How to Grow Carrots
It’s pretty easy to grow carrots as long as they are planted in loose, sandy soil. Here’s what you need to know about planting and growing carrots in your garden. To grow Carrots, start sowing carrots 3 weeks before the last expected frost; plant again every 2 to 3 weeks after that. Most cultivars take 70 to 80 days to mature, so sow your last planting 2 to 3 months before the first expected fall frost.
Tomatoes will provide shade for heat-sensitive carrots. Tomatoes also secrete a natural insect deterrent called solanine which kills insects that could otherwise harm carrots. Tomatoes can enhance the flavor of carrots, too. Carrots, on the other hand, break up the soil so that more air and water can go to the tomato plants’ roots. There’s one thing to keep in mind if you plan to grow carrots and tomatoes together. Tomatoes can stunt the growth of carrots so make sure that you plant them at least 15 inches apart from each other.
Besides tomatoes, there are other compatible plants that can help protect carrots. Carrots and leeks make good neighbors. Carrots are often attacked by carrot flies. Leeks are susceptible to leek moth and onion fly infestations. When leeks and carrots are planted together, their scents act as repellents of each others pests. Onions mask the odor of carrots, confusing carrot flies and keeping them uninterested. Rosemary and sage also repel carrot flies, as do chives, which improve the flavor of carrots. Flax produces oil that protects carrots from pests.
There are a couple of things you need to remember if you want to use companion planting to protect your plants from pests. First, it is important protective plants need to mature before they can effectively keep pests at bay. For instance, marigold needs to be grown at least one season before it can protect plants from nematodes. Also, certain plants can weaken the protective ability of other plants. This underscores the importance of knowing which plants should be grown together.
Other Compatible Plants
You may plant carrots near beans. Carrots are said to help beans grow, but know that it’s almost a case of unrequited love. Beans fix nitrogen in the soil, but carrots don’t need a lot of nitrogen, so beans do very little to help carrots.
Carrots and radishes can be planted at the same time. The radish seeds will germinate ahead of the carrots seeds, loosening the soil for germinating carrots. The carrots will still be young when the radishes are ready for harvesting. When the radishes are harvested, there will be more room for carrots to grow.
Lettuce and other plants that belong to the cabbage family are also beneficial to carrots. Amaranth loosens the soil, making it easier for carrot roots to burrow through the soil. Marigold, parsley, and nasturtium are good companions as well.
Plants That Carrots Would Rather Stay Away From
Carrots hate coriander and dill. Both plants have root excretions that are harmful to carrots. Parsnips and carrots are both vulnerable to carrot flies and to the same soil-borne diseases, so it’s best to plant them away from each other.
Most varieties of carrots are resistant to pests and diseases, and they are also a good late-season crop that can tolerate frost. In fact, they prefer to be grown during the cooler ends of the growing season—spring and fall.
The root of a Carrot is rich in sugar, and a great source of vitamins and carotene. Not all carrots are orange; varieties vary in color from purple to white!
If there is a challenge to growing carrots, it’s just having soil that’s not too heavy—otherwise, you’ll end up with stunted, round carrots! Most carrot varieties need deep, loose soil that lets them grow without difficulty.
Grown from seed, Carrots take between two and four months to mature, depending on the variety.
- Plan to plant seeds outdoors 3 to 5 weeks before the last spring frost date. Find your local frost dates here.
- Tip: Plant additional seeds every 3 weeks or so for multiple harvests.
- Plant carrot seeds 3 to 4 inches apart in rows. Rows should be at least a foot apart.
- Carrots are slow to germinate. They may take 3 or more weeks to show any signs of life, so don’t panic if your carrots don’t appear right away!
- Keep the soil moist, not wet, but don’t let it dry out, either.
- Carrots are best grown in full sunlight, but can tolerate a moderate amount of shade.
Preparing the Soil
One of the most important things to consider when growing carrots (and other root vegetables) is the condition of your soil. Follow these guidelines to ensure a healthy carrot harvest:
- Make sure your soil is free of stones. Stones obstruct the path of carrot roots, which can result in a stunted and misshapen crop.
- Till your soil before planting. Carrots need deeply-tilled, loose soil that they can easily push through.
- Use the right type of soil. Carrots grow best in sandy or loamy soil (as opposed clayey or silty soil), so supplement your soil as necessary. Learn more about soil types.
- Avoid using manure or too much fertilizer. Have you ever seen a carrot that has grown “legs” or has forked? Fresh manure, or even recently-applied rotted manure, can cause carrots to fork and send out little side roots. Don’t use it before you plant your carrot seeds.
- Gently mulch to retain moisture, speed germination, and block the sun from hitting the roots directly.
- Once plants are an inch tall, thin so that they stand 3 inches apart. Snip them with scissors instead of pulling them out to prevent damage to the roots of the remaining plants.
- Water at least one inch per week.
- Weed diligently.
- Fertilize with a balanced fertilizer 5-6 weeks after sowing.
- See more tips for growing carrots.
How Long Does it Take to Grow a Carrot
- Depending on the variety and local growing conditions, carrots may take anywhere from 2 to 4 months to mature.
Pests and Diseases
- Flea Beetles
- Aster Yellow Disease will cause shortened and discolored carrot tops and hairy roots. This disease is spread by pests as they feed from plant to plant. Keep weeds down and invest in a control plan for pests such as leafhoppers. This disease has the ability to overwinter.
- Carrots should be mature and ready for harvest after about 2–4 months, or when they reach at least ½ inch in diameter. You may harvest whenever desired maturity is reached.
- If you’re growing carrots in the spring and early summer, harvest before daily temperatures get too hot, as the heat can cause carrot roots to grow fibrous.
- Carrots taste much better after a couple of frosts. (A frost encourages the plant to start storing energy—sugars—in its root for later use.) Following the first hard frost in the fall, cover carrot rows with an 18-inch layer of shredded leaves to preserve them for harvesting later.
How Do You Store Carrots
- To store freshly-harvested carrots, twist off the tops, scrub off the dirt under cold running water, let dry and seal in airtight plastic bags, and refrigerate. If you simply put fresh carrots in the refrigerator, they’ll go limp in a few hours.
- You may leave mature carrots in the soil for temporary storage if the ground will not freeze and pests aren’t a problem.
- Carrots can be stored in tubs of moist sand for winter use.
Wit and Wisdom
- Carrots are biennial plants. If you leave them in the ground, the tops will flower and produce seeds the second year.
- Carrots have a long list of health benefits, not just those from Vitamin A. Read more in Carrots: Health Benefits!
- Can dogs eat carrots? Yes! Carrots aren’t just great for humans—they make a great treat for your pets! Try this dog-friendly peanut butter carrot cake for your dog’s next birthday.