Whether you're a raw food foodie or an aspiring chef, carrots are must-have vegetables to have on your urban garden menu. Why grow carrots (Daucus carota sativus / Apiaceae)? Well, they're body-boosting root vegetables with myriad nutritional benefits, they're versatile and tasty (how many too-good-for-you veggies are delicious raw, cooked and used in sweet deserts?), and they're not too hard to grow at all (given the right soil conditions). Plus, they come in a rainbow of colors. (Kind of like Skittles but without the plus-sized pants and cavities!)
So, what do you need to know to grow carrots on your own urban plantation? Here are some sowing, growing and harvesting tips that should help keep your carrot crop happy, healthy and productive.
Soil Conditions for Growing Carrots
If you've tried growing carrots before and ended up with twisted, crooked roots that frightened you a bit, it's probably because you planted your carrot seeds in soil that wasn't well suited for their deep-drilling nature. Here are some sun and soil recommendations that should help your next carrot harvest look as good as it tastes.
To grow straight carrots, make sure that soil is deep, fine and free of rocks, pebbles, twigs and other obstacles. Clumpy, rocky soil won't necessarily stop carrots from growing, but it will produce crooked, tangled roots (as the carrots try to grow around whatever is in their way).
To maximize germination ratesfor those devilishly tiny carrot seeds, make sure soil is fine, light and moist enough to prevent crusting. Sprouting carrot seeds will have a hard time breaking free of heavy soil with a crusty surface.
To help break up soil, try interplanting carrots with fast-growing root vegetables like radishes. (Another reason to grow radishes in your garden this year: They're natural pest repellents that deter cucumber beetles.)
Plant carrots in full sun, where they won't be shaded by taller plants.
Tips for Growing Carrots
- Try and maintain a regular watering schedule and/or even soil moisture. Alternating dry and wet conditions causes split roots.
- Use row covers to prevent garden pests like carrot rust flies and carrot weevils from landing on young carrots and seedlings.
- Keep soil temperatures between 60° and 70° F. (When soil temperature rises above 70° F, carrots have a tendency to turn out small and bland.)
- Consider using mulch around your carrots to stabilize and moderate soil temperature and moisture levels.
To thin carrots(and encourage full-size, well-formed crops), use gardening shears to snip off the tips of crowded carrot seedlings. After thinning, remove plant scraps and cover your seedlings, as the scent produced from thinning attracts carrot rust flies.
- For small container gardening, choose mini cultivars like Paris Market or Little Fingers.
Looking for more in-depth information on growing carrots (like preferred soil pH, planting depths and germination rates)? Check out the Gardening Guides page for carrot-cultivating specifications and other gardening resources.
Images thanks to leocub, FrenchByte and vierdrie!