Carrots are not only crisp, flavorful, and bursting with vitamin A, but are easy to grow and they store well. With the right planning, you can have a homegrown supply in your vegetable garden for much of the year.
Because carrots resist the cold and only need a short time to mature, you can plant your first crop early and also make several succession plantings. Even though carrots prefer cool weather some midsummer plantings, in all but the hottest areas, will most likely produce a good crop if you can keep the soil watered well. In areas where the winters are not very severe, if you plant a crop in September and keep it mulched well, just may produce some Christmas carrots.
Carrots are a root vegetable, which can be medium, long, or short length, and are either tapered or stump shaped. You need to establish the kind of soil you have before you decide which type of carrot to plant. If you have a 10- to 12- inch depth of porous, sandy, and a stone free soil, you can most likely grow the long, slender varieties. In clay or rocky soils, the stubby types should be planted; some will grow to 6 -7 inches while others will only grow to about 4 – 5 inches long.
As soon as your ground is pliable, you will need to spade the soil to at least 8 inches deep, raking it well will help remove the stones. If your soil is heavy clay be sure to work in quantities of humus, or compost, or sand.
You can mark the row with garden twine, and dig a shallow ditch. The carrot seeds will germinate slowly, and the rows will probably be well defined by weeds long before the tops of the carrot appear. It may be a good idea to mix some radish or leaf-lettuce seeds along with the carrot seeds. The radishes and lettuce will sprout very quickly and mark the row. The radishes and lettuce will be harvested long before the carrots and so won’t interfere with the carrots’ growth. This way you will be growing more vegetables in your garden space.
You want to plant carrot seeds roughly 1/4 inch deep in rows that are 16-24 inches apart. For hot-weather planting, you want to sow the seeds 1/2 inch deep. In order to prevent crusting, you will need to cover the seeds with a thin layer of fine compost or sifted soil, then firm up the soil, and water. Be sure and keep the soil somewhat moist until the seedlings have appeared. You then want to thin them to stand about 1 inch apart; and as the carrot tops get thicker, thin once again to about 2-3 inches apart. You can plant carrots about every three weeks during the season making sure that the last planting is about 50 days before the first expected heavy frost. .
Carrots require very little care. Once the soil has been spaded and worked and the rocks have been removed, carrots will only require regular watering and weeding. If you mulch the carrots they will retain moisture and the weeds will be kept to a minimum.
Even though moist soil is necessary for germination, don’t make the mistake of keeping the soil soaked the entire time your crop is maturing. Too much moisture near the end of the growing cycle might cause cracking of the roots.
You should apply a light dusting of fertilizer, roughly 5 ounces for every 10 feet, when the tops of the carrots are 3-4 inches tall and then again at 6-8 inches. Sunlight will turn the orange root crowns green, once they reach the soil’s surface, if you don’t keep them covered with soil.
Carrots fully mature anywhere between 60 and 85 days, but they may be juicier and more tender if you pull them earlier. Check each crown, and if it seems to be about 3/4 inch in diameter, you can pull the carrot. You don’t need to harvest your carrot crop all at one time. They can be left in the ground awhile without getting tough. If you mulch a late crop well, you may be harvesting carrots through a December blanket of snow.