potentially cause health problems and can also contaminate the environment, especially when used incorrectly.
There are many natural pesticides available that are just as effective for your vegetable crops and don’t have the potential health or environment impacts as chemical pesticides.
Another natural technique you can use to deal with some insects is to use a row cover. A row cover will make it harder for flying insects to attack your carrots. Ask at your local nursery for a polyester row cover.
Common Carrot Diseases
There are a number of diseases that affect carrots that you should be aware of. The following is a list of common carrot diseases. Read the descriptions and familiarize yourself with the common symptoms. Remember, to prevent most soil borne diseases, don’t plant carrots in the same spot more than once every 3 years. To treat fungal diseases, try out a natural fungicide.
Aster Yellows. This disease is caused by aster leafhoppers. Look for stunted, yellow plants. Texas A&M has a full description of the disease here. Keep your garden weed free to help prevent this disease.
Black Root Rot. This is another fungus that attacks carrots via infected soil. This disease is most noticeable after harvest. It enters your carrots when they have a cut or crack. Wash your carrots well and store them in a cool place to help prevent this disease.
Damping-off. This disease is caused by a fungus that lives in the soil, and attacks mostly younger plants. Cooler moist weather will make this disease worse. Young plants will wither, brown, and may die off. Make sure you have well-draining soil.
Leaf Blight. This is a fungal disease that attacks the leaves of mature plants. Look for brownish decaying spots with yellow centers. The leaves may eventually wither and die. Make sure to clean up all infected leaves that fall to the ground as the fungus can survive the winter and infect plants the next year. High humidity can provoke the disease and cause the fungus to spore, so make sure to treat it early.
Leaf Spot. This fungal disease appears as small, dark circles on the leaves. Look for a lighter ring around the spots. The disease usually attacks later in the growing season.
Powdery Mildew. This is another fungal disease that looks like a white to gray powder on the leaves.
Root Knot Nematode. This disease causes galls on the roots and deformed roots. It is hard to identify as there are no real symptoms on the foliage of the plants. Rotate your crops often and make sure to keep your garden weed free
Other Carrot Problems
Growth Cracks. This problem is caused by incorrect irrigation of your carrot crop. Letting the soil dry out for two long or keeping it too wet may cause this problem.
This problem is caused by incorrect irrigation of your carrot crop. Letting the soil dry out for two long or keeping it too wet may cause this problem.
Forked Carrots. Heavy or rocky soil may cause your carrots to form multiple forks. Transplanting seedlings is also not recommended for the same reason.
Limited Root Growth. Thinning your plants will help them to form deep roots. Avoid excessive nitrogen in the soil as well.
Green Tops. If the roots are forming too close to the soil level, the tops of your carrots may turn green with sun exposure. A layer of mulch 3-4 inches deep will help with this problem. Wait for the seedlings to appear before you add mulch, though.
Common Questions and Answers About How to Grow Carrots
Can you leave carrots in the ground too long?
It is possible to ruin carrots by leaving them in the ground too long. In summer, harvest carrots as soon as they are ready. Exceptionally high heat can result in bitter carrots, so if a heat wave is expected in your area, you should harvest your carrots before it arrives. In fall or winter, you can leave carrots in the ground until they are ready to use, unless your region gets cold enough for the ground to freeze. In these cold regions, carrots should be harvested just after the first hard frost unless the plants will be protected from the cold.
Do carrots need a lot of water?
Carrots need an inch of water per week in order to thrive. You can check to see whether it’s time to water your carrots again by sticking a finger into the soil next to where they are growing. If dirt clings to your skin, the soil is still wet, and the carrots don’t need to be watered yet. Perform this check two or three times a week to make sure your carrots stay well hydrated.
Do carrots need manure?
Carrots do not need manure to flourish, and it can actually have negative repercussions if you use it on your carrot crop. Manure can cause carrots to send out side roots and become forked or grow “legs”.
Do carrots need sunlight to grow?
Carrots thrive in full sun but will tolerate partial shade. In order to grow healthy and strong, they need six to eight hours of direct sunlight each day.
Does one carrot seed grow carrots?
One carrot seed that sprouts and grows into a plant will produce one edible root, which is the carrot.
