How to Grow Carrots

Carrots are a popular starch vegetable. Full of vitamin A and potassium, carrots can be enjoyed in their raw, crunchy form, or steamed, stir-fried, sautéed, or roasted! The crowd-pleasing veggie has an earthy, slightly sweet flavor. The great news for first-time gardeners is… carrots are super easy to grow! Plus, they are resistant to decreasing temperatures, making them a great plant for a fall garden

To get started, prep your soil. If you added fertilizer for a spring garden, depending on your fertilizer, you’ll most likely need to add more for your fall garden. Next, you can simply sow carrot seeds directly into the ground! Simply space each seed two inches a part. Avoid growing carrots any closer together than this, as this will limit the carrots ability to grow to their full size. Poke a very shallow hole where you would like to plant, about ¼–½ inches deep. Gently place your seeds. Then, cover them with soil and water regularly. Before you know it, you’ll have a winter carrot harvest!

bowl of harvested carrots against a bed of soil

Varieties of Carrots

There are many wonderful varieties of carrots to choose from. We went with an heirloom “carnival” seed blend to reap a colorful harvest. Other popular varieties of carrots include Parisian Heirlooms, Short n’ Sweets, Purple Dragon, and Little Fingers. Like any produce, each variety comes with its own subtle distinctions in flavor and color. Since carrots are so low-maintenance, we suggest growing several types of carrots and exploring unique heirloom varities. 

Depending on your dietary preferences, classic Imperator carrots are an excellent addition to pot roast. They’re also an awesome vegetarian substitute in meat dishes. (Think: trade the ground beef for finely-chopped heavily seasoned carrots and onion.) Raw carrots also make an easy low-carb snack, and juiced carrots with a little mango and ginger make a healthy pick-me-up. 

When to Plant Carrots

Depending on your growing zone, you’ll generally want to plant carrots directly from seed into the ground around the time you plant your spring garden OR fall garden. The most important thing to remember when learning how to grow carrots, is that timing is everything. Plant carrot seeds about 4 weeks before your area’s average last spring frost, or 4-6 weeks before your average first fall frost. Plus, you can squeeze some succession plantings in between. 

purple carrot in soil popping up

How to Care for Carrots

First things first, make sure that the carrots are planted in a sunny patch. Carrots are one of the few crops that truly prefers soil on the dry side that is loose and well draining. Soil that is too wet prevents carrots from growing down and reaching their full size. So, if you’re planting your carrots in a bed with other vegetables, water the carrots with a little less intensity than you would other nearby plants. Generally speaking, carrots should receive an inch of water a week. That being said, you want to make sure that when they are germinating, you keep the soil consistently moist. this will make sure you have a good germination rate.

Make sure that your carrots are properly fertilized. Once again, most fertilizers are formulated to sustain a bed through a few months, or one summer season. Add additional fertilizer if you are planting in the fall. If you have raised beds, make sure that you are adding fresh soil with each season. 

dirty carrots in hands against bowl of carrots

Maintaining Your Carrots

When learning how to grow carrots, make sure to keep an eye on the soil surrounding them. Weeds that pop up will compete with the nutrients that the carrots need to flourish, so be sure to stay on top of weeding as soon as you notice invasive plants coming in. 

Patience is key. If carrots begin to pop above ground and seem to be an inadequate size, resist the temptation to yank them up. Simply cover them with a bit more soil and mulch so that the quality of the carrot is protected while it continues to grow. 

Be vigilant about pests. The stories about Peter Rabbit stealing carrots from the garden are not so far from reality. Rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks, and even deer can discover your carrot patch before its ready and hoard it all for themselves. Protecting your garden from pests by covering it in chicken-wire or protective raised bed beams is super important when it comes to maintaining your carrots. 

Other common pests are aphids and carrot rust flies. Unfortunately, carrot rust flies are hard to detect. These sneaky insects lay eggs in the soil surrounding carrots and cause the carrots to rot. You can plant your carrots next to onions to help deter both of these pests, as the strong odor repels them. Keep an eye on any unusual insects you might see. It’s always a good preventative measure to spray your leaves with neem oil or homemade garlic spray.

hand holding up carrot against a bowl of carrots in soil

What to Plant Next to Carrots

Carrots are an easy-going vegetable. They’re happy growing alongside many other plants. Some of their go-to pals for companion planting are: alliums—onions, shallots, leeks, garlic. They also plant well next to tomato plants and radish plants. 

Surprisingly, it’s best to avoid planting carrots next to other starchy root crops, like potatoes and parsnips. These will compete with the carrots over the phosphorus in the soil and leave both parties unhappy. Learn more about how to grow tomatoes, how to grow peppers, and how to grow garlic.

How to Harvest Carrots

Once you see a fat and healthy root pop up above soil, it’s time to think about harvesting your carrots. There is no need to harvest all of your plants at the same time. Typically, the carrots will grow at different speeds, and it’s a good idea to wait patiently for each one to be ready on its own. 

To harvest the carrots without breaking them in the process, begin by pinching the location where the carrot meets the leaves. Wiggle the carrot around in each direction before carefully tugging it out of the soil. Practice makes perfect—after pulling up a few, you’ll get a feel for the process. 

Enjoy your nutritious carrot harvest!

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