Planting and growing carrots: expert tips
As the most popular root vegetable, carrots should not be missing in any garden. Here are helpful tips on planting and growing the crunchy carrots.
Growing carrots ( Daucus carota subsp. Sativus ) in the home garden has a very special advantage: The delicious roots can always be freshly harvested over a long period of time. At the beginning they are a bit smaller, but have a particularly mild and sweet taste. Over time, the aroma intensifies and the harvest volume increases.
Planting carrots: location and requirements
The carrot, Daucus carota , likes loose, sandy soil just like all other root and tuber plants. If the soil is too loamy or stony, carrots tend to be leggy (instead of one point there are two or three), form strange shapes or, in the worst case, are very stunted in growth. On heavy soils, a previous, strong root-forming green manure (e.g. oil radish) helps loosen the soil. In addition, dam crops, hill beds or raised beds can be a good way to cultivate high-yielding carrots even in poor locations.
The wrong soil structure often leads to leginess [Photo: Bk87 / Shutterstock.com]
Carrots particularly like sunny locations. Due to the higher risk of attracting the carrot fly, carrots should not grow on beds that have been freshly fertilized with manure. Carrots particularly like locations where leeks were previously grown and are happy to have onions, dill, garlic or leeks in their neighborhood. The smell of the onion family helps the carrots to keep away the annoying carrot fly.
If you have had problems with the carrot fly, do not sow carrots again on the infested bed until after three years at the earliest. As a precaution, you can also choose a different place every year.
Tip: The carrot can also find a sunny spot on your windowsill. There you can grow the purple carrot 'Purple Haze' and four other colorful vegetables with the help of the Plantura vegetable set. Everything that is needed for this is already included in the set.
Propagate and sow the carrots yourself
Propagating carrots yourself is quite a laborious affair. Carrots are biennial plants and only produce flowers and seeds in their second year. In our latitudes, carrots do not survive the winter, which is why certain carrots have to be harvested in autumn for propagation. The carrots must be harvested intact and retain about 2 cm of their green. It is best to store them unwashed in sand in an earth cellar or in another cool place over the winter.
The carrot forms beautiful umbellate flowers
In spring, for example, you can plant two of the stored carrots back in your bed. The carrot plants reach a height of more than a meter and form beautiful umbellate flowers around July. The seeds are ripe at the end of September. To prevent self-sowing, cut off the seed umbels in good time and then hang them up to dry. The seeds are loosened by lightly rubbing the umbels between your fingers.
Sowing carrots: the right time
Carrots are not particularly sensitive to cold and can therefore be sown early in spring. For example, early sowing at the beginning of March is more recommended for early varieties that can be harvested from around the end of May / beginning of June, depending on how warm the spring is. In order to be able to continuously harvest fresh, sow, for example, from the beginning of March every four weeks until May. So-called lager carrots, which you want to keep for the winter, should also not be sown until May. They will then be just big enough by autumn and can then be stored.
Carrots can be sown in early spring [Photo: Heike Rau / Shutterstock.com]
Sowing carrots: the right approach
- Make several grooves approximately 3 cm deep, 20 cm apart
- Sow the carrots thinly, preferably with a gap of 2 to 4 cm between each seed
Tip: Carrots have a very long germination time. It can take up to four weeks to see the cotyledons on the surface of the soil. If you sow a radish in your grooves between each carrot, you will make optimal use of the space between the carrots. Depending on the weather, the radishes are ready to be harvested after about six weeks and the carrots have their full space available again.
The leaves of the carrots are very clearly visible [Photo: kviktor / Shutterstock.com]
- Sow a row of dill or radish around the carrots. These germinate faster and thus mark the location of the carrots. Incidentally, dill and carrots encourage each other to grow.
- Cover the grooves with the seeds with soil, press the soil lightly and water.
Another way of sowing is by laying seed bands. With them, the carrot seeds have the correct spacing and you certainly don't have to thin out later.
* in cooperation with Floragard
Growing carrots: suitable varieties
The different types of carrots differ mainly in terms of ripening time, suitability for location, taste and shape. There are strongly conical carrots, which are also often referred to as the “Chantenay type”, rather round, cylindrical to blunt or very long varieties. The suitability for storage can also vary; the early varieties are usually less suitable for storage. A large selection of carrots can be found here.
