If you’re looking for something fun to plant, think about adding carrots to your vegetable garden. Whether you’re new to gardening and eager to test the waters or you’ve proven your green thumb season after season, carrots are an easy and low-maintenance option for home gardeners.
In this article, you’ll discover how to grow carrots in your veggie garden. You’ll learn about some different types of carrots you can plant, along with tips and tricks for finding the perfect planting conditions. You’ll also find out how mulching can help with weed control, and much more. Before you know it, you’ll be looking forward to a delicious bounty of crunchy carrots.
Getting To Know Carrots
There’s much more to this humble root vegetable than meets the eye. Carrot plants (Daucus carota) have been cultivated for thousands of years and are cool-season biennials (plants that have a two-year life cycle) . But before they became a staple of healthy eating, they were used as medicinal plants. Ancient Greeks and Romans believed they acted as aphrodisiacs and could prevent poisoning. Carrots grew wild in Europe and Asia until they were domesticated in Afghanistan around 5,000 years ago.
Loaded with vitamins and minerals — including beta-carotene, potassium, fiber, and antioxidants — carrots are a nutrient-rich food perfect for eating raw, roasted, and everything in between.
Different Varieties of Carrots
Even if you’re used to seeing a couple varieties of carrots at your local supermarket, there are several more you can run across while shopping for seed packets.
Carrots come in an array of colors, from eggplant purple to ruby red, vibrant orange to golden yellow. Have fun experimenting with different types to find a favorite or stick with one. Either way, you’ll enjoy delicious homegrown carrots.
Here are just a few of the different types of carrots you can include in your vegetable garden:
- Imperator: This is the type of carrot you typically see at the grocery store. These carrots have a higher sugar content than other carrot varieties and are similar to Danvers (more on those in a minute). Another way Imperator carrots stand out? Their foliage is fast-growing compared to other types.
- Nantes: Named for the region in France where they grow best, Nantes carrots aren’t tapered like Imperators. Instead they’re perfectly cylindrical from top to bottom. This crunchy carrot has a sweet flavor and is generally low maintenance.
- Chantenay: If soil conditions are a little less than perfect in your garden, reach for Chantenay carrot seeds. This variety grows well in heavy soil and will be six to seven inches in length. Be sure to harvest these carrots on time; otherwise they won’t be as tasty.
- Danvers: Danvers carrots, developed in Danvers, Massachusetts, are long and skinny and grow well in various soil conditions (such as clay soil). They’re usually orange, but don’t be surprised if you see them in other colors.
- Mini Carrots: Even though the baby carrots you see in stores are really full-sized carrots shaved down, there are varieties of mini carrots. Some are as small as radishes, but luckily they’re much sweeter! Because they’re so little, they do well in containers, so plant a few and add them to your patio garden.
Psst: While you can usually get away with starting seeds indoors and transplanting them later, this doesn’t really work with carrots. Their delicate root structure is easily damaged during transplanting, so skip the carrot seedlings. Planting carrots from seed will be your best option.
How To Grow Carrots: Creating the Perfect Planting Conditions
It’s easier than you think to have a flourishing vegetable garden. All it takes is a bit of nurturing and proper preparation to see it grow. Even though carrots are a low-maintenance crop, it’s still important to make sure they have the right growing conditions for proper germination and more. Here are a few areas you’ll want to focus on to see the highest return on your efforts.
Pay Attention To Soil Quality
A thriving garden starts with a solid foundation, and high-quality soil is vital. Start by having your soil tested. You want the pH just right — between six and seven should do the trick.
Unlike some fruits and vegetables, carrots are forgiving and adapt well to different soils. However, they grow best in a lighter, sandy soil. A loose soil doesn’t present the same challenges as rocky and heavier clay soils do. Poor drainage and compacted soil can harm carrot roots.
Give your garden soil a boost with organic potting mix before you start planting. Regular gardening soil relies on just a few ingredients to nourish your plants — like vermiculite, peat moss, or composted tree bark — but these really aren’t enough for a healthy garden.
