Planning early to have excellent carrots is essential! It’s almost that time of year we start to prepare our garden beds for the best, sweetest carrots. The long tap roots are traditionally orange, but adding yellow, white and tones of red and purple to the carrot color palettes can turn the transitional hohum choice to exciting.
The best shaped and flavorful carrots do best in soil free of stones, clods and compaction. When preparing the soil, till or spade to the depth of at least 12″. Work in plenty of well-rotted compost and let bed rest for 3-6 weeks before planting. There is a link that excess manure can cause carrots to fork, so we have always avoided it and we haven’t had forked carrots ever. When it is time to plant, work in bone meal to keep the soil soft and feed the roots, kelp meal to sweeten the carrots and if your soil is lacking in minerals, greensand is an excellent choice. Only use 3-6 pounds of fertilizer per 100 square foot of planting area. Over-fertilizing can cause carrots to split. Hold off on high nitrogen fertilizer or you will end up with magnificent tops and small roots. If you don’t have time to wait for soil to rest, add only a small amount of compost and dig in the organic fertilizer at planting time.
Carrots can be grown in all climates. Seed can be sown from late winter to late summer. Check with your local nursery, gardener or extension office for the best times to sow seeds or just follow seed packet times. Carrots sown in the late summer make for the sweetest harvest in fall once a frost has come.
Carrots are best grown from seed as they resent transplanting. Sow seed no deeper than 1/4” deep and 1” apart. Once seeds are sown, cover with a seed guard to encourage germination. This not only helps the seeds to germinate, but it helps keep the soil damp and protects your seeds from hungry birds and other critters. Once Carrots have reached 3 inches tall, remove seed guard and thin seedlings to 2-3”. Further thinning can be carried out at the baby carrot stage to give more room in the row (and you can eat the little carrots).
Keep soil free from weeds for best growth. Keeping plants well watered throughout their growing stages helps avoid stress factors that may send into premature bolting, which makes for small or woody carrots. Cut back water when carrots mature as over-watering at this stage may cause carrots to split.
During the growing season, apply a side dress of dry organic fertilizer or liquid-feed bi-monthly.
Carrots are a long-maturing crops, so knowing when to harvest them can be tricky if your new to it. Keeping track of when the seeds were sown provides a good guide to harvest time. Most carrots mature around 12-16 weeks. Small or baby carrots may be harvested in 10-12 weeks.
To harvest carrots without breaking them, gently pull at the base of the foliage and work the carrot out of the soil avoiding breaking the root. If you carrot is proving hard to pull, use a digging fork to lift the out of the soil.
Remove the leaves after harvesting cutting close to the top of the root to improve storage. Store in a cool room or bag and place them in the refrigerator. Carrots should last for at least four weeks.
Grow an array of colored carrots with your kids this spring. Kids love to eat what they grow! Eat them fresh from the garden or cook them up for dinner. Bake them with a bit of butter and maple syrup. What a sweet treat anyway you eat them! Enjoy
Some of our favorites carrots:
Starburst Carrot Mix This one tastes great and kids and adults love it!