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Carrot Growing and Harvest Information

by chuck.mcmullan

Carrots are an annual cool-season crop, half-hardy to frost and light freezes. They develop quite normally under a variety of temperature conditions, except very warm temperatures. It is said that frost or cold weather will make them even sweeter.

Where to Grow Carrots

Carrots can practically be grown anywhere with deep, stone/clay free soil. Try containers if your soil doesn’t look so great.

Recommended Carrot Varieties

In general carrot varieties are categorized by length: short, medium, and long. Variety selection should be determined by the kind of soil in which they will be grown: tight clay soils for the shorter carrots, rich, loamy, well-drained soils for the longest kinds. In order of root length: Exheart (4 1/2″); Royal Chantenay; Danvers Half Long or Danvers 126; Goldinhart (5 1/2-7″); Scarlet Nantes; Pioneer (7 inches); Gold Pak; Tendersweet; Imperator (8-9″).

The sweetest and best-textured carrots are the Nantes types, cylindrical and blunt-tipped. The long and tapered carrots are characteristic of Imperator varieties. Nantes types absorb more water and therefore have less dry matter, making them more succulent and crisp. They are also lower than other types in terpenoids, which cause a soapy turpentine-like taste; the amount of terpenoids depends entirely on the variety, not the soil. Terpenoids break down in cooking so that carrots taste sweeter when cooked. Nantes now describes any carrot with the above traits, not true lineage to the French region where the type originated.

Various types of carrots

Soil for Carrots

pH 6-6.5 is best. Proper soil is the key to success with carrots. Ideally, it should be very fertile, deep, and easily worked with ample quantities of humus to permit the roots to grow quickly and straight. The more natural fertility in the soil, the sweeter the carrot. Heavy clay soils do not support good carrot growth. Try carrots that don’t require deep soil if your soil is not ideal.

Germination45 - 85 F
For growth60 - 65 F
Soil and Water
Fertilizerlight feeder; too much top growth may indicate too much N.
Side-dressingApply 3 weeks after germination, and again when 6-8" high
pH5.5 - 6.5
Seed Planting Depth1/4 - 1/2"
Root Depth2 - 4'
Width12 - 24"
Space between plants
In Beds2 - 3"
In Rows6"
Space Between Rows16 - 30"
Average plants per person10 - 40
Gently pull the roots out by their green tops. For most varieties, don't let carrots grow fatter than 1 1/2" across, or they'll become woody.
First Seed Starting Date: 14 - 28 Days before last frost date
Last Seed Starting Date: 85 - 98 Days before first frost date
CompanionsAll beans, leeks, pepper, tomato
IncompatiblesCelery, dill (retards growth).
Colorful Carrots

Planting Carrots

Germination in 10 -21 days.

When –

Carrots are hardy and can be planted as soon as the ground can be worked. For a continual crop, sections of the row can be planted every 2 weeks until late May. For a fall crop, more sowings can be started in late July.

How –

Since carrot seed germinates slowly, it can be mixed with radish or leaf lettuce, which germinate quickly and mark the row. The pulling of radish and leaf lettuce plants will also provide some natural thinning. Carrots do not transplant well, so start them outdoors once the soil is at least 45 degrees F. The seed can be mixed with sand or dry compost to make sowing easier. Sow seeds evenly in a very shallow furrow, about 1/4 inch deep, and keep seeds moist so they will germinate. Space rows about 12″ apart and when the first leaves emerge, thin to 1″ apart; when true leaves emerge, thin to 3″ apart. If you delay final thinning a bit, you can use the removed roots as baby carrots.

Cultivating Carrots

Carrots grow quickly at first, sending down a tiny orange root that expands and develops more quickly toward the end of its growing period. As with all root crops, rapid, steady development produces the best results. Keep the row weed-free with light shallow cultivation or heavy mulching. The seedlings must have steady moisture to develop well, with less moisture as the roots mature. Too much moisture at the end of maturing will cause the roots to crack. To prevent greening the shoulders, hill up dirt around the greens.

Storage Requirements
Remove the green tops, but do not wash the carrot before storing. Store in sawdust or sand in containers.
TemperatureHumidityStorage Life
32F90 - 95%4 - 5 months
35F95 - 100%7 - 9 months
MethodTasteShelf Life
CannedFair12+ months
FrozenGood8 months
DriedFair12+ months

Harvesting Carrots

Mature carrots will be ready in about 2 months, although some gardeners find them more succulent when they are pulled earlier than this. A tiny head or crown of orange will appear at the soil line when the carrots are maturing. The diameter of the carrot is a good indication of its maturity level. If the diameter is about what you would expect, the length probably is also. The only way to really know is to pull a few up. Pull only those carrots needed since they remain fresh in the ground for some time. The late summer crop can be harvested in winter if mulched, a light frost is said to sweeten the carrot’s flavor. The darkest and greenest tops indicate the largest carrots. Carrots store very well in the fridge when covered in water.

Carrot Pests

None of major concern.

Carrot Diseases

None of major concern.

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