Carrots are an easy, popular home garden vegetable. They can come in many different colours and shapes, and have lots of nutritional value (including vitamin A and fibre).
Soil preparation is very important for planting carrots. They prefer loose sandy loam soil with good drainage. Work the soil down to 12-16” deep so that it is loose. Remove debris (sticks, rocks, etc) from soil as any foreign objects in the soil can cause deformities or stunt the growth of the carrots. Add organic matter, such as a rich compost, and till into existing soil.
Carrots can be planted once the soil temperature has reached 5 degrees. If planted before, it can drastically slow the germination rate. Plant in rows that are ¼ “ to ½” deep. Each row can be 1 to 1- ½ feet apart. The seeds are quite small and can be difficult to handle causing crowding in rows, once germiantion takes place and the carrots start to grow they will need to be thinned out during the season to give proper spacing. typically, 18-20 seeds can be planted per foot. To have carrots all summer long, plant in succession. This can be done by planting more carrots every 2-3 weeks. Avoid planting during hot, dry spells in the summer.
Once the plants have reached 4” high, thin them out 2” apart. They can be thinned by cutting the top off at the surface of the soil. If they are pulled out it can damage the roots around it, so cutting the top off is preferred at this stage. Some people choose to plant radish seeds along with the carrot seeds. Carrots can be slow to germinate, and radish seeds are quite quick. They make good row markers until the carrot seeds surface. It is important to thin the carrots out again after they have grown more, so that they are 4” apart. At this time it is possible to thin the carrots out by pulling them out. The roots have established more so that they would not harm the other carrots. This will allow proper growing space.
Carrots are low maintenance, but there are they require some attention during the growing season. They require fertilization after they are 4” high. A fertilizer such as 8-12-6 is recommended or an organic alternative such as 4-4-4. Carrots require at least an inch of rainwater per week. During dry spells in the summer it is necessary to give them a nice deep watering once a week.
To check if carrots are ready for harvest, brush away the dirt at the top (or shoulder) and see how wide they are. Carrots can be harvested at anytime, and eaten as baby carrots. They are generally sweeter and juicier, but when harvested at full size they have higher sugar content and more vitamins. If the carrots are left in the ground too long, they can start to lose their flavour and become woody. It can take 65-80 days for carrots to grow to their full size, depending on the variety.
Harvest the carrots by gently grasping the greens at the crown and pulling them up. If they do not come up, try loosening the soil gently to help bring them up. Once they have been harvested, remove the excess soil. You can wash them gently before storing them. The tops can be trimmed off a 1/2 “above the carrot, and stored in a cool and dry place.
If you’ve been having problems getting large carrots when they should be fully developed use fertilizer containing boron or amend the soil organically using kelp meal.