Does one carrot seed produce one carrot?
Yes, one carrot seed produces one plant, and as carrots are the edible root of the plant, one seed produces one carrot.
How deep should soil be for carrots?
In a raised bed, carrots need 18 to 24 inches of soil to have plenty of room. Grown directly in the soil, they need the soil loosened to the same depth.
How do I know when my carrots are ready?
Carrots take 70 to 80 days on average to mature. The only sure way of checking their maturity is to dig a sample carrot up and examine it. If the carrot looks large enough to harvest, taste it to make sure it is sweet. For summer harvests, you should pull carrots once they are ready, but in fall and winter they can be left in the ground until you are ready to use them. However, if your region gets cold enough for the ground to freeze, you should pull up your carrots after the first frost unless you will be protecting them from the cold.
How do you make carrots crisp again?
It is not always possible to revive carrots that have gone limp, but if you catch them early enough, you may be able to make them crisp again. Cut a small slice off the bottom (pointy end) of the limp carrot, and place them in a glass of water with the cut end down. If your limp carrots have already been sliced, you can soak them in a bowl of water to refresh them.
How do you prune carrots?
Pruning your carrot plants will help the crop thrive and encourage the plants to direct their energy and resources toward developing the edible root instead of the leafy green foliage. However, pruning must be done properly to be successful. Carrots are pruned by thinning out the seedlings, first a week after sowing to leave an inch between plants, and again a few weeks later to leave three inches between them. Thereafter, pruning is only necessary to clip away foliage that is damaged, dead, or shows signs of disease. Always use clean, sterilized shears when pruning to avoid spreading disease in your garden. Simply snip away the dead, damaged, or diseased foliage completely, leaving behind all healthy leaves.
How do you thin carrots?
Thin carrots twice during their growth. The first time should be one week after sowing, and you should thin them out to allow one inch of space between plants. After a few weeks have passed, thin your carrots again to leave three inches of space between seedlings.
How long can you leave carrots in the ground?
You can begin harvesting carrots as soon as they are of size and sweet enough to eat, but how long you should leave them in the ground depends on the season you are growing them. If you’re growing carrots for a summer harvest, they should be pulled as soon as they are ready (on average, 70 to 80 days after seeds are sown). Exposure to hot weather can make carrots bitter, so if an especially hot spell occurs, you should pull up all your carrots to prevent losing them to bitterness. In colder seasons, when carrots are grown for a fall or winter harvest, you can leave them in the ground until you are ready to use them. The exception to this rule is when carrots are grown in a region that gets cold enough for the ground to freeze. If the ground freezes in your area, make sure to pull up all the carrots in your garden soon after the first heavy frost, unless you plan to protect them from the cold.
How long does it take carrots to grow from seed?
On average, carrots grow from seed to maturity in 70 to 80 days, although there is a bit of variation between the different plant types.
How many carrot seeds do you plant per hole?
Plant two or three carrot seeds per hole when sowing. One week later, thin the young plants out to leave an inch of room between the strongest specimens. After a few weeks, then them again to leave a distance of three inches between the carrot seedlings.
How many carrots does one plant yield?
The carrot is the edible root of the plant, so one plant results in one carrot at the end of the growing season.
How many days does it take to grow carrots?
There is some variance between species of carrot plants, but most varieties mature in 70 to 80 days.
How much space do carrots need?
Initially, you will plant two or three seeds per hole with carrots, but you’ll thin the plants out twice during their growth period. One week after planting, thin the seedlings out to leave one inch between them (allowing the strongest plants to remain). A few weeks later, thin the crop out again to leave three inches between your carrot plants.
Is bone meal good for carrots?
Bone meal promotes root growth in plants, and with carrots, the root is the edible portion, so phosphorus makes a good addition to your routine when growing carrots. Simply sprinkle bone meal across the area you plan to plant your carrots before sowing the seeds.
Should carrots be refrigerated?
Carrots should be stored in the refrigerator. After digging them up, let the skin dry in the sun for 24 hours, then remove the leafy green tops. Seal the carrots into a plastic bag, and keep them in the coldest part of your refrigerator.
Should I wash carrots before storing?
