Carrots are a wonderful addition to any vegetable garden – they are colorful, nutritious, and very easy to grow! With many colors and sizes to choose from, you can grow varieties that are smaller than ping pong balls to ones that reach over 2 feet in length. Before planting your carrots, one of the most important things you can do is ensure that you have proper soil.
Carrots need loose, well-draining soil at least 12” deep. A sandy loam would be perfect, preferably one that does not have any rocks or hard objects mixed into the soil. In order to grow to their proper size, carrots need to be able to grow through the soil without obstruction. If the soil is heavy or compacted, carrots will grow short and misshapen (not to mention, they will be impossible to pull out without breaking). If there are large rocks or other objects, they could grow stunted, or “L” shaped once they hit whatever is blocking them. Give your soil a good turn or till and make sure it is broken up. This is the time to mix in some compost or rich organic material to help provide nutrients during the growing season and to hopefully prevent having to apply any fertilizer.
When planting, make sure you are doing so in a location that receives at least 6-8 hours of sun per day. You can either scatter the seeds and press them gently into the soil, or create a small trench about ¼-½” deep and place the seeds about ½-1” apart. Gently crumble the soil back over the seeds and water well. It is important that you never let the soil dry out while the carrots are growing, but be careful not to make the soil too wet and soggy. Your carrots should emerge about 1-3 weeks later. While growing, keep the weeds away so that they have room to grow and do not have to compete for resources. When the tops reach about 3-4” tall, thin the carrots so that they are 1-2” apart and you can do this again if the carrots look like they are going to grow into one another. Don’t forget that you can eat your thinned carrots! They will be small, but tender and very tasty!
If needed, you can add fertilizer when the carrot tops reach about 4” in height and then again when they reach about 8” in height. When it comes to fertilizer, it is important not to use one that is heavier in nitrogen, as this will promote heavy top growth rather than root growth. This is important for any root vegetable, so select a fertilizer that is higher in both phosphorous and potassium. Look for 5-15-15 or 0-10-10 on the label (N-P-K).
After about a couple of months (give or take a couple of weeks depending on the variety), your carrots should be ready for harvest! This is the most exciting part since you finally get to see (and soon taste!) the beautiful carrots that have been hidden in your soil. One way to check for readiness is to look at the diameter of the shoulders since it is a good indicator of size. Give your carrots a gentle tug and they should lift right out of the soil. Remember that your carrots won’t all be perfectly straight like what you see in the grocery store. Some will be straight, and others can be twisted, intertwined, or take on some other funny shapes. Regardless, they will be crisp, juicy, and taste great!
Once you have harvested your carrots, be sure to brush off as much dirt as possible, remove the tops (just give them a twist), and store them in the refrigerator. It is better to wash them when you are going to eat them because washing will reduce their shelf life. If you leave the tops on, they will pull moisture from the root and cause your carrots to dry out.
We grow over 10 varieties of carrot in our Culinary Garden in Rutherford. Here are a few of our favorites to seek out:
Redsun: A cylindrical carrot with red skin and core that reaches 7-8” in length.
Deep Purple: A sweet carrot that is purple with a white core and tapers at the end.
White Satin: A white carrot that is cylindrical in shape, very crisp, and juicy in flavor.
Romance: A deep orange carrot with superb flavor and uniformity.
Gold Nugget: A very flavorful and uniform carrot with golden yellow color.
Atlas: A small, round orange carrot full of flavor that only reaches 1-2” in diameter.
January 13, 2021