Before doing any planting it is important to make sure that your garden has the necessary sun exposure and soil conditions for planting.
To plant carrots, it is necessary to have full sun, which is considered 6 or more hours of UV light on that area. Carrots prefer well-drained soil that is free of large stones that could block growth. Amending the soil with mature so that it is fertile is great before planting vegetables. Ideally the pH should be around 5.5 to 6.8. pH is a measurement of acid/alkaline values in the soil content. Local garden centers have tools to purchase to measure your soil’s pH. Prepare the bed by turning the soil with a shovel or garden fork. Then rake the top of the soil. This will help the carrot, which is a taproot, to form without anything inhibiting it.
Once that you have determined you have the right growing conditions to plant carrots, it is time to pick out which variety of carrot you are interested in growing. There are hundreds of different varieties to choose from and a wide range of colors as well. Visit different seed companies online to research different carrot seeds and pick those that would most interest you and your family. Carrots are a great choice when teaching children about gardening and growing their own food. It germinates fairly quickly and also has a pretty fast turnaround so that children can see and eat the results of their labor.
Carrots are a cool season crop and planted in early spring. Seeds germinate best at 55 to 75 degrees F. Buying a soil thermometer is the best way to gauge the temperature and when to plant. Plant seeds six weeks after the last frost date.
Now that you have picked the variety of carrot that you are planning to plant in your vegetable garden. There are two different ways of planting the seeds. They can be planted in rows by gently sprinkling the seeds in lines. Or the seeds can be broadcasted, which means gently sprinkled over a larger area – not in rows but more in groupings. Depending on the size of your vegetable garden, space may be limited so either method is completely reasonable. If planting multiple rows of carrots, give at least 3 inches of spacing between each row or whatever your seed packet calls for.
After sprinkling your carrot seeds in rows or grouping, take a handful of potting soil and lightly put a ½” of soil over the seeds. I prefer using potting soil instead of garden soil because it is lighter in weight. This cover will help the seeds to stay where planted and keep birds from eating them.
Now it is important to water in the seeds that have been planted. Using a watering can and watering by hand is the best method. If a hose sprayer is used, the pressure may move the seeds and gather them all into one growing area. Make sure if your watering can has multiple settings that it is on the most gentle so that the water lightly sprinkles over the newly planted seeds.
Dependent on the variety of seed that you have selected the seeds will germinate or start to sprout within 1 to 3 weeks. During germination, watering is extremely necessary – if seeds dry out they’ll not grow. Watering every one to three days will result in the best germination. Make sure to keep the soil moist, but not saturated and soggy.
Once the seeds have emerged and sprouted, it is time to thin the rows. Carrot seedlings can be thinned to 1 to 4 inches apart, however, it is best to follow the seed packet to know exactly what is best for that variety. If small (or immature) carrot seedlings have formed, they can be used for roasting, salads and multiple other cooking applications. Thinning is critical because carrots will be competing for space and nutrients with others that are closely planted nearby. If gardening with children, they’ll love the small, cute carrots they have grown. If thinning is not a favorite pastime, try buying vegetable seeds in seed tapes or pelleted seed. This way the seeds are already perfectly spaced and thinning is bypassed.
Continue to water consistently. For carrots, soil moisture is critical and can result in poor taste or cracking. Grown too dry carrots can have a harsh taste. If grown with varied moisture levels, carrots will most likely crack. Fertilizing with a foliar application that is diluted and organic every three to four weeks will result in a great harvest.
Harvest times vary depending on the variety – some may be ready to harvest within 58 days where others will take 75 to 100 days. Again catch out the back of the seed packet and place a reminder on your calendar or phone to pick some “test” carrots to see if the group is ready to harvest.