Carrots are beneficial for you, as your mother always told you, because they are high in fiber and vitamins. They’re also lovely, with lacy, fernlike foliage that’s ideal for flower borders and containers. Carrots are a cool-season vegetable that thrives in temperatures of 60 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
1. Select a location that receives full sun (carrots will tolerate light shadow but will not thrive in it). Light soil with a pH of 5.8 to 6.8 is ideal (see “How to Have Your Soil Tested”).
2. Dig to a depth of at least 12 inches, removing all signs of pebbles and other debris – even a small twig can harm a carrot’s growing tip, stunting or causing it to fork.
3. Add a lot of organic matter; it will lighten heavy soils and help sandy soils retain moisture. Carrots grown in damp soil become sweeter and less fibrous.
4. In cool climates, sow carrot seeds directly two to three weeks before the last forecast frost; in warm climates, plant in fall, winter, or spring. (Carrots, like other root crops, are rarely available as seedlings at nurseries.)
5. Soak seeds in water for 6 hours before planting them to speed up germination, which can take 10 days or more.
6. Make shallow sowings early in the season to take advantage of the sun’s warmth; scatter the seeds on the soil surface, gently tamp them down, and cover them with a thin layer of finely sifted compost. Plant seeds between 1/4 and 1/2 inch deep if planting later, once the soil has warmed up.
7. Thin seedlings before the tops become entwined: Use scissors to cut off the greens, or gently take the roots from the earth to avoid disturbing the other plants. Depending on the variety, space carrots 3 to 4 inches apart (check the seed packet for details).
8. To maintain optimum growth, spray young plants with compost tea (see “How to Make Compost Tea”) and cover with compost to keep weeds at bay and conserve moisture. Young plants require at least an inch of water per week, but as they mature, they require less water (check the seed packet for timing).
9. When the carrots have reached a rich orange color, start harvesting them.
To extend the harvest, make succession plantings every two weeks until the temperature reaches 80 degrees F, then plant another crop for winter harvesting when the temperatures decrease in the autumn.
Carrots, like all root crops, require a lot of potassium. Before you sow the seeds, dusting wood ashes over the planting area will help to increase the soil’s supply. Carrots grow well in pots. Choose pots with a depth of at least 12 inches and sufficient drainage.
Use compost-enriched potting soil, feed plants every 10 days with compost tea until they’re 6 inches tall, and keep the soil moist. Look for little or “baby” kinds like ‘Parmex,’ ‘Oxheart,’ or ‘Little Finger’ for the greatest results.
When carrots are exposed to the sun, they turn green and bitter. Make sure the roots are completely covered in soil to preserve them orange and tasty.
Avoid using manure or other nitrogen-rich fertilizers since they will boost top growth at the price of excellent root development. If your carrots sprout a branch or two, you’re giving them too much nitrogen.