Carrots have been a staple food for centuries in Europe, Africa, and Asia for their easy care, nutritive value, and versatility in food preparation. Their rainbow of colors attracts gardeners today, a feature popular with children for snacking and growing in school and home gardens.
- Ancient carrots were likely nearly black; today, purple varieties may also be nearly black but other varieties are orange, red, yellow, or white.
- Very long carrots, such as ‘Imperator’ and ‘Danvers’ are best grown in very loose, sandy, or fine-textured soil for developing length and ease of harvest.
- Many popular varieties are considered half-long, such as ‘Nantes’ and ‘Chantenay’.
- Baby or gourmet 3-5 in. carrots such as ‘Short ‘n Sweet’ and ‘Little Finger’ are recommended for shallow or heavy soil.
- Finger-size carrots may be pulled to thin rows; mature carrots may be stored in the ground and dug when needed during fall and winter. Pull carrots if heavy frost or freezes are expected.
Planting and Care
- Amend heavy ground with compost and remove any clods and rocks, even very small ones, that cause deformities, or plant in raised beds in loose soil.
- Site carrots in full sun in rows at least 1 ft. apart.
- Mix tiny seeds with a small amount of sand or cornmeal for ease in distributing them evenly.
- Cover seeds lightly with fine, sieved soil or compost and maintain moisture to prevent a crust from forming over the surface. In dry or windy weather, cover seeds with spun row cloth or burlap strips and irrigate lightly.
- Watch for sprouts in about 14 days. When seedlings reach 1-2 in. tall, thin to 1-2 in. apart.
- Sow succession crops over a long period from March-July. Carrots planted later may not mature.
- Stay alert to weather conditions in early spring so that young plants are not subjected to long periods of cold temperatures that favor bolting.
- Avoid close planting and high-nitrogen fertilizers that encourage more green tops than roots. Excess nitrogen may also cause root deformities.
- Maintain consistent, even moisture for straight growth and good color.
- Keep root tops, or shoulders, covered with soil to prevent bitter green color.
- Spread a light layer of compost or other organic mulch over soil surface to control weeds and protect soil moisture.
- Harvest small carrots in 3 months or allow them to continue growing. If left in the soil too long, however, they become tough, woody, and cracked.
- Sonoma County Master Gardener Vegetable Planting Summary.