Carrots, specifically the growing of carrots, can be a bit frustrating at times. The seeds are small, they can be tricky to germinate, and somehow one carrot can transform into an octopus throughout the season. It doesn’t have to be this way! There are a few things you can do to insure you grow delicious carrots.
01| Lose the expectations that all carrots look like they came from the grocery store.
Let’s face it. No matter how much time you take preparing your soil and caring for those plants through the season, sometimes you still pull up an octopus. Did you know that thousands of pounds of completely edible carrots are wasted every year just because mainstream agriculture deemed them not sell-able? It’s so sad. Those carrots don’t need to be discarded. Consumers have lost the connection to their food and we simply just need to be reminded how things grow in nature. That octopus carrot tastes just as wonderful as the “perfect” carrot and it’s fun to look at!
02| Prepare your soil. If possible, loosen your soil well.
Remove hard things that may get in the way of the carrot as it’s growing. Doing this, you will help avoid growing to many multi legged carrots. This is also called forking by the way. Carrots really do prefer loose soil. If this is a problem in your area, consider growing varieties of carrots that do well in harder soils. Shorter carrots like oxheart are a good option and carrots that are more thick/blunt will do better as well.
03| Carrot seeds will not germinate well in the summer heat.
This means two things. One, plant early. Don’t wait until the days are hot to plant your carrots. When your soil is ready for planting cool weather crops, plant your carrots. If you must plant them in the heat of the summer, give them a bit of afternoon shade, keep well-watered and if possible, cover your plot/row with a board raised up off the ground just a bit to give them consistent shade until they germinate. I succession plant carrots all the way through the end of July using this method.
04| Don’t let the top of the soil dry out and become crusty.
Carrot seedlings are not very strong and the seed takes awhile to germinate. If you plant your seed, water well and then let the top of your soil crust over in the sun there is a good chance you will experience spotty germination at best. The weak sprouts simply won’t have enough strength to push through that crusty layer of soil.
Ways to overcome this problem?
One, keep the soil moist. I like to water mine in the evening when the sun isn’t so harsh. This loosens any soil that may have hardened during the day and gives the soil time to really absorb the moisture before the harsh sun the next day. Two, place a shade cloth or board raised up on a couple bricks over your seed once you’ve watered to alleviate the effects of the sun. I don’t practice this option as often unless I plant during an excessive heatwave in the height of summer. I simply plant too many carrots to cover everything.
05| Over seed just a bit.
I would rather over seed by a little and have to thin them, than under seed and have large gaps in my plantings. Once my seeds come up, I thin them to about ½ to 1” apart. Let them continue to grow until baby carrots form. At that point, I thin them again, pulling the largest carrots, roughly every other one. This way you gain an extra harvest with plenty of time to grow full sized carrots for fall. I continue this harvesting process throughout the summer; pulling them up as I need them with a final spacing of about 4 inches. This gives those last carrots plenty of space to size up for pulling after those first fall frosts.
An exception to this method of planting would be with Oxheart carrots. These grow wide and not as deep, I would thin these about 2-3 inches apart right off the bat so they have plenty of space to size up.
This was my first harvest of carrot thinnings last summer. If you’re going through the work of thinning your carrots, you might as well wait long enough to make it worth it.
06| Carrots taste the sweetest when they’ve been hit with some cold weather.
I pull and eat carrots all summer long, but their sugars will be at their highest after experiencing few fall frosts. Others leave theirs in the ground right up until it’s almost to hard to dig them up. I don’t because I have little desire to work that hard digging them up. I also don’t like the cold. You may do as you please.
Well, there you have it. Those are some sure fire ways to grow a great carrot crop. All that being said, don’t bother getting too particular. Last year, I was planting carrots with my niece and we decided to throw some seeds to the wind among our winter squash patch. Guess what, they grew beautiful carrots!
Wondering what varieties you should plant? I grow so many different varieties in our garden each year. That being said, Oxheart, Purple Dragon, New Kuroda, Kyoto Red, Black Nebula and Amarillo are staples in my garden and I believe are worth giving a try.