Vegetable gardens are brilliant. From cabbages, lentils, cauliflowers and beetroots to growing your own chives. And then, here comes this one! The carrot! We all love carrots. Whether you are shredding them into cake or snacking on them fresh, they are one of our favourite veggies. What most of us don’t know is that carrots are one of the easiest garden vegetables to grow and – given the right conditions – the most bountiful.
What’s better than fresh, homegrown carrots from your own backyard that is full of flavour and texture, right? In this article, we will tell you all about carrots – how to grow and how to harvest them! Without further ado, let’s go!
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When and how to plant your carrots
Grab your gardening tools and put on your gardening outfit. It’s time to get this job done! Here’s what you need to know.
When to Plant Carrots
Carrots grow well in cool temperatures of late fall and early spring. If you want a summer harvest, you should sow seeds around 3 to 5 weeks before the last frost date in spring. If you want a continuous harvest, then you should plant seeds every 3 weeks through late spring.
Similarly, if you are looking for a fall harvest, then plant carrot seeds in mid to late summer, about 10 weeks before the first frost in fall.
How to Plant Carrots
For growing carrots, you need deep, well-worked, well-drained, and loose soil with a cool soil temperature. If the soil surface is sandy, the carrot roots will easily push down. Carrots don’t do well in heavy clay soil. It is better to add several centimetres of commercial planting mix or aged compost and organic matter to the planting beds before. The soil pH should be around 5.5 to 6.8.
If you have wood ashes, work them into the soil to ensure fertility. A mounded or raised bed is ideal for them. If there are any rocks, pebbles, etc., remove them before you sow carrots from the seed packet in the planting beds.
If the veg roots grow into the obstructions, the carrot seedlings will split, fork, and become malformed. An excellent tip for you is to plant radish seeds while you are planting carrot seeds. Why’s that? By the time the carrots grow, the radishes will have loosened the soil.
When it comes to sunlight, carrots grow well in full sun. If you are growing them in partial shade, the growth will be relatively slow. Ensure that there is ample spacing between the vegetables so that they can get direct sunlight all the time.
How to grow carrots
Before you plant them, mix 1 cup of any complete fertiliser such as 10-10-10 for every 300 cm of the planting bed. Mix the potassium fertiliser into the soil to a depth of almost 6 to 8 cm using a rake.
After the plants start to emerge, scatter around 2 tbsp. of the fertiliser once every week until the plants are about 10 cm tall. If the plant tops become pale, you can fertilise again; otherwise, you will be good to go.
Carrots need to be watered regularly. Keep the soil moist to a depth of almost 8 cm without overwatering the plants. To help them retain moisture, block the sun from hitting the roots directly, and to speed germination, gently mulch them.
Make sure you are weeding diligently. However, don’t disturb the roots of biennial young carrots while you are doing so.
Common pests and diseases
Pests such as leafhoppers can cause the Aster yellow disease, which results in shortened as well as discoloured carrots that have hairy roots. Make sure that there are no weeds in your plant beds and you are using an organic pesticide.
If you see leaf spots on your carrot plants, get an approved fungicide to dust them with. If any carrot plant has become yellow and stunted, remove them from the vegetable garden. Other than leaf blight, root-knot nematodes also attack carrots.
You can take care of this issue with the help of neem oil, fungicides, or sulphur. Follow the directions given on the label. Also, carrot rust fly larvae, flyaway flea beetles, and wireworms can infect your plants.
When and how to harvest carrots
When to Harvest
As carrots grow, they become tastier. You can harvest them as soon as they are big enough to eat, or you can let them mature and then harvest them all at the end of the season. Usually, carrots are ready for harvest around 70 to 80 days after you plant them.
You should pull them from the soil when their roots are around 3 to 4 cm in diameter. As far as baby carrots are concerned, you can harvest them after 30 to 40 days of planting.
Lift a couple of carrots and check their size and flavour when you think they are ready for harvest. You should harvest before the ground freezes. However, if the weather turns cold and the ground doesn’t freeze, mulching carrots can prolong the harvest for a month.
How to Harvest Carrots
Don’t use spading forks to harvest your carrots, as it will bruise their roots. Rather, simply loosen the soil with the help of a trowel and then hand-pull them. If you water the beds before you harvest, it will soften the soil and will make pulling the carrots out a lot easier.
How to store fresh carrots
To store the harvested carrots for winter, you have to prepare them first. Twist off the carrot tops and remove the excess soil. Layer the roots – in such a way that they don’t touch each other – with damp sand or peat. Keep them in boxes that are topped with straw. You can store your carrot crop right in the garden. Just mulch the garden bed with several cms of straw or dry leaves. You can cover the carrot beds with cloches and keep them in the ground, as long as the ground doesn’t freeze.
Also, you can wash the carrots and store them in your refrigerator. If you keep them in a plastic bag, they will stay fresh for several weeks. Otherwise, they will go limp in a couple of hours.
Recommended carrot varieties
Daucus Carota comes in a variety of sizes, shapes, and colours. You should check which types of carrots can thrive in your area’s growing conditions and then make a choice. Here are a few maincrop carrots you can choose from.
- Amsterdam Forcing 3 produces short and cylindrical roots.
- Autumn King 2 has a classic orange colour and matures late.
- Nantes is sweet in taste and is perfect for slicing. It matures in 68 days.
- Parmex is a round-rooted carrot that you can grow easily in pots.
- Purple Haze and Chantenay variety has a dark purple skin that surrounds the orange flesh.
- Bolero is slightly tapered and is about 15 to 20 cm in size. It is resistant to most leaf blights and pests such as carrot fly.
- Danvers is around 12 to 16 cm in size and tapers at the end. It has a dark orange colour. It grows well in heavy soil.
As long as you plant them in loose and sandy soil, they are easy to grow during spring and fall. Depending on the local growing conditions and the variety you choose, carrots can take around 2 to 4 months to fully mature. If you plant them in the spring, you will have a continuous harvest through fall. In this article, we have taught you how and when to plant, grow, harvest, and store carrots. So go out there and do your thing!