Plant Successive Crops: Sow some carrot seeds somewhere different in the garden every couple of weeks up until early August. This is a good way to avoid having all the carrots mature at the same time. After all, in just 2 square feet you can grow 50 carrots. Planting these little plots at different times and in different sites around the garden confuses pest insects, too.
Where to Plant Carrots
Carrots Need Good Soil: Since carrots are a root crop, they grow best in soils that are light and that drain well. They do not do well in heavy clay soil or soil with lots of rocks in it. If you have a heavy clay soil, mix in some chopped leaves and/or some sphagnum peat moss down 6 to 8 inches before planting.
Bring Life Back To The Soil: Soils in new gardens and even soils in many established gardens usually lack much of the microbial life found in healthy soils in the woods or in undisturbed prairies. There is now a new soil amendment the actually contains all the common strains of bacteria and other microscopic critters found in good soil. The quality of your carrots will be directly related to the quality of the soil in which it grows.
Soil Trick: Carrots do best in sandy soil but few of us have sandy soil. So even if your soil is healthy loam and contains lots of organic matter, if you mix a few handfuls of builder’s sand in every square foot of the soil where the carrots will be planted, you will have fewer problems with misshapen roots.
Carrots Need Sunshine: Plant carrots in full sunshine to develop their maximum potential as a root crop.
Organic Matter is Critical: The quality of the produce grown in the home vegetable garden is directly related to the health of the garden’s soil. Most garden soils lack sufficient organic matter down 8 to 12 inches. Such material begins as organic mulch that is over the season broken down and pulled down into the soil by earthworms and other soil creatures. That is why we recommend having 2 to 4 inches of organic mulch on the surface of the garden all 365 days of the year.
How to Plant Carrots
Start carrots outdoors in a sunny garden bed or container any time from mid-spring through early summer. Plan to sow seeds for a first crop about the time the last frost of the winter is due in your area, or when the leaves begin to appear on lilac bushes. The soil must be dried out enough to be crumbly when you dig in it, otherwise it will form large lumps that harden when they dry out, and distort the development of root crops such as carrots. If you have a soil thermometer from the garden center, check to see that the soil is at least 45°F at planting time.
1. Prepare the soil by digging down 8 to 10 inches into it with a trowel or shovel and turning it over to loosen it. Break up any clumps and remove rocks and debris, and rake the soil to make a smooth seedbed. This is a good time to sprinkle some slow-acting granular fertilizer on the soil and mix it in.
2. Soak the tiny carrot seeds in warm water overnight to soften them so they will sprout readily even in cool soil. Because they are so small -- 6,000 to 9,000 to the ounce -- mix them with clean builders or sandbox sand to facilitate even distribution over the prepared seedbed. The goal is to spread about 3 to 4 seeds to the inch in either the traditional row, or scattered over a designated area. Another way to assure even sowing is to use seed tapes, in which the seeds are embedded at the correct spacing into a paper tape, suitable for planting into the soil. Plant it in one long row or tear it into smaller strips to fit in spaces available in the garden bed.
3. Trace a shallow indentation in the soil with a stick or pencil to guide planting. Then sow the seeds by dribbling a small stream of the seed-sand mixture through your thumb and forefinger into the indented rows, releasing just enough so that a few seeds drop every inch. Cover them with a thin layer of soil, sand, vermiculite or peat moss so that they are only about 1/8 to 1/4 inch deep in the soil. Carrot seeds require from 10 to 20 days to sprout, even with overnight soaking.
Planting Carrots In Containers
Certain carrot varieties, such as ‘Thumbelina,’ grow well in containers. Choose a container that is at least 12 inches wide and 12 inches deep. Make sure that it has a drainage hole. Fill it with a soilless mix to assure a sterile, light growing medium for the young carrots. Because it has no soil in it to provide nutrients, mix in some granular, slow-acting fertilizer to provide steady nutrition over the growing term. Once the carrot seeds are sown, don’t let the container dry out.
Planting Tricks for Carrots
Mulching: Once young carrots are large enough to show substantial foliage, spread a 2 or 3-inch layer of some organic material such as chopped leaves or straw on the soil around and among them in the bed. This will help the soil retain moisture and discourage weeds as they grow.
Amendments In Planting or Transplanting
There are a number of products at the garden center that will help your newly planted or transplanted plants deal better with the stress inherent in the planting process. All healthy plants have beneficial fungi, called mycorrhizal fungi, living on their roots. You can buy these valuable additions to your plant’s ecosystem. See the file describing Using Micorrhizae When Planting.
In addition, there are a number of products such as seaweed, compost tea, and beneficial soil microbes that when added to the planting process will help your newly established plants get going faster. See the file New Technology In Plant Growth Activators
Basics For Fall Planting Carrots
Time a fall carrot crop to be ready for harvest about the time the first light frost usually arrives in your area. Count back about 3 months from this frost date to estimate sowing time. Sow carrot seeds in the fall the same way as in the normal growing season. It is not necessary to harvest all mature carrots when winter arrives. They can stay in the ground under lots of mulch until the soil freezes so hard it prevents harvesting.
In the deep South summers are so hot that carrots don’t do well in the normal growing season. For a late winter harvest, plant carrots in September or October.