Learn how to grow carrots in your backyard garden. You can grow carrots in pots, containers or garden soil.
Carrots tend to be a crowd-pleasing vegetable, one that even the most hardened vegetable-haters like. Many people ask me how to grow carrots. The secret is in the soil; a nice loose, well drained, nutrient-rich soil. Carrots are fairly easy to grow, but creating the perfect soil to grow them in isn’t always easy.
Soil Requirements to Grow Carrots
As a root vegetable, carrots need loose soil in which to develop the portion we find edible and delicious. Carrots prefer a soil pH of 6.0 to 8.0, so get your soil tested in the spring, and add lime or other amendments to ‘sweeten’ the soil. Add plenty of well-aged manure and compost, too.
How to Grow Great Carrots
Carrots are actually cool-season vegetables. They are best started from seed. Plant the seeds in rows, fairly close together, as soon as the soil can be worked in the garden. Do not plant the seeds too deeply, or they won’t germinate. Water well. Carrots need plenty of water to germinate as well as to develop during the growing season.
Don’t plant carrots too late in the season. Carrots grown in hot weather are bitter. Carrots exposed to a frost just about when they’re ready to harvest are sweet. I plant one crop in the spring, and another in the fall, and the fall crop is almost always better tasting than the spring crop.
Harvest carrots when the tops are long and lush. You can harvest a test carrot to see how well they’re doing. My own clue is when the first one goes to seed or develops flowers at the tips of the stems, as the one above did. I was out planting turnip seeds last night and noticed the carrots starting to go to seed. Uh-oh! That means they’re ready to harvest.
Harvest your carrots by pulling them up slowly by the stems. Pull straight up so you don’t accidentally snap off the greens. If you do, you’ll simply need a trowel to dig down into the soil to find the rest of the carrot. Pull it up, shake off the dirt, and bring it inside. Scrub it with a brush, peel it if you like, cut off the top and bottom tip of the root and voila – carrots!
Types of Carrots for the Home Garden
I find that the best carrots to grow at home are the “half long” varieties – either Nantes Half Long or Danvers Half Long. Don’t let the name fool you. They grow plenty long! The carrot above was a good seven inches or more in length, and it’s a Danvers Half-Long variety.
For apartment gardeners, you can actually grow carrots in pots and containers. I’ve grown “Thumbelina” carrots in big pots on the deck of my New York apartment. Were they worth it, money-wise? Probably not, but I had the satisfaction of growing my own carrots, and I garden mostly for the fun of it.
So here’s to the wonderful carrot, an easy to grow garden vegetable packet with vitamins, minerals and fiber, and delicious raw or cooked. It doesn’t get better than that!
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Jeanne Grunert is a certified Virginia Master Gardener and the author of several gardening books. Her garden articles, photographs, and interviews have been featured in The Herb Companion, Virginia Gardener, and Cultivate, the magazine of the National Farm Bureau. She is the founder of The Christian Herbalists group and a popular local lecturer on culinary herbs and herbs for health, raised bed gardening, and horticulture therapy.