Growing Carrots in the Home Garden

Growing Carrots in the Home Garden

Carrots are a nutritious, versatile vegetable. They are an excellent source of Vitamin A. Carrots are used in soups, stews, casseroles, salads, breads, and cakes. They are also a common item on relish trays.

Planting

Sow carrot seed at a depth of 1/4 to 1/2 inch, beginning in early April in central Iowa. For a continuous harvest, make additional plantings every 3 to 4 weeks. The last practical planting date for carrots is August 1.

Space rows 18 to 24 inches apart. If necessary, thin the seedlings within a few weeks of germination. After thinning, seedlings should be spaced 2 to 3 inches apart.

Suggested Varieties

Numerous carrot varieties are available to home gardeners. The main differences between varieties are the shape and size of the root. However, a few varieties have unusually colored roots. Carrot roots can be long and tapered, cylindrical, or even roundish. Most carrots are orange. However, yellow, red, and purple colored varieties are also available.

Suggested carrot varieties for home gardeners in Iowa include:

  • Danvers Half Long - 6 to 8 inches long, 2 inches thick at shoulder, conical, dark orange.
  • Dragon - 6 to 8 inches long, reddish purpleexterior, yellowish orange interior, novelty.
  • Little Finger - 3 to 4 inches long, 1/2 inchacross, deep orange.
  • Nantes Half Long - 6 to 7 inches long, 1 1/2inches thick at shoulder, cylindrical, red-orange.
  • Nelson - 6 to 7 inches long, cylindrical, blunt tipped, deep orange.
  • Red Cored Chantenay - 5 to 7 inches long, 2 inches thick at shoulder, conical, red orange.
  • Royal Chantenay - 5 to 7 inches long, conical, red-orange.
  • Scarlet Nantes - 6 to 8 inches long, cylindrical, red-orange.
  • Short'n Sweet - 4 inches long, orange.
  • Thumbelina - 1 inch round roots, orange, novelty.
  • Yellowstone - 8 to 10 inches long, yellow, novelty.

Watering

Carrots like consistent moisture supply from seed germination until harvest. Adequate moisture supplies are most important during germination and root enlargement. Dry soils during germination usually result in poor stands. Inadequate moisture during root growth may result in small, woody, poorly flavored carrots. Cracking may occur if there is a sudden increase in the soil moisture levels (either from rain or irrigation) after a long, dry period.

Carrots perform best when they receive 1 inch of water each week. If possible, water once a week during dry weather.

Weed Control

Control weeds with frequent, shallow cultivating (hoeing). Hand pull weeds in the immediate vicinity of the carrots. When the carrots are well established, apply a mulch between the rows. The mulch will help control weeds and conserve soil moisture.

Problems

Crusting of the soil surface and dry soil conditions may result in poor germination. This is particularly true of summer plantings. Crusting may be prevented by lightly covering the seeded row with vermiculite, sawdust, or peat moss. During dry weather, gently water the row to promote germination.

Carrots grow poorly in heavy soils. Long-rooted varieties may be stunted, forked, or twisted. Growing conditions can often be improved by incorporating organic matter, such as compost, into heavy soils. Do not add fresh manure to the soil. Fresh manure may result in misshapen roots. Another alternative is to grow carrots in a raised bed.

Harvest

Harvest carrots when the roots are 3/4 inch or more in diameter. Trim off the tops 1/2 inch above the roots. Most carrot varieties mature 60 to 80 days after planting.

Mature carrots can be stored for several months at a temperature of 32 F and relative humidity of 98 to 100%. Surplus can also be canned or frozen.

This article originally appeared in the 2/23/2005 issue.

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