Johnny's Carrot Growing Guide
Carrots are among the most universally grown, if not the best loved of vegetables — but horticulturally they can be quite particular, and even some experienced growers find them to be one of the more challenging crops.
In view of their popularity, however, mastering the fundamentals of growing carrots is worth a grower's while. With their radiant colors, diverse shapes, sizes, and culinary versatility, something would seem amiss if there were no carrots on offer at the vegetable stand.
In response to frequent requests for carrot-growing advice, Johnny's experts recently rolled up their sleeves and dug in to write up the fundamental of carrot growing. Here are their recommendations for achieving success with carrots:
- 4 Keys to Carrot Culture: Bed Preparation, Spacing, Weeding, & Watering »
- Season Extension : How to Expand Your Carrot Harvest Window »
- Carrot Harvesting, Post-Harvest Handling, & Storage Tips »
- Common Carrot Pests & Diseases »
4 Keys to Carrot Culture
Carrots like consistency in their growing conditions: They grow best with no wide swings in temperature or moisture, and straightest and smoothest in deep, loose, fertile sandy loams and peat soils with good moisture-holding capacity.
To the extent a grower can influence the environment, these favorable conditions are most effectively achieved through correct bed preparation and spacing, and timely weeding and watering.
Give your carrots a good start by preparing the bed in advance.
Carrots prefer well-drained, deeply-worked soil: preferably to an 18" depth for the longer varieties, though a shallower depth may suffice for shorter varieties. Heavier soils are okay for half-long or round types. (See Diagram of Carrot Types.)
Deeply worked soil minimizes the resistance encountered by the growing carrot roots as they elongate. Resistance can lead to misshapen roots which, while interesting to look at, are more prone to damage during harvest; less easily handled, transported, and stored post harvest; and generally don't sell as well as smooth, evenly proportioned carrots.
Here are the guidelines we suggest for spacing your carrot rows:
A range of methods and tools can be used to weed and cultivate your carrot beds; flame-weeding, cultivator tractor attachments, wheel-hoes, and various long- and short-handled weeders and cultivators all have their effective applications.
Carrot do require that a more precise science be applied to the timing of weeding efforts. To minimize labor and maximize results, weeding and cultivating the carrot planting should take place at least 3, and preferably 4 times during the growing season as follows:
Pre-emergence Weeding Schedule
Post-emergence Weeding Schedule
Watering / Irrigation
The development of a healthy carrot crop requires moisture in sufficient quantities at the correct times throughout the growth cycle — not too dry and not too wet. Here are the specifics.
From Sowing to Emergence
Drought stress during the first few weeks of carrot plant development can be very detrimental, as is the case with many crops. Germination rates can be reduced and the plants will not get off to a healthy start. Drought stress during carrot root development can often lead to underdeveloped roots that take longer to mature. For small, rounded Paris Market type carrots such as Atlas, insufficient soil moisture will lead to elongated roots by forcing the roots to "reach" for available moisture deeper in the ground.
Conversely, too much soil moisture can have a negative impact. Excessive watering can lead to forked roots, especially when this occurs during the first few weeks after seeding. Excessive soil moisture from over-irrigating or heavy rainfall will often cause growth cracks in carrots. Wide fluctuations in soil moisture can also cause cracking. Excessive moisture in the soil and/or on leaves can also create environmental conditions conducive to certain diseases.
Hit Carrot Pay Dirt
Depending on your location and experience level, providing optimal growing conditions for your carrots can be more difficult to achieve than it is for other roots and tubers, such as potatoes or onions. Like these other vegetable standards, however, there is a steady, year-round demand for carrots. When provided their basic cultural requirements — a properly prepared growing bed, appropriate spacing, and timely weeding and watering — carrots will reward the extra time and attention they are given with their flavor, versatility, and marketability. We encourage you to use the guidelines here to establish generally favorable conditions, then optimize to grow the finest carrots possible in your region.
- Next up in our carrot-growing series: Carrot Season Extension »
- How to Grow Carrots, with Dr. John Navazio »
- Organic Variety Trial Reports | Collected reports from around the US on organic crop performance »
- Johnny's Blog | Why Grow Carrots? Flavor, Diversity, & Marketability »