Keep your eyes open for soil with nutrient-rich ingredients such as kelp meal, bat guano, coconut coir, beneficial bacteria, and more.
Psst: Back to the Roots is launching an organic potting mix in Spring ’21. Look for it at your local Walmart Garden Center!
Planting and Watering Tips
Carrots are cool weather crops, so you’ll want to get them started in early spring, depending on where you live. A good rule of thumb is to plant your carrots when the soil temperature is around 50 degrees Fahrenheit (they’ll germinate between 55 and 75 degrees). You might be able to plant them in the early fall as long as there isn’t a hard freeze.
Because carrots have a fragile root system, you’ll want to skip transplanting altogether and start with carrot seeds. But here’s the thing: carrot seeds can be challenging to handle and plant properly. Seed tape or pellets containing carrot seeds make the planting process a whole lot easier.
Spacing is important and can save you from thinning — i.e., pulling up extra seeds once they start growing — later on. Sow seeds two to four inches apart to give them ample room to grow.
Your carrots will thrive in full sun, so keep that in mind when you’re deciding where you’d like to plant your seeds. Some carrots do well in containers, making it easy to move them around if you need to.
Another option is to try a raised bed. Back to the Roots Fabric Raised Garden Bed is perfect for growing carrots in your vegetable garden. The durable fabric stands up to multiple growing seasons, allows your plants’ roots to get more oxygen, and improves drainage.
Keep your soil moist for happy carrots, as dry conditions may affect their shape, color, and flavor. Anything less than an inch of rain a week means you’ll have to water regularly or set up an irrigation system to keep them amply hydrated.
Psst: Protect your carrots from freezing temperatures with a row cover. They can help keep soil temperatures where you need them and insulate your plants from the cold. You can DIY your own row covers with plastic bags in a pinch.
Managing Weeds and Pests
Getting rid of weeds in any garden is essential, but even more so when you’re learning how to grow carrots. You’ll want to avoid using weed killer as it can damage your plants. Try using mulch instead, but be sure to let your plants get established before spreading anything around them or you could impede germination.
Pests are a common issue as well. Leafhoppers, carrot weevils, nematodes, and the carrot rust fly can all cause damage to your vegetables and spread disease. The good news is that you can do a lot to mitigate their effect in your garden.
Stay on top of weeding, rotate your crops and use traps when appropriate. Insecticidal soaps are a good option here to manage pests without depositing more chemicals into the environment. Carrot flowers attract an array of helpful insects that can help too, such as ladybugs, mealybug destroyers, minute pirate bugs (argh, matey!), and more.
Psst: Consider hybrid varieties of carrots instead of heirloom types when you’re shopping for seeds. Hybrid seeds are often bred to be more resistant to certain diseases or pests and can make maintaining your garden a little easier. Check out Back to the Root’s Organic Veggie Variety Pack for the perfect mix of 100% organic and USA grown seeds.
Harvesting Your Carrots
Depending on which variety of carrots you plant, they’ll generally be ready for harvest in two to three months. Sometimes you’ll see their brightly colored tops peeking through the soil, which is another clue they’re ready for picking.
If you have one, root cellars are the best place to store your harvested carrots, but your refrigerator will work too. Snip the carrot tops before storing them, but don’t throw them in the trash. Save them for your compost pile, or experiment with them in the kitchen. Carrot tops can be used to make a lovely pesto, for salad toppings, and as a flavoring in stocks. Don’t forget you can pickle and can your carrots too!
Grow Carrots Your Family Can Enjoy
Learning how to grow carrots in your garden is a worthwhile endeavor — they’re easy to grow, delicious to munch on, and are ready to harvest in a few months or less. Even more, they’re the perfect way to enjoy low-maintenance gardening and gain confidence if you’re a beginner. Check out our round-up of the easiest vegetables to grow for more gardening inspiration.