QUESTION: I’d like to grow my own carrots this year, and I’d like to know when to start expecting a harvest. How long will it take me to grow my own carrots?
ANSWER: Most carrots take between 50 and 80 days to mature, counting from the date the seed was planted. Some can take up to 100 days before they’re ready to harvest. However, once it has been 30 days (or the carrots are the width of your pinky finger) you can begin harvesting them as baby carrots. There’s such a lot of variance in how long it takes carrots to mature because certain varieties mature faster than others.
You can start looking for baby and globe carrots to mature first in the garden, at about 52 to 65 days after the seeds were sown. Types such as Chantenay, Nantes, and Imperator carrots take longer to mature, about 70 days. Danvers carrots take closer to 75 days after planting before they’re ready.
It is possible to leave carrots in the ground over the winter so they can continue growing through the next spring. However, carrots left in the ground this long won’t be good to eat. Instead, they’ll bolt, sending up a flowering stalk that holds the plant’s seeds. These stalks pull energy from the parts of the plant we’d normally eat, making them bitter and unpalatable. Left to their own devices, the plants will go past the harvest stage, develop these flowering stalks, and self-seed on the ground around them, investing toward the next year’s crop.
How Do I Know When to Harvest My Carrots?
You may have encountered some frustrating variance in advice about when to harvest your carrots. Some sources recommend harvesting when the orange edible portion you can see above the soil is half an inch to three quarters of an inch wide. Others say to wait until they’re an inch or even an inch and a half across.
As with how long it will take to grow your carrots, when to harvest will depend on the specific variety you’re growing. Rely on the information the manufacturer provides on the seed packet or in the product description online to find out for sure what size your carrots should be when you harvest them.
To determine the diameter of your carrots so you can tell whether they’re ready to harvest, you may need to remove some of the soil from the top of the carrot around the greenery. It can be tempting to harvest your carrots as soon as you possibly can—but keep in mind that when they’ve matured completely, they’ll not only have the most striking color but the most delectable taste, too.
How Do I Harvest Carrots?
If you want to eat your carrots and aren’t leaving them in the ground over the winter to sow their own seeds, you’ll need to know how to harvest them without damaging or breaking them. To make your job as easy as possible, either harvest your carrots the day after it has rained or water them yourself the day before pulling them.
Next, you’ll need to use a fork, spade, or gardening knife to loosen up the soil around each carrot. Be careful as you’re doing this not to accidentally cut or puncture the edible roots. Then just hold onto the top of the root (the orange part of the carrot) and gently pull it up.
The greenery will start to wilt rather quickly, and it will also continue to pull nutrition from the carrots themselves. That’s why you’ll want to trim the green tops of the carrots to between a quarter of an inch and half an inch. The tops you cut away can be added to your compost heap.
You can keep harvesting your carrots through summer and on into autumn. If you leave your carrots in the ground as cold weather comes in, though, you should be sure to harvest all your carrots before the first freeze. The cell walls of the carrots will be damaged by the freeze, and they won’t be edible if you wait this long.
If you live in a warm region that will not experience winter freezes, you can continue growing your carrots through the winter. However, in this case it will be vital to use straw around the carrots to keep them warm so they do not stop growing.
Using this guide, now you know how long it will take to grow your carrots. But you’re also armed with the information you need to determine when you should pull up your carrots and the steps to take to do so without breaking them as you harvest.