Ready to try growing root vegetables? Learn how to grow carrots from seed in your vegetable garden!
Carrots are a favorite crop to grow in the garden. They are beautiful, full of nutrition, and hold up well in storage.
Carrots can be grown in both cool and warm climates
There’s really nothing more exciting than pulling a homegrown carrot from the ground- and they just simply don’t compare to the ones you buy at the store.
Learn how to grow carrots from seed so you can have your own harvest almost all year long!
Carrot Varieties to Grow
There’s a lot of carrots to try out there! Here are some of my favorites:
Parisenne: These little carrots are great if you have hard soil. They grow small, round roots similar to radishes.
Danvers Half Long: Good standby, of orange, 7 inch roots with great flavor.
Scarlet Nantes: Sweet, 6-7 inch roots, with a fine texture
Rainbow: Get a mixture of red, yellow, purple, and orange that keeps carrot pulling exciting!
When to Grow Carrots
Carrots are a cool weather crop, which means in most growing zones they are suited for spring and fall growing. If you live in a warmer climate you may be able to grow carrots all winter long!
Carrot seeds should be planted about 3-5 weeks before you last frost date.
Carrot seeds do germinate slowly in cooler weather, so be patient while you wait for them to sprout! It may take 2 weeks or more to see seedlings sprout up!
If you’re planting fall carrots, plant the seeds 10-12 before your first frost date.
Carrots take an average of about 75 days to reach maturity, so you can continue to sow seeds throughout the spring for a continuous harvest.
How to Grow Carrots from Seed
Carrots are best grown from seed and they should be sowed directly in the ground. Carrot seeds do not like to be transplanted so it’s best to put them in their permanent bed right from the start.
Carrots aren’t a hard crop to grow, but your success will be tied closely to your soil, so take the time to prepare it right!
Preparing Your Carrot Bed
Carrots are root crops with long tapered roots. In order for these roots to develop properly they need loose, fluffy soil that drains well.
If you have clay or rocky soil, carrots may be a hard crop for you to grow directly in the ground, so creating a raised bed might be the best way to grow carrots.
Either till your garden at least 12 inches deep, or create a raised bed that is at least 12 inches deep for your carrots.
When amending the soil for your carrot bed, adding in a mixture of garden soil, sand, and peat moss can help create the desired type of soil for carrots.
Carrots don’t need a very rich soil, in fact too much nitrogen can give you split, cracked, or forked carrots! A little aged compost is okay, but not a necessity.
Make sure to remove all rocks and water your soil well before planting any seeds.
Planting Carrot Seeds
Now that your bed is ready for planting, how do you plant carrot seeds?
Carrot seeds are very small, which can make spacing somewhat difficult. So there’s a couple options when it comes to sowing your seeds:
- Scattering. This gets an even cover across your bed. Some might be too close, but not all will germinate and you can thin them later
- Hand laid rows. Mark your row and slowly drizzle your seeds down the row. Again, you can thin later if needed.
- Seed tape. It’s easy to make your own seed tape, and this gets small seeds such as carrots perfectly spaced
- Small Seed Planting Tool. I got this handy little tool years and years ago, and it makes it easier to drop one small seed at a time while planting rows.
However you plant them, shoot for about 2-3 inches apart in rows spaced about 6 inches apart.
Cover with a very fine layer of soil. VERY THIN LAYER. Like ⅛ of an inch deep. You can even just press them into the ground, but if birds are an issue, covering them helps keep them from getting eaten.
Water your seeds gently (shower) and keep the soil evenly moist as you wait for germination. You don’t need to water deeply at this point since the seeds are so shallow. But don’t let them dry out or germination will take longer.
Caring for Your Carrots
As your carrots grow, there’s a few things to remember about their care.
Most likely you will need to thin your carrots at some point. If your carrots are too close together or crowded they won’t have enough space for their roots to grow. They can twist around each other or get misshapen.
The final spacing should be 3-4 inches apart.
If you have plants right on top of each other, just snip the top off of one of them with a pair of garden scissors. If they are a couple inches apart you can simply harvest some early, pulling every other carrot and leave remaining carrots to grow to full size.
Water is very important to carrots. As seeds they need shallow waterings often, as growing plants they need deeper waterings, somewhat less often.
Keeping your carrots well watered will give you nice, smooth, great tasting carrots. An average rule of thumb is 1 inch of water per week after germination, increasing to 2 inches per week as the roots develop.
One of the major signs of under-watering is “hairy” carrots. Or carrots that have put out little side shoot roots in search of water.
Mulching is a great way to conserve moisture in the soil and keep the weeds away.
Too many weeds will affect your carrot’s root development.
You can use grass clippings, leaves, straw, or wood chips as mulch for your carrots.
Carrot Pests and Problems
Carrots don’t really have too many pests or problems.
Some of the pests you may encounter are:
- Carrot Fly
- Aphids- here’s some ideas for keeping aphids away
- Flea Beetles
Companion planting with herbs or things like garlic can help you deter many of these pests.
Harvesting Homegrown Carrots
About 3 months after planting, you can start harvesting your carrots. So let’s talk about how and when to do that.
When to Harvest Carrots
Carrots are ready almost anytime after about 2 months. Look for tops that are at least ½ inch wide- don’t harvest any smaller than that.
Most of the time you will see carrot tops poking out of the soil, so you can easily see what size they are and if they are ready to harvest.
Sometimes you might have to gently dig down to see how the carrot roots are doing.
It’s also best to harvest before the heat of the summer, since heat can cause carrots to get fibrous.
In the fall, frost actually helps the taste of the carrots so it’s okay to leave harvest till after a few light frosts.
How to Harvest Carrots
If you have prepared a nice bed of fluffy, light soil, you should be able to just pull your carrots up out of the ground.
Gently grasp the base of the green carrot top and pull straight up. You might have to wiggle it a little to loosen it up and allow the soil to release the carrot.
If your soil is hard, you may need to use a fork to harvest or you could end up with broken roots.
How to Store and Use Fresh Carrots
Once you have harvested your carrots, it’s time to store them or preserve them.
If you are planning on storing the carrots in the fridge- or even in a root cellar- I recommend just brushing them off as opposed to washing them.
Shake off as much soil as you can and use your hand or a dry cloth to brush off as much of the remaining soil as you can.
Cut off the tops and place the carrots in a sealed, Ziploc bag. The more airtight the better. Then simply place them in the refrigerator. They should stay good and crunchy for at least 6 weeks to 2 months.
With proper mulching, you can even store carrots in the ground in the winter if you live in a warmer climate!
If you plan on canning or dehydrating your carrots, wash them well, cut off the ends and then prepare according to your directions.
You can preserve carrots by:
- Pressure canning
- Freeze Drying
And don’t forget to eat them fresh and use them in all your meals!
More Gardening Guides:
11 Easiest Vegetables for Beginners to Grow
The Ultimate Guide to Companion Planting
Thank you for this really great article. I really just have one question, being that you are homesteading site and by your name, also a free ranging homestead with interests in prepping and preserving. I was really hoping for some extended information on how to use the carrot tops. Do you use them for yourself, and if so how? Do you feed them to your chickens? Or do you just compost them? I am asking because of an interest I have in using every part of the harvest if at all possible. I had heard that some vegetable tops can be dehydrated to make a green powder for nutrition. Thank you in advance for your response. ~SuzyJC in Ohio~ (Soon to be South Carolina).