Growing carrots is an easy way to provide a power house of nutrition for your family.
Carrots are native to Europe and portions of Asia and are now grown throughout the world.
Since baby carrots hit the market back in 1989 the national carrot consumption has exploded, and why not, carrots are a great healthy snack and can be eaten raw or cooked.
The carotene (vitamin A) is found in the cellulose and cannot be broken down by our digestive system.
For our bodies to extract the nutrients raw carrots need to be juiced, finely shredded or softened by cooking.
Carrots are packed with nutrients; a half cup (100 gm) of cooked carrots contains the following:
Growing carrots in your back yard is a great way to provide different varieties that you can’t get in the super market. Carrots are easy to grow and take little care once they are up and growing.
Growing Carrot Varieties are Endless
With so many carrot varieties available now carrots can be grown through out the United States. In northern areas of the country where the ground freezes, carrots are grown in the spring and through out the summer. In the southern areas and pacific coast carrots are grown in the fall and winter.
The best soil temperatures for growing carrots is 65 to 70 degrees F. Air temperatures are best between 60 to 70 degrees.
One ounce of carrot seed will sow 100 ft of row. Carrots mature between 65 to 85 days. Carrots come in orange, yellow and purple varieties.
Check out Victory Seed and Johnny Seed for varieties that will work in your area. One year I grew a rainbow mix and found them to be sweet and great for storage. They lasted into February in the bottom crisper of my fridge.
Sandy soil with rich humus is best for growing carrots. Heavy clay soils need to be amended with compost and organic matter to lighten them or use raised beds. Carrot roots develop better in lighter soils. You can grow shorter varieties in heavier soils.
Dig manure into the soil in the fall, or use well composted manure as compost. Fresh manure can cause carrots to have rough skin and cause carrot roots to fork.
I like to grow carrots in wide rows. This gives you a larger harvest and fewer paths to weed.
Sowing Carrot Seed
Carrot seeds take 14 to 21 days to germinate. The first shoots are small and tender and can bake and die if your soil is hard and dry. I have found sowing carrot seeds in the early spring or late fall is best. The soil is moist and cool.
In the cool spring I have had my carrots germinate in two weeks. In the early summer I have had total failure to germinate. So keep this in mind as you sow your carrot seeds.
Sow seeds sifting through your fingers down a furrow made with the side of your home. Sprinkle a light dressing of compost through your fingers on top of the seeds. Sowing the carrot seeds into a furrow helps keep the seeds moist. The water stays in the furrow and the sides of the furrow help shade the seeds keeping them moist.
Watch your seeds and keep them moistened until they germinate. Once the seedlings are 1 to 2 inches tall they are more resistant to dryer soils.
Sow seeds in wide rows 12 to 16 inches apart. Sow the seeds across the row 6 inches apart. If you sow your carrots across the row, you can plant other vegetables further down the row. This is a great way to grow more vegetable varieties in a smaller garden space.
As the carrots grow and mature they shade between the row and cut down on weeds.
If you do nothing else thin your carrots!
This is the most important practice with growing carrots. Leaving your carrots to grow natural you a mass of smaller twisted carrots intertwined with each other. This makes them hard to prepare a store.
Please take the time to thin your growing carrots
Carrots on left before thinning, Carrots on right after thinning.
When carrot seedlings are 2 to 3 inches tall they need to be thinned to an inch apart. The soil must be moist to protect remaining carrots.
When the carrots are about ½ inch in diameter, they need to be thinned again to 1 ½ inches apart. After this thinning bring soil up around carrots or mulch around them to keep the sun off carrot shoulders. The exposed carrots will turn green from the sun.
Water the carrots with a good deep soaking once a week. Mulching around the carrots helps keep weeds down and moisture in. At this stage the carrots are on auto pilot until harvest time.
Carrots can be sowed every 2 to 3 weeks for a continued harvest through out the summer.
Harvest and Storage of Carrots
I love harvest time when I can start eating my carrots. I start harvesting my carrots when they reach ½ in diameter. They have the best flavor at this stage. Brush the soil away from the top of the carrot to check how big they are getting.
If your soil is heavy use a digging fork to loosen the soil and pull the carrots with out breaking the tops off. This is easier if the soil is moist and lessens the stress on the surrounding carrots that are left behind.
When carrots are about inch in diameter they are ready to harvest. Use digging fork to loosen soil. If carrots are left in the soil beyond their prime the cores split and become fibrous. Late varieties can be left in the soil until fall.
Trim the green tops back to an inch. My chickens love the carrot tops or add to your compost heap.
Carrots can be stored in a cool basement in baskets. If your storage area is dry layer the carrots in sand. Best storage temperatures are just above freezing. If you have room carrots store well in your fridge crisper. I put them is plastic bags with a few hole for ventilation.
Wilted carrots can be revived by rinsing in cold water and putting in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.
Try growing several varieties of carrots and experiment, you will not be disappointed.