Carrots don't have to be orange
Care, water and fertilize carrots
Carrots are generally a very easy to care for vegetable crop. They only have to be watered when it is dry, with good bed management not given extra fertilization and with the correct seed spacing or the use of seed belts, they do not have to be thinned out. If the soil in your bed settles a little or the carrots have been sown a little too high, the heads of the roots may be sticking out of the ground. By piling the roots back up with soil, you will prevent green carrot heads from forming.
This is what healthy carrot plants look like [Photo: Viktollio / Shutterstock.com]
Pour the carrots properly
Carrots like it evenly moist, but reduce their moisture requirements as the root size increases. The bigger the carrots get, the sooner they can tolerate a bit of dryness. In any case, carrots should only be watered when it is dry. Because an abundance of water means that the plants put their energy into strong leaf instead of root growth.
Fertilize carrots properly
Carrots belong to the middle eater. So you do not need a lot of nitrogen and react with strong fertilization with strong leaves. Since you don't want to harvest the leaves, but the roots, you should refrain from fertilizing. Compost, in the autumn together with a green manure that roots through the soil, such as oil radish, provides enough nutrients for a subsequent, rich carrot harvest. A primarily organic bio-fertilizer, which slowly and gently releases its nutrients to the carrot, is just as suitable. Our Plantura organic tomato fertilizer fulfills these requirements perfectly and also stimulates an active and healthy soil life.
If the bed has been cleared early last year, a nitrogen-fixing green manure plant such as clover or lupine can also be planted. Manure should by no means be fertilized in spring, but small amounts of compost can help for sowing or youth development if the bed is very nutrient-poor.
Caring for carrots: thinning and weeding
Carrots that have been sown too closely must be thinned out. If this does not happen, you will still harvest a lot of mini carrots, no matter how long you wait, but not large specimens. The plants then simply have too little space to form larger roots. At the beginning of development it is difficult to see how many plants there are and how many should be pulled out, especially with very closely sown plants. You should therefore wait until the plants have grown at least 5 cm high before thinning. Thinning should take place in damp, rainy weather. The rain prevents the smell that comes from the small roots from spreading widely and attracting the carrot fly into your garden.
Weeding is important to reduce competition [Photo: iva / Shutterstock.com]
The pulled out carrots grow very badly if you try to plant them in another place. If the plants are still very small, save yourself the work and place the plants on the compost. If tiny carrots are already there, enjoy the sweet delicacies. Close the resulting cavities next to the remaining carrots with soil again and press the soil firmly. After thinning, each plant should have at least two centimeters of space for the next plant. For autumn varieties that are to be harvested very thickly, thinning out thinner carrots about a month before the final harvest can be useful.
If there is insufficient space, deformations can occur [Photo: NeydtStock / Shutterstock.com]
Carrots are not particularly strong or competitive and should therefore be freed from weeds when they are young. Be careful when pulling weeds with a hoe, as the small roots are easy to damage. It is safer to remove the weeds by hand.
Harvesting Carrots: Knowing the Harvest Time
When it comes to harvesting carrots, there is no optimal time. When to harvest is, in the truest sense of the word, a matter of taste. Because the bigger the roots get, the more intense their taste becomes. Harvested earlier, the carrots are sweeter and milder and almost everyone will want to eat them unpeeled. If you like the delicious roots in all sizes, you can simply harvest as needed.
The harvest time can be chosen at will
It is generally said that carrots can be harvested after about three months. This point in time will of course vary depending on the prevailing weather conditions. Carrots sown in a cold March will likely take a few days to weeks more to germinate than carrots sown in April or May. Accordingly, carrots that are sown very early will tend to be smaller and thinner if harvested after three months and should perhaps remain in the ground a little longer.
Find out here how the carrot harvest works properly.
Freeze and store carrots
Since carrots can be harvested on demand, there is often no need for long storage in many home gardens.
Usually a bunch of carrots is processed quickly
Carrots in the refrigerator
Carrots lose moisture quickly and should therefore be stored in the refrigerator. Wrapped in newspaper or in a plastic bag with a few holes to prevent mold, the carrots will keep for a good week. Then they slowly start to shrink.
Carrots can be prepared ready to cook, i.e. peeled and cut into small pieces if necessary, or frozen. However, they change their consistency a little. However, this form of preservation is ideal for stews, to cook with in various dishes or for a soup that will be pureed afterwards anyway.
Carrots can be stored frozen very easily [Photo: Ahanov Michael / Shutterstock.com]
Store carrots differently
But carrots can also be stored in sand boxes in dark and cold cellars, traditionally in so-called earth cellars.
You can read everything about the origin of the carrot and what it is called in our special article.