Carrots should not be washed before storing them because you want to keep them as dry as possible to extend their storage time. For best results, let carrots sit in the sun so their skin will dry out for a day after digging them up. Remove the green leafy tops before sealing them into a plastic bag and storing them in the coldest part of your refrigerator.
What happens if you don’t thin carrots?
If you don’t thin out the carrots in your garden, the seedlings will be in competition with one another, resulting in a lack of nutrients for all the carrots. Carrots that have not been thinned properly are often very small even when mature, and they sometimes fail to grow at all if they are not thinned out. You’ll need to thin out your carrots twice during their growing season. One week after sowing the seeds, thin the seedlings to leave an inch or two of space between them. Thin your carrots again a few weeks later to leave three or four inches between plants.
What is the best fertilizer for carrots?
When the green top portion of the carrot plants have grown to three inches tall, it’s time to apply fertilizer. Choose a fertilizer that is low in nitrogen but higher in potassium and phosphate. Nitrogen is the first of the three numbers separated with hyphens on fertilizer packages, so look for one with a low first number, such as 0-10-10 or 5-15-15. A fertilizer with too much nitrogen will encourage growth of the leafy green tops instead of the edible root.
What is the best sand for growing carrots?
Carrots should not be grown in sand alone, though they flourish in sandy or loamy soil that is made up of between 50 and 90 percent sand. For best results, grow carrots in loose, loamy or sandy soil that does not contain rocks, gravel, clods, or other debris. The ideal pH range for growing carrots is between 5.8 and 6.5. If you choose to amend your soil with sand to make it looser and better for growing carrots, use a coarse builder’s sand. You can order this sand from a masonry supplier by the cubic yard.
What is the best way to store fresh carrots?
Fresh carrots should be refrigerated, but a few extra steps are needed to ensure they stay delicious for as long as possible. First, remove the leafy green tops before storing carrots, as they will continue to leach nutrients and moisture from the carrot during storage. Let the carrots sit out in the sun for a day or so to allow their skin to dry after digging them up. Do not wash carrots before storing them—in fact, they should be as dry as possible before going into the refrigerator. Seal the carrots tightly in a plastic bag, and keep them in the coldest part of your refrigerator. Stored this way, your carrots can last for up to two or three months. Keep carrots away from fruit and vegetables that produce ethylene gas, such as apples, pears, and potatoes, as the gas can cause the carrots to become bitter tasting.
What kind of soil do carrots like?
Carrots thrive in loose soil that is loamy or sandy and free of rocks, gravel, clods, or other obstructions. The optimal pH balance for soil that carrots will be grown in is between 5.8 and 6.5.
Why are my carrots flowering?
Flowering carrot plants often produce small carrots that are not good to eat because the plant has bolted, also called “going to seed”. That means the plant has begun to expend its energy on creating flowers instead of the root part that we eat. The flowering process leaves the carrots with a tough, woody texture and tasteless flavor. There are a few reasons a crop of carrot plants may begin flowering. These include warm weather earlier in the season than usual or carrots that have been left in the garden through the winter.
Why are my carrots so small?
Most often, when carrots turn out small or underdeveloped it is because the soil they are growing in is not loose enough for them. You can loosen heavy soil to solve this problem by amending it with sand or broken down leaves. Carrots especially tend to struggle in clay soil. If you are gardening in an area with clay soil, you may find our article “Amending Clay Soils” helpful.
Your carrots can also turn out too small if the weather is too hot when they are planted. The ideal soil temperature for carrot seeds to germinate is between 55 and 75 degrees.
Carrots that are overcrowded also tend to turn out small, so when you are growing carrots, you must thin them out earlier than many other crops. Just a week after sowing carrot seeds, thin them out to leave an inch or two between seedlings. Then a few weeks later, thin your carrots out again to leave three or four inches between plants.
If your carrot plants don’t get enough water, your carrots can also fail to reach the usual size.
If all these causes have been ruled out, you may be dealing with root knot nematodes, which can be detected with a soil test from your local exchange. You can handle root knot nematodes by solarizing your soil (heating it up to kill the nematodes) or moving the carrots to a different part of the garden next season.