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Carrot Growing Guide

Carrots are an excellent source of vitamin A and add vibrant color to meals. They can be served cooked or raw, on their own or in salads. It's usually recommended to grow 30 carrots per person to supply enough fresh carrots and a bit extra for canning.

Site Selection

Carrots thrive in loose, sandy loam soils that are well-drained. In heavy soils, they mature more slowly, and the roots can become rough and unattractive. Carrots can grow in some shade and are suitable for small gardens and flower beds.

Soil Preparation

Remove all rocks, trash, and large pieces of plant material from the soil surface. Incorporate small, fine plant material to enrich the soil. Spade the soil 8 to 12 inches deep, ensuring all plant material is covered. Smooth the soil and work it into beds to allow good movement of air and water.

Seed Germination

Carrot seeds tend to trip up many newbie and seasoned gardeners alike. Here are some tips to ensure optimal seed germination.

  • Soak seeds

Soak the seeds in water for an hour before planting to speed up germination.

  • Use damp paper towels

Place damp paper towels on a flat surface and space the seeds about two inches apart. Cover with another damp paper towel, put the whole thing in a plastic bag, and check daily to keep the paper towels damp. Once the seeds sprout, usually after about a week, you can plant them.

  • Freeze seeds

Put the seeds in a ziploc bag and place them in the freezer for 24 hours to mimic a cold snap. This can help the seeds germinate more evenly.

  • Plant in early spring

Carrots are a cool season crop that germinate best in soil temperatures between 55–75°F, so you can plant them in early spring once the soil reaches around 50°F.

  • Cover with burlap or row cover

Keep the soil from drying out by covering it with burlap, row cover, plywood, or cardboard. You can also water the area through the covering.

  • Water lightly

Water the seeds lightly every day if the soil is dry.


Popular carrot varieties include:


Begin planting carrots as soon as the soil can be worked in spring. In South Texas, plant carrots any time from July through February. In many South Texas areas, carrots can be grown all winter. For a fall crop in other areas, plant them in August.

Using a hoe handle or stick, make one or two rows ½ inch deep on top of each prepared ridge. Scatter 18 to 20 seeds per foot in the row. Because carrot seeds require 14 to 21 days to sprout, many gardeners mix a few radish seeds with carrot seeds to mark the row. Cover the seeds lightly.

Carrots grow best in cool temperatures of early spring and late fall. Ideal temperatures are 55°F at night and 75°F during the day. High temperatures result in poorly colored, low-quality carrots.


Carrots require a balanced mix of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (N-P-K) for optimal growth, with an emphasis on phosphorus for strong root development. Too much nitrogen can cause excessive foliage and poor root growth, making precise nutrient management crucial.


Organic Fertilizer Recommendations

Organic fertilizers are ideal for carrots as they release nutrients slowly, improve soil structure, and enhance soil life. Here are some recommendations:


  • Composted Manure: Rich in nutrients and organic matter. Ensure it is well-composted to avoid burning plants.

  • Bone Meal: High in phosphorus, promoting robust root development. Mix into the soil before planting.

  • Fish Emulsion: A liquid fertilizer high in nitrogen, balanced with phosphorus and potassium, supporting overall health.

  • Wood Ash: Rich in potassium, it can be lightly sprinkled over the garden bed to boost root growth and disease resistance.


Fertilizing Schedule

A well-timed fertilizer schedule maximizes carrot yield and quality:


  • Before Planting: Incorporate compost or a balanced organic fertilizer into the soil about two weeks before sowing seeds.

  • During Growth: Apply a half-strength liquid organic fertilizer, like fish emulsion, 3-4 weeks after seedlings emerge.

  • Mid-Season Boost: Depending on growth and soil condition, another application may be beneficial halfway through the growing season.


By following these guidelines, you can ensure a healthy, bountiful carrot harvest.


Keep the soil moist to about 3 inches deep by watering as required.

Care During the Season

When carrot tops are 4 inches high, thin the plants to 2 inches apart. As they grow, thin to 4 inches apart. Overcrowding and rocky soils result in poor quality roots. If radishes were mixed with the carrots, pull and eat them as they mature.

To prevent soil crusting, lightly scratch the soil around the plants and sprinkle the row with water often, or cover the seeds with vermiculite or sand.


Keep carrots free of weeds, especially when they are small, as weeds will take nutrients and moisture from the soil and reduce yields.


Carrots should be ready for harvest 70 to 80 days after planting. Pull them from the soil when the roots are 1 to 1½ inches in diameter. Loosen the soil around the carrot with a spade to avoid breaking the roots. After harvesting, remove the tops. They can be used for a host of culinary uses. They taste like parsley and can even be used for a fun pesto.


Wash the carrots and store them in the bottom of the refrigerator. Carrots will keep for several weeks if placed in a plastic bag to increase humidity and stored near 32°F.


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