Carrots (Daucus carota ssp. sativus.)
Related vegetables: Celery, fennel, parsley, parsnip
- Cool season biennial. The enlarged root is harvested the first season of growth.
- Carrot roots can be white, yellow, orange, red, purple, or purplish black. Shape varies from long and slender to short and plump. Select short varieties if your soil is heavy or shallow. Shape and color depend on temperature, age, and growing conditions as well as the characteristics of the variety you are growing. Droughty conditions produce longer roots. High temperatures result in shorter roots.
- Short plant, about 12” high.
- Plant seeds directly into the garden starting 2 weeks before average last frost date. Soil should be at least 45 °F. Spacing varies with variety, see “Planting” below. Since each plant produces only one carrot, replant every 2-3 weeks. Time the last planting to mature on the average first frost date (last planting will be 2-3 months before the average first frost date). Though carrots prefer cool weather they can be planted through most of the summer in northern Indiana. In southern Indiana, do not plant if the crop will mature in the heat of the summer. Temperatures over 75 °F as the roots mature result in poor quality carrots. Planting usually resumes in July. Carrots are somewhat shade tolerant.
- For full-size carrots, harvest when tops of the carrots are 0.75-1.5” in diameter. Carrots are ready to harvest in about 60-85 days (less for finger carrots) and each planting can be harvested for about 4 weeks. Cut off all but 1” of the tops before storing. In fall, harvest or protect as temperatures dip into the upper 20s. Mulched carrots can be harvested until the ground freezes. Estimated yield per 10 ft row is 10 lb.
Make sure to till the soil deeply to prepare for planting. Remove stones and break up clods that could result in misshaped roots. Carrot varieties with long slender roots are usually not recommended for home gardens unless the soil is sandy. In early spring plant carrot seeds 1/4-1/2” deep. Later plantings can be deeper, 1/2-3/4”. Plant 2-3 seeds per inch in rows at least 12” apart. Carrot seeds take 2 weeks to germinate. Soil should be at least 45 °F before planting. Even at optimum temperature (about 80 °F) carrot seed can take more than a week to germinate.
Carrot seedlings are weak and may have trouble pushing through crusted soils. After covering seeds with soil, add a thin layer of fine mulch or compost to help prevent crusting. You can also mix radish and carrot seeds together. The radish seeds germinate quickly and will mark the location of the carrots. By pushing through the soil they prevent crusting. The radishes will be ready to harvest before the carrots have put on much growth. Keep the area watered so the seeds do not dry out before germination.
Thin seedlings when they are about an inch high. Different spacing is used for different varieties and uses. Leave 3 per inch if harvesting as finger carrots. Leave 1-2 per inch if harvesting young. Space carrots that will be allowed to grow to full size 1-2” apart. Spacing within a wide row is 3”x3”.