Carrot Essentials

by National Gardening Association Editors

Planning

  • Choose a variety that matches your soil conditions.
  • Stagger your carrot seeding starting 3 to 4 weeks before the average last spring frost date.
  • Plant additional areas at 3-week intervals as the soil temperatures rise.

Preparation

  • Mix 1 pound of 5-10-10 or its equivalent into every 50 square feet of garden area.
  • Work the carrot seedbed well with a tiller or hoe to break up any soil clumps. Remove all rocks and stones.
  • Sprinkle a thin layer of wood ashes over the seedbed to add potassium to the soil for sweeter carrots. Work the ashes into the top 4 inches of the bed. Then rake the beds smooth.
  • Planting

    • Make furrows 1/4 inch deep, spaced 4 inches apart.
    • Put a 1/4 inch layer of sifted compost or peat moss in the bottom of each furrow and sow the seeds, about 3 per inch, on top. Cover with a 1/2 inch layer of the same material.
    • Lightly mulch the seedbed to retain moisture and prevent soil crusting.

    Care

    • Thin carrots to stand 3 inches apart between plants.
    • Weed carefully and cultivate lightly near the plants.
    • Add mulch about 6 weeks after sowing to prevent exposing the roots to the sun, which gives them a bitter taste. When the carrot tops are about 6 inches tall, side-dress with a sprinkling of a natural fertilizer such as dried cow manure. If the bed is mulched heavily, use a liquid fertilizer such as fish emulsion, seaweed, or other general-purpose plant food.
    • Carrots are rarely bothered by pests. See our article Summer's Bad Guys by Charlie Nardozzi for controls of common carrot pests such as wireworms.

    Harvesting

    • Carrots are generally ready for harvest in 2 to 3 months, when they are about 1/2 inch in diameter. Leave them in the ground until you need them.
    • Drench the bed with water for easy harvesting.
    • Pull the carrots by grabbing the greens at their crowns and gently tugging with a twisting motion.
    • Harvest carrots for the root cellar after the first hard frosts but before the ground freezes.


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