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    Back to Vegetable Gardening    |   Carrots

Daucus carota var. sativus



Zones 3 and warmer. Plant quick-maturing cultivars in colder areas

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Full sun to light shade

Deep, light, well-drained soil without stones or other obstructions; pH 5.5 to 6.8

Keep evenly moist, do not overwater since wet soil can cause root rot

Thin to 2 to 3 inches (5 to 8 cm) apart; 12 to 16 inches (30 to 40 cm) between rows


Harvest carrots when they are large enough to use. Pull a few to check size

Comments: Most carrots are orange, but they also come in red, yellow, white, and purple. Some have distinct cores, others are coreless. For better results, match cultivars to your garden's soil. Short-rooted, round carrots do better in heavy or shallow soils. Long-rooted cultivars do best in deep, loose, soil. Look for bolt-resistant cultivars where dry, or drought conditions are common.

Planting Site: Choose an area with deep, loose, well-aerated soil in full sun to light shade. If you have clay soil, add some organic matter to lighten it up.

Planting & Growing Guidelines: Sow seeds in early spring after severe frost has past. Seed is very small so mix half-and-half with fine sand to help prevent over seeding. Plant 1/4 to 1/2 inch (6 to 12 mm) deep and firm the seed gently with the back of a hoe or rake. Carrots are slow germinators and may take 1 to 3 weeks. Seeds germinate best when the soil is 80° F (27° C), and seedlings will tolerate air temperatures as low as 45° F (7° C), but will grow slowly. Optimum growth happens at 60° to 70° F (16° to 21° C). Temperatures over 80° F (27° C) will promote short, spindly roots with poor color and flavor. Keep the soil evenly moist until the carrots have germinated. Do not overwater, as continually wet soil can cause root rot, and uneven moisture can make roots crack and split. When the tops are 2 inches (5 cm) tall, thin to 2 to 3 inches (5 to 8 cm) apart. Plant successive crops two to three weeks apart until temperatures warm up. For a fall harvest, direct sow 85 to 100 days before the first expected frost.

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    Fertilizing: All root crops benefit from high-phosphorus fertilizer being added into the soil at planting time. Apply 1 quart (1 l) to every 100 square feet (10 square meters) using an 8-16-16 or a 6-8-8 or anything similar to those ratios that is being sold as superphosphate fertilizer. Work into the top 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 cm) of soil. Carrots won't need to be fertilized again.

    Pest and Disease Prevention: Use row covers to deter carrot rust flies, which lay eggs at the base of carrot plants, and their larvae feed on the roots. Carrots planted after late spring and harvested before late summer often escape carrot rust fly damage without protection. When used before planting, parasitic nematodes can help to prevent and control problems with root knot nematodes, carrot weevils, carrot rust flies, wireworms, and other pests. Rotate carrot plantings to avoid bacterial diseases.

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    Common Problems: Twisted roots indicate inadequate thinning. Forked or deformed roots usually mean the seedbed was not fine or loose enough. Hairy roots indicate excessive nitrogen and fertility. Do not use high-nitrogen fertilizer or fresh manure on carrot beds.

    Days to Maturity: 50 to 95 days from seed to harvest.

    Harvest and Storage: Harvest carrots before the ground freezes, and when they are large enough to use. Pull a few to check their size. Loosen the soil with a fork, then gently pull them out of the ground. Watering right before harvest also makes pulling easier. Brush off excess soil and twist off the tops. Refrigerate carrots or store them in moist sand or sawdust in a root cellar for up to four months. Carrots also freeze and can well.

    Special Tips: Amend the soil when following heavy feeders such as peppers. Make sure to keep carrots covered, exposure to light makes carrots bitter and turns their shoulders green. Keep about 2 inches (5 cm) of soil or mulch over the roots. Where space is limited, grow carrots in containers as ornamentals. Their green, feathery tops make a pretty addition to any yard or garden. Just make sure your container is deep enough to accommodate long-rooted cultivars, otherwise plant small-rooted, round cultivars.

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