Growing Carrots 101
Growing Carrots is one of the most rewarding vegetables a gardener can grow. It’s so amazing that the smallest of seeds produces such amazing bright colored roots, gorgeous foliage, and deliciousness that won’t quit!
All carrots don’t look like the ones you are used to seeing in the grocery store. They come in a surprising array of shapes and colors. Some are short and stubby and some are cylindrical shaped; some are purple (Purple Dragon) while others are yellow (Jaune du Doubs), white (lunar white), red, and orange.
Legend has it that a farmer created the orange variety of carrots for Prince William of Orange. He was a major player for the Dutch revolt that started the 80 years war. The orange variety was brought to America in the 1600’s later.
The carrot is notorious for it’s vitamin A content. Have you ever tasted carrots that taste like terpintine? You are actually tasting the terpenoid flavor in the vitamin A. It’s also responsible for turn your skin orange when you eat too many of them. All of you parents have probably witnessed a child with an orange nose due to eating high amounts of carrots, sweet potatoes, and the like.
So, when do you plant carrots?
Your regions weather and zone will dictate when you plant carrots. They are a cool weather plant and can tolerate frost. Here in the South, there are 2 growing seasons. The best season for us is the fall. I’ll sow seeds in September for a late fall/early winter harvest. I also plant them in March though I don’t get as good of results as if I lived a little further North. Once planted, you are looking at 60 to 80 days for maturity.
1. Order your seeds.
I purchase the carrots on-line at various reputable on-line seed companies. Carrot are one of those vegetables that are only available by seeds. Not to worry; they are easy to plant and harvest. Some standard varieties that seem to do well are chantenay, danvars 126, and scarlet nantes.
2. Prepare your soil.
Sandy-loam soils grow best carrots, apply nitrogen and manure slowly to prevent splitting; apply the nitrogen every couple weeks throughout the season. Mix compost into your sandy soil. That will help with the slow release of nitrogen.
3. Plant your seeds.
The seeds are tiny – 1/4 ounce does 100 feet spaced at 1 to 2 inches apart – you’ll get about 1,000 carrots if you do it that way. My raised garden is about 16 square feet. I should harvest about 100 carrots. I like to plant 2 rows 2 inches apart then skip about 18 inches for the next two rows and so on when planting large patches of carrots.
4. Continue to fertilize.
Continue to fertilize about 4 to 5 weeks after planting. Carrots taste better after a few frosts. Once a frost hits, cover the carrot rows with about an 18-inch layer of shredded leaves or straw to preserve them for harvest.
5. Time for harvest.
If you plant your carrots every few weeks apart, you can harvest throughout the season. If not, pull up a few and see if they are the size you want (at least 60 days). The longer they stay in the ground, the larger they become and increasingly more woody.
6. Store your carrots.
Carrots are super easy to store. You can store carrots in moist sand as long as you are going to use them during the winter or wash the carrots, twist off the top leaving a little of the green stem, allow them to air dry on a paper towel and place in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. I like the crisper drawer for this. If they go limp, you can revive them by placing them in a bath of cool water for an hour or two.
6. Cook and Enjoy…or eat them raw of course!
If any of you have any tips you would like to share, please feel free to leave them in the comments!!