Growing Carrots

How to Plant, Grow, and Harvest Carrots

Garden Carrots

Carrots are a popular root vegetable that’s easy to grow as long as it’s planted in loose, sandy soil. Here’s what you need to know about planting and growing carrots in your garden!

About Carrots

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.

Carrots’ root 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. 

Carrots are grown from seed and take between two and four months to mature, depending on the variety.

Planting

Planting Carrots

  • 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.

Stunted carrots.
Misshapen carrots can be caused by tough soil, overly-enriched soil, disease, and pests.

Care

Growing Carrots

  • 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/Diseases

  • Wireworms
  • 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.

Harvest/Storage

Harvesting Carrots

  • 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 Fresh 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. 

Carrots
Scrub off the dirt and remove the tops before storing carrots!

Recommended Varieties

Wit & 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.

Recipes

Planting Times

Growing Carrots

Botanical Name

Daucus carota

Plant Type Vegetable
Sun Exposure Full Sun
Soil Type Sandy
Soil pH Neutral
Bloom Time
Flower Color White
Hardiness Zones 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10
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