WHEN TO PLANT

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  • Carrot seeds may be sown outdoors 3 weeks before the last expected frost date or when the soil temperature can be kept at 45°F or above
  • A severe frost can damage young carrots
  • Cooler temperatures for growing your carrots will slow the germination time; it could take up to a month or longer for your carrots to germinate when planted early in the spring
  • In sub-tropical regions plant carrots in fall or winter
  • For growing carrots, soil temperatures of 75-80°F during the day is optimal and can be accomplished in cooler temperatures by using row covers over the bed to hold in heat
  • When growing carrots, they take about 70-80 days to mature
  • Plant a quick-maturing variety for early for a summer harvest
  • Plant a second crop 2-3 months before the last expected frost date for your winter fresh-eating supply
  • Cover live carrot plants with 12 to 18 inches of clean barley straw before the temperature drops below 24°F – this will keep the carrots in the ground from freezing so you can eat fresh carrots all winter (if you’ve planted enough)

WHERE TO PLANT

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  • Carrots produce best in full sun but can tolerate light shade
  • Having loose soil that is free of rocks (reasonably) is optimal for proper growth. So, choose an area that is easy to dig, with few rocks, and plenty of sunshine throughout the day

PREPARING THE SOIL

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  • Carrots are capable of having a very deep root system (up to 3’ feet down) and will perform best when planted in deeply dug, rock free, loose soil
  • Dig and re-dig your carrot bed 10-12” down, removing any rocks and breaking up any lumps in the soil
  • Once the soil is loosened, you can add 12-18” of loose soil on top to form a raised bed
  • Mixing fully composted material in will help to loosen the soil, but avoid using fresh manure as the high levels of nitrogen will produce leggy, poor tasting carrots
  • Test the pH level in your soil; carrots require a pH between 6.0 – 6.5

SEEDS AND GERMINATION

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  • Carrot seeds are very small. They are difficult to space evenly and very easy to over-plant
  • The best way we have found to sow carrot seeds is to roll them out between your thumb and index finger
  • Space them about 4-5 seeds per inch
  • Cover your seeds with a minimum of ¼” soil but not more than ½”
  • Planting your seeds in a row, even if the rows are tightly spaced, is easier to manage when it comes to thinning and weeding compared to broadcasting
  • Once your seeds are planted, water the bed very gently so you do not wash your seeds away – do not let soil dry out
  • Seed viability – 3 years

GETTING STARTED INDOORS

  • NOT RECOMMENDED

PLANTING/GROWING (Planting seeds directly into the garden)

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  • Once your carrot tops have grown 2” high, thin plants to 1” apart
  • In two weeks thin your plants again to 3”-4” apart.This will allow ample room for your carrots to grow and prevent them from becoming deformed.
  • As your seedlings grow, cover the crowns (where the carrot meets the stem) with an organic mulch such as dry leaves or straw. Exposed crowns will turn green and cause the carrot to taste bitter
  • We prefer to use straw for mulch – leaves work o.k. but before they have time to compost (rot) they are likely to blow around the yard
  • If available, use barley straw; it is more absorbent than wheat straw and retains moisture longer
  • Once soil temperatures rise above 70°F, carrots become stunted and bland tasting
  • Covering your carrots with straw or another organic mulch will keep the soil temperature down when temperatures begin to rise
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  • Be sure to periodically check the growth of your carrots and if the crowns appear above the soil, continue to apply mulch to keep them covered
  • Jenny’s Tip: This year we discovered a liquid organic leaf spray called Organic Garden Miracle™ that we are really impressed with. Not only did the size of our carrots increase, they were sweeter and had better flavor than they had last year. You might want to check it out!

