Fresh garden carrots taste so much better than those purchased in the store! Carrots are easy to grow in northern climates and require little maintenance. Growing carrots in your backyard vegetable garden is easy to do and so rewarding! Let me share with you a few tips for growing carrots in containers, raised beds or your in-ground garden.
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There are 4 different main varieties of carrots differing mainly in the shape they grow in. The Imperator is the longest and slenderest with a pointed tip of the carrot. The Nantes are a similar size from top to bottom and have a slightly rounded tip. The Danvers is wider at the top, similar in length to the Nantes and has a pointed tip. The Chantenay is the shortest and widest variety with almost a rounded shape to it. Carrots come in many colours, not just the standard orange. My personal favourite carrot variety to grow is the Nantes.
The Best Type of Soil for Carrots
Carrots grow best in loose, sandy, well drained soil that is free from rocks and debris. Carrots will benefit from adding compost or coffee grounds to the soil prior to planting them. Till or dig your garden soil to a 12 inch depth to make sure it is loose.
You can check out my tips on improving garden soil for ideas on how to create a better growing environment for your plants.
When to Plant Carrot Seeds
You plant carrot seeds up to 3 weeks before the last frost as soon as your garden soil is workable. Gardening in Calgary, Alberta, in the zone 3 climate where I am this means planting carrot seeds at the very end of April or beginning of May. Planting carrots this early is sooner than I thought your were able to in my beginning gardening years, but since I have been planting carrots the end of April (April 29th this year) the size of my carrots has increased. The carrot seeds don't seem to germinate until they can withstand the cold and the snow on top of them hasn't seemed to bother them.
How to Plant Carrot Seeds
Before planting your carrot seeds rake your garden soil free of stones and debris. You can plant carrots either in rows or in patches. When planting in patches, set aside some of your garden soil, scattering seeds as evenly as possible throughout the space and then cover the seeds with 1/4 in. layer of the soil you had set aside.
When planting in rows, follow the spacing directions on your package. Dig a shallow row with a hoe or rake. Carrot seeds are tiny and it can be difficult to evenly space them. Purchasing seed tape will help to space the carrot seeds for you and you shouldn't have to thin them as much afterwards. I normally don't use the seed tape as it is more expensive, just do the best I can and thin them as needed (see below). Water gently to avoid disturbing your carrot seeds.
Tip: It is important to keep the soil most (but not soaking wet) for best germination!
How to Thin Carrots
Thin carrot seedlings to 1 inch apart when tops are about 3/4 to 1 inch high. Pull the smallest, leaving the larger and healthier plants when possible. Thin your carrots again a few weeks later to 2 to 3 inches apart. I like to wait until the carrots are large enough to eat (mid to end July) and do my final thinning then. That way I am able to grow and use more carrots in the space I have. By no means does thinning carrots have to be exact, but it is important to give them the space they need to grow otherwise you will end up with small carrots.
How to Harvest Carrots
Carrots become tastier as they grow and will taste sweetest after a frost. In gardening zone 3 Alberta where I live, carrots can often be left in the ground until Thanksgiving (the middle of October)! Carrots will last longest if they are harvested on a cool day and if they are not in direct sunlight after being dug up. If you are planning on storing carrots for as long as possible to have throughout the winter, do not wash them. Brush off excess soil. Place in a box or bin and layer carrots with wood shavings, sand or peat moss and store in a dark, cool area. If you have room in a fridge, layer between paper towel and refrigerate in these vegetable Ziplock bags.
Personally, I use the vegetable Ziplock bags and the wiped dry carrots and am super happy with the storage results. Carrots stay crisp and fresh for 6+ months.
Carrots are biennial. They produce seeds the second year of their life. If you are wanting to save your own seeds, leave a few carrots in your garden and cover in a thick layer of mulch or straw. Wait until carrots go to seed in their second year and then collect and store in a dry, dark and cool place to use next year!
Carrot Companion Plants
Carrots do well planted near lettuce, onions peas, radishes, cabbages, beans, chives, leaks or peppers.
Avoid planting near dill, parsnips or potatoes.
Find my complete, free printable companion planting chart here.