Carrots are Truly an Amazing Food
First and foremost, carrots are packed with vitamin A-that vitamin that’s good for your eyes and skin. (I bet you’ve heard someone tell you that a long time ago! It’s true!) They are also rich in fiber. Carrots are a versatile veggie for the cook and they are easy to grow if you know the secrets. And something you just can’t believe until you taste them: carrots are deliciously sweet if you eat them straight from the garden-a treat you just can’t buy in a grocery store. So, here’s the list of secrets!
A Summary of Carrot Growing Secrets
- Prepare the ground with amendments for root veggies.
- Sow very shallow-read my technique to ensure that your carrots actually sprout!
- Monitor the moisture of the soil throughout the growing season, especially in the beginning.
- Thin them out, more than once if need be-see my rule of thumb
- Harvest young carrots to eat and give the rest more time to get fat!
- Harvest carefully
- Store and/or preserve properly
The First 5 Secrets
Secret One: How to Prepare the Ground for Carrots
The first thing to consider is the bed your carrots need to grow in. Carrots need loose soil in order to be able to grow straight down. Carrots are lazy in that regard-if they meet an obstacle, they won’t push through it-they go around it or spread out with new “legs”.
Please! Check your local planting zone suggestions before you start. Plant in the correct season! For example, carrots are planted in the Fall where I live in Florida. They are sown in the early Spring in the northern states.
Steps for a Carrot Bed
- For a raised bed, make sure the soil is loose to a depth of 18 inches. You may need to add soil to be sure your bed is deep enough. Remember, loose soil will pack down some, so it’s important to start 18 inches deep. Follow steps 5 through 7, making the ditches about 12 inches apart.
- If you are planting in the ground, get a pitchfork and push it down deep into the soil. Wiggle it back and forth to loosen the soil.
- Pile surrounding soil from the paths to make a hill 12 inches deep. I use a garden rake to pull up soil from the path, making the path lower, as if it were now a shallow ditch. If your path is not healthy soil, try adding soil from a nearby garden bed. My path always has a leaf covering that has been breaking down for a long time, so it has some nutrients in it.
- Level off the top of the hill to be 18-21 inches wide.
- Run a hoe down the entire length of the hill you created about 6 inches from the edge. This will create a ditch for the seeds but the ditch MUST be no more than 1 inch deep. Repeat on the other side so you have two shallow ditches on the same hill.
- Add fertilizer that is especially for root crops. Bone meal or calcium should be one of the ingredients. For an extra boost, add a thin layer of worm castings into the ditch. I personally add sulfur because I have to bring my soil ph to less that the normal 7.0 it likes to gravitate toward. (Carrots like 6.0-6.5)
- Take a hand rake or use your fingers and stir the fertilizer into the soil in the ditches.
That was the hardest part, I promise!
Secret Two: Sowing Carrot Seeds Shallow
This part is not hard but it’s a little tedious. It will be worth it though! There’s a technique to sowing carrot seeds. The little buggers are so small. They can be a real pain, getting them spaced halfway decent. If you will take the time to sow the seeds carefully, you will be rewarded with less work later.
- Drop the seeds into the shallow ditch that you created, ⅓-½ inch apart.
- DO NOT COVER the seeds
- Water the seeds with a fine mist. The action of the water will bury your seeds IF your soil has loose particles.
- Water with a fine mist every day if the soil has dried out. They can’t be soaking wet all the time but they also cannot dry out completely. They are very tender for the first couple of weeks.
- It will take 7-10 days before you see little grass looking blades coming up. Keep watering them very frequently until the true leaves are about 2 inches tall.
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Secret Three: Monitor the Soil Moisture
- This is the easy part-water your growing carrots to keep the soil moist but not soggy and don’t let it completely dry out. The frequency will be less often as the carrots grow bigger.
Secret Four: Thin the Carrots, Rule of Thumb
- The first time you thin your carrots you are basically getting them evenly spaced to one inch apart. Use your thumb as a measure, literally! Space them a thumbs width apart.
- If you ended up with gaps, you can carefully transplant them. Using a spoon, scoop the whole area of soil around the baby carrot. Carefully place the whole scoop where you want it. If the root becomes bare at any time, this transplant will not work.
Secret Five: The First Harvest
- The second time you thin the carrots will be to make room for the ones left in the soil to grow bigger. This is your first harvest but wait until the carrots have grown fat enough to almost be touching. (If you followed the rule of thumb, they will have room to grow to this point.) It can take four months to get this big, so be patient. Every week or two, check to see if the carrots are about 1/2 to 3/4 inch wide. Carefully pull the carrot out of the ground and push the soil into the hole you just created. The neighboring carrot can continue to grow. The goal is to leave carrots in the ground with a couple of inches between them to encourage them to continue growing.
- The young ½ inch carrots from the second thinning are delicious raw or roasted!
The young carrots on the left need thinning. These are before and after photos. The next photo is the same carrots but thinned out to make room for them to grow bigger.
Don’t skip this step if you want big carrots!
Roast Those Baby Carrots!
No peeling. To roast, just rub the dirt off with a cloth, line them up on a shallow pan. Spray with olive oil and sprinkle with an herb of your choice. Salt if you like too. Bake in 350-degree oven for 15-20 minutes to the doneness you like. They will continue to cook for a minute or two and soften just a bit more. Don’t bake them too long or you will have shriveled carrot leather!
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Harvest Your Mature Carrots
Finally, it’s time to harvest your carrots. Carrots can take up to 5 or 6 months to become fully mature. Keep track of them though. They can become tough and woody if you let them stay in the ground too long.
How do you tell when they are ready? Brush back the soil from the top inch or so of a few carrots to judge how big they are. Or, you can just pull a carrot out every few days to see how big they are. Enjoy that fresh carrot!
To learn how to harvest and preserve your mature carrots, read the thorough article here at Seasons: The Best Way to Harvest, Store, and Preserve Fresh Carrots
Do you have any questions? I would love to help! Just drop me a line in the comments box so we can all learn together.
Did you grow carrots? Please share your story! I would love to hear.
May all your weeds be wildflowers!
“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. – Mat 6:33 CSB