WATERING

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  • The mulch you apply will help provide even moisture levels and minimize weeds
  • If your soil is dry, gradually water the bed over several days
  • Avoid a sudden heavy watering; this could cause the roots to split

COMPANION PLANTING / ROTATION

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  • Good companions to carrots are tomatoes, beans, rosemary, cabbage, brussels sprouts, peas, onions, lettuce, radishes, & peppers – all of these all have shorter root systems and do not hinder the formation of the carrot
  • Bad companions are celery, dill, and parsnips as their growth is affected by close proximity to carrots

WHEN TO HARVEST

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  • Carrots improve in flavor the longer they have to mature and become sweeter after frost
  • You can harvest your carrots as soon as they are big enough to eat or wait until they are fully mature and harvest them all at once for winter storage
  • If harvesting the entire crop, do so before your first frost in the fall
  • Moisten the soil the day before harvesting (if needed) to soften the soil and make the removal of the carrots easier and less likely to break
  • The use of a digging bar (inserted a couple inches away from the root and rocking it back and forth) has worked very well for us when trying to remove deep-rooted carrots
  • A spading fork is not recommended; it is more likely to bruise or damage the roots and a shovel may not reach down far enough causing the carrot to break off at the tip

Jenny’s Tip

This year we put a 12″ layer of dry barley straw mulch over our half of our carrots to keep them from getting frozen in the ground, which ruins carrots. We’ve had nights this year as low as -15°F, and the carrots aren’t frozen; we’ll still be harvesting fresh carrots at the end of winter or very early spring!

STORAGE

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  • When storing carrots for the winter, twist off the tops of only the mature, straight, undamaged carrots
  • Line a crate, plastic bucket, or wooden box with newspaper and layer the carrots (so they are not touching) placing newspaper in between layers. Sand also works well but is a bit messier to deal with
  • Preferably, store in a root cellar or a cool, dark location (such as under the house or in the garage)
  • Ideal storage conditions are 32-40°F and 95% relative humidity

On a Personal Note:

Our cellar contains one refrigerator and three freezers, so it isn’t overly cool. So Barry dug a 4ft. wide x 6ft. long by 4.5ft. deep hole on the edge of the garden, lined it with a plywood “box,” and covered the root crops (carrots and potatoes) with dry barley straw – at least 12″ thick. It keeps the carrots and potatoes from freezing all winter and cool in the summer.

COMMON PESTS AND PROBLEMS

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  • There are various pests whose larvae/maggots tunnel through the roots of carrots (rust flies, weevils,carrot beetle)
  • Here are three things you can do to ward them off in the spring:
  • 1. Apply row covers right after planting seeds to prevent these pests from laying eggs on/near the plants
  • 2. Add parasitic nematodes to the soil in the spring (good bacteria – I like to think of it as pro-biotic yogurt for my plants/soil)
  • 3.Rotate your crop location every year to keep the overwintering adults away from your new crop
  • Other threats include animals such as deer, rabbits, woodchucks and gophers
  • Protecting your garden with fencing is your best option
  • If carrot flies (rust flies) are a problem in your area, waiting to plant until after June 1 and harvest before mid September will avoid the first and second hatching of larvae
  • Sage or Black Salsify is also known to repel the carrot fly

SAVING SEEDS

  • Insects can cross-pollinate carrot blossoms up to 200 feet (to guarantee pure seed 1,000 ft is recommended)
  • For the backyard gardener who is new to seed-saving, grow one variety, and make sure your neighbor isn’t growing carrots nearby
  • Queen Ann’s Lace, a close wild relative, will also cross-pollinate freely with your garden carrots. If this common weed grows in your garden, keep it mowed or pulled when your seed carrots are going into bloom
  • To harvest the seeds, pick seed heads when the second set of heads has ripened
  • If you wait until the third or fourth umbel to ripen, the earlier seeds will “shatter” (release and drop to the ground)
  • To collect the greatest amount of seeds, plants can be bagged with spun polyester cloth (also known as Reemay) to catch all the ripening seeds as they shatter

You can leave a question or comment.


4 Responses to “How To Grow Organic Carrots”

  1. tracy Says:

    seeding is done easily if you use toilet paper folded longways and sprinkle with spray bottle of water. then drop seeds sparingly along the way.

  2. Nadia Says:

    I’m confused about the add parasitic nematodes. Aren’t parasitic nematodes bad for humans as they manifest as ring worms, and heart worms passing diseases to both animals, and humans that can be deadly? Are you talking about parasitic, or free-living type as mentioned in Wikipedia?

  3. Randall Says:

    What’s the problem with ending up with seeds crossbred from multiple varieties?
    If both varieties are good the result will probably be fine too right?

  4. Jenny Says:

    I wrote an article on this topic. It will provide the answers to your questions in detail: http://www.onthegreenfarms.com/farmer-browns-journal/what-exactly-is-a-hybrid-seed/

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