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Carrots (Daucus carota) are fun root vegetables to grow but they do require a lot of patience. The traditional standard is orange carrots, but you can also try growing yellow, white, crimson, or even purple carrots as well. Whichever type of carrot you choose to plant, choosing the correct root size and the shape to suit your soil is essential.
There are five different types of carrots and from these, Ball-type, Danvers, Chantenay carrots have a block type of shape. These are short, fat, and broad at the shoulder with a rounded blunt tip and they have the ability to handle either heavy or shallow soil. Nantes and Imperator carrots are slender and they need loose, deep soil to grow.
If you’re planning to plant carrots in your garden but you’re not sure exactly how to go about it, we’ve got you covered. In this article, you’ll find all the information you need to learn not only how to plant carrots but also how to grow and harvest them. Let’s go ahead and take a look!
Preparing the Soil
To produce the best carrot crop possible, build a raised or double-dig the area where you plan on planting the carrots. The goal is to have loose, rock-free soil which is exactly what carrots need to grow beautifully.
If you’ve got heavy soil, add lots of mature compost to loosen it up. The ideal soil should be well-drained, sandy loam. If the soil is too heavy, the carrots will mature slowly and have rough, unattractive, poor-quality roots. It’s important to remember that to successfully grow carrots, the plot should be cleared of trash, pieces of bark, and rocks. Once the area is dug up properly, use a rake to mix one cup of 10-20-10 fertilizer with the soil for every ten feet of the row that you plant.
Now that the plot’s ready, start sowing the crop at least three weeks before the last expected frost and continue to plant every two or three weeks after that. Carrots are a cool-weather crop and grow excellently in temperatures like in late fall and early spring. The ideal growing temperature for carrots at night is about 13 C and in the daytime, 24 C.
Plant the carrots in rows about 1 to 2 ft apart. Carrot seeds need to be planted about ½ an inch deep and about 1-2 inches apart. Put about 6 seeds to an inch and then cover with about ¼ to ½ an inch of potting mix, screened compost, or even sand to make it a lot easier for the seedlings to emerge from the soil.
Once you’re done, you’re going to have to be patient for 1-2 weeks to see them sprouting. While you wait, make sure to water them gently to avoid washing away the seeds and make sure to keep the soil moist at all times for optimal germination.
When your carrot plants are about 4 inches high, thin them to 1 inch apart and make sure to do a thorough job of this since crowded carrots will end up producing crooked roots. After about 2 weeks thin again to 3-4 inches apart.
It’s important to keep your carrot plants free of weeds, especially when they’re small. Weeds will eat up all the nutrients, leaving none for the carrots resulting in poor carrot development.
Apply mulch gradually to maintain even moisture since dry plants won’t yield a good harvest. If the soil does dry out completely between waterings, remoisten the bed gradually over the period of a few days. This is because drenching the plants suddenly can cause the roots to split.
As the carrots begin to crown, they push up through the soil so you’ll have to keep an eye on them and cover them with mulch or soil or they’ll turn green, bitter and quite inedible.
Protecting Your Carrot Crop
Growing carrots can be quite complicated but that’s actually not the tough part. The hardest part of growing any type of crop is protecting it from threats such as insects, animals and infestations. Here’s a brief list of some of the most common threats to carrot crops and what you can do about them.
Carrot Rust Flies
Carrot rust flies, which look similar to small green houseflies with red eyes and yellow heads, are insects that can ruin your crop. They can infest your crops usually in the early spring so what you can do is delay the planting until early in the summer when there’s like to be less damage. Some gardeners plant chives next to the carrots since chives have a strong scent that masks the sweet smell of the carrots to which the flies are attracted.
Another pest you need to keep an eye out for is the Parsleyworm. These worms are green caterpillars with white or yellow dots, black stripes, and tiny orange horns. They love to feed on carrot foliage but don’t kill them because they’re actually black swallowtail butterflies in their larval stage. Transfer these worms to carrot-family weeds like Queen Anne’s lace and you’ll have gorgeous butterflies in your garden soon!
Four-footed animals like deer, woodchucks and rabbits are the biggest threats to your carrots so you’ll want to keep an eye out for them. To protect your plants from them, you can put up a wire fence around your bed to protect your crop.
Vegetable Soft Rot
If you live in an area where the weather is hot and humid, your crops are prone to a bacterial disease that’s called ‘vegetable soft rot’. To prevent this, rotate your crops and keep the soil loose at all times. Don’t store any bruised carrots since the disease spreads in the storage.
Leaf blight is one of the most widespread carrot diseases. It begins on the margins of leaves with whitish or yellowish spots that later turn watery and brown. If your crop is suffering from leaf blight, try planting resistant cultivars.
Carrot Yellows Disease
If your carrot plants have pale leaves and formations of hairy root tufts, it could be that they’ve got Carrot yellows disease. This disease is spread widely by leafhoppers so the most effective method you can use to prevent them is by covering the new plantings carefully with row covers to block them out.
The more carrots grow and mature, the tastier they become. Usually, carrots don’t take long to mature, roughly about 70-80 days but you can harvest them as soon as they’re big enough to eat (when they are finger-sized). If you prefer, you can just leave them all to mature and harvest them at once.
Hand-pulling carrots is the best way to remove them from the soil, since spading forks can bruise their roots. However, before you pull them out, loosen the soil a bit with a trowel. Watering the bed before you start pulling can help soften the soil and make it easier to pull.
If you want to save your harvested carrots for use during winter, twist off the tops and remove excess soil. However, don’t wash them as it could result in rotting. Layer the undamaged roots with peat or damp sand in boxes topped with some straw and remember not to let them touch each other. You can also store your crop in the garden by mulching the bed with a few inches of straw or dried leaves.
To Sum Up…
Yes, carrots are extremely fussy vegetables to grow but if you’re willing to commit and make the effort, the result can be very satisfying. There’s nothing like bringing your own, organic carrots fresh from the garden to your table so enjoy the experience and happy planting!