Nothing tastes as good as a fresh grown carrot just pulled from the garden. Carrots are a great winter crop for our area. Seeds can be sown from early fall, into the winter and early spring. It is easiest and best to grow carrots from seed. Carrot varieties are seemingly endless with colors from white and yellow to purple and shapes from very long cones to short round balls. Like all other vegetables, certain varieties do better in our climate and thick gumbo soil.
The first cultivated carrots were Asian and purple in color. The Dutch developed the deep orange carrot and it quickly became the most popular carrot to grow. There are several types of carrots that do well here. The Nantes variety of carrot is the easiest for the home gardener. They perform better in our heavy soil and do not twist or fork. Chantenay carrots also do well in heavy soils. They are short and stout growing to 6 or 7 inches. Imperator carrots are the classic carrot you see in the grocery store. They can be grown in our region but the soil must be amended and tilled to at least a foot deep. Mini carrot varieties are great for containers. We carry several varieties of carrots that can be grown in pots.
Growing carrots from seed is not hard if you follow a few rules. Finely tilled soil is a must for carrots. Fine soil allows the carrot to develop without forking or misshaping. Till your garden to the depth of the carrot length or a little deeper. For Nantes and Chantenay carrots this is 6 to 8 inches deep. Make sure your soil has good drainage. Adding some sand and compost can help. All root vegetables perform better when seeds are planted directly in the garden. Sow carrot seeds 1/4 in. deep in rows 1 foot apart. Cover seeds lightly with very fine ground mulch. Mulch helps retain water which is essential for seed germination. Carrots take 10 days to germinate in warm weather and up to 3 weeks in the cold. You can sow seeds in 2 to 3 week intervals to have carrots all through the winter. Carrots must be watered evenly and from above. Drip irrigation does not work well with carrots. Make sure your carrot seeds stay evenly moist at all times. Water is very important for carrot size and formation. After your seeds germinate and are 1 in. to 1 1/2 in. tall they need to be thinned to 1 1/2 in apart. This is best accomplished by using scissors to cut off extra plants and not disturb roots of remaining carrots. Carrots need space to develop so thinning the seedlings is very important. A good rule for spacing carrots is 3 in. apart in every direction. When carrots are 3 to 4 in. high a final round of thinning may be necessary. Once your seedlings are 4 in. tall all that is required of you is regular water and some weeding. Carrots will be ready to harvest in 60 to 70 days. Harvesting carrots is easy. When carrot leaves are 4 to 6 in. high you can harvest them as baby carrots. For full grown carrots give them another month after harvesting baby carrots. Be sure to give your carrots plenty of water at this stage because they are developing quickly.
There are all kinds of tips and tricks to growing carrots. There are as many techniques as there are gardeners. I could continue this article for pages but I think I need to stop. I found a great website while researching this article. The name of the website is, Grow-it-organically.com.
It has more carrot info and lots of other good advice on soil and organic gardening. Come by Maas and get some carrot seeds for your garden. They are fun to grow, great to eat and very good for you.