See how to grow crunchy, sweet carrots! Getting carrots just right can be challenging, but when you know how, it’s easy. We’ll show you up to sow, tend, and harvest those winning roots so you can look forward to a bumper harvest.
Carrots can be ground directly in the ground, in raised beds or in pots—and there is a tempting range of varieties available.
How to Grow Carrots Successfully
Carrots prefer full sun and loose, light soil to grow well. They enjoy fertile soil improved with well-rotted compost, but very recently manured beds may result in forked roots. For best results, grow carrots after a hungry vegetable such as cabbage.
Short-rooted and finger-sized carrots are quickest to reach harvest time, and are ideal for small pots and heavier soils that would cause longer roots to fork.
Why not try one of the many colorful alternatives to the traditional orange carrot, including purple, yellow, white and red varieties.
Sow carrots from early spring to midsummer. Maincrop types sown later in spring will produce roots that can be stored over winter. Carrots hate being transplanted, so it’s best to sow them directly where they are to grow. Make your earliest sowings under cover in pots or in greenhouse or hoop house beds, or directly into garden beds protected by row covers or cold frames.
For a continuous supply of carrots, you’ll need to sow a row every two or three weeks, with the final sowing made in midsummer using a maincrop variety.
(Our Garden Planner can help you to work out exactly when to start sowing. Add a row or block of carrots to your plan, then click the Plant List button to view sowing and harvesting times based on climate data for your location. Adding crop protection will adjust sowing and harvesting dates accordingly.)
Before planting, remove all stones from the soil and rake the soil to a fine tilth. Mark out seed drills a quarter inch deep, with rows spaced about six inches apart, depending on the variety you’re sowing. Sprinkle seeds thinly along the row then cover with soil.
To make sowing easier you can mix the small seeds with dry sand, which will help to spread the seeds out evenly along the row. Label the row with the variety and date.
To sow carrots in a container, fill your chosen container with potting soil then gently tamp down. Sow the seeds sparingly over the top. Cover with a quarter-inch-thick layer of potting soil, and water well.
Preventing Carrot Fly
The maggots of the carrot fly are notorious for damaging carrot roots. To prevent this, cover the ground with a row cover immediately after sowing, making sure there are no gaps that the flies could crawl under. Only remove the covers briefly for weeding and harvesting.
Carrots in containers are easily protected from low-flying carrot flies simply by placing the container up off the ground.
Growing companion plants such as leeks next to your carrots is said to confuse carrot fly and stop them from attacking your crop.
(Our Garden Planner features a handy companion planting filter. Simply click on your carrots, then select the heart-shaped Companion Planting button to show suitable companion plants in the selection bar. Add your chosen companion next to your carrots. You can also double-click on the carrot icon to bring up the varieties box, then click the plus button to read variety descriptions, including varieties showing some resistance to carrot fly.)
Caring for Carrots
Thin out clumps of seedlings on a still day to prevent the carrot smell alerting nearby carrot flies. Pulling them out can disturb the roots of the seedlings left behind, so alternatively use scissors to snip off the foliage.
Sometimes carrots can bolt (run to seed), producing foliage and flowers but little root. To avoid this keep the soil moist in dry weather, and weed regularly to reduce competition for available moisture and nutrients.
Carrots don’t normally need fertilizing, but occasional mulching with an organic mulch such as compost or leafmold will help prevent the tops turning green.
Carrots can be harvested at any size. The thickness of the top of the root poking out of the soil is often a good guide to the size of the root, or gently push some of the soil away from around it to get a better look. Harvest alternate carrots so those left can grow bigger.
Small carrots are usually easy to pull up, while long or chunky maincrop types may need easing out of the ground with a fork. Carrots can be left in the ground to harvest as needed if your winter are mild. Alternatively, dig up the roots, remove the foliage and store them in boxes of damp sand kept in a cool, dark place.
See MORE about growing carrots and best carrot varieties on the Carrot Growing Guide.
Ready to get started? Our Almanac Garden Planner will automatically calculate your sowing dates, your plant spacing, and more. Plus, you’ll get a free printable calendar with planting and harvesting dates that fit you.
For new gardeners, we are offering a free 7-day trial to encourage all to try drawing out their first garden plot!