Growing Carrots from Seeds
Carrot seeds are a great addition to any vegetable garden because they are easy to grow, packed with vitamins and fiber, and the lacy foliage looks beautiful in flowerbeds and containers alike. Carrots are typically cool season vegetables, but thrive in temperatures between 60 and 75 degrees F.
There are many varieties of carrots, so choose the ones that suit your garden conditions.
- For rocky or hard clay soils, choose the short-rooted varieties that are as small as 2 inches, but are the quickest to mature.
- For rich compost loaded soil, choose the long-rooted varieties. These take the longest time to mature and are not very sweet tasting.
- For a successful crop, home gardeners prefer the medium rooted varieties that are sown slightly after the short-rooted ones.
Carrots thrive in an area that receives full sunlight or partial shade. The earliest you should plant is 3 weeks before the last frost in spring. Carrots prefer a moist, well-drained soil, so prepare the site by mixing in plenty of compost.
Sowing Carrot Seeds
- Sprinkle seeds into the soil surface, dropping one seed every 1 to 2 inches
- Gently press them down 1/4 inch to maintain good seed-soil contact. Do not worry if you sprinkle too many tiny seeds in one spot, you will have to thin seedling out anyway.
- If planting two or more rows of seeds, provide a spacing of at least 18 to 24 inches.
- Broadcast sowing seeds is also popular with carrots, where seeds are sprinkled or spread randomly over the planting area instead of developing into rows.
- Water the surface of the soil evenly after sowing, and sprinkle a thin layer or compost or peat moss over it.
Seed germination should take between 2 to 3 weeks. Remove any weeds that grow along their side, since carrots cannot compete with them. Overcrowding impairs their growth, so thin carrot seedlings 2 to 3 inches apart by snipping them off with scissors at soil level.
Caring for the Seedlings
Water your seedlings frequently with a deep soaking to ensure the soil is moist and well drained. Avoid watering, however, on rainy days.
Use a mild liquid fertilizer every 3 weeks, keeping away from nitrogen-based fertilizers that may cause the delicate roots to burn.
Pests and Disease
Carrots are susceptible to the carrot fly, which is a 1/4 inch white maggot that is attracted to the smell of its foliage and feeds on the outside surface. Cover your seedlings in light mesh netting to prevent this pest, or plant onions or leek alongside which are known to repel the bug.
Mice, moles and rabbits may also pose a threat for carrots.
In wet weather some diseases may infest your carrot crop, so check with your local nursery for appropriate preventive measures.
Harvesting Mature Carrots
Depending on the variety sown, carrots are generally harvested 12 weeks after sowing. Begin by pulling every other carrot, providing the remaining carrot space to grow. Carrots do not have to be immediately harvested and can remain in the soil weeks after the plants have dried off, especially if storage is a problem.