Carrots are very popular in the home garden. They are easy to grow and have many applications in the kitchen. Today you can grow carrots of different sizes, shapes and colors. In good, loose soil the standard sizes work well. In compacted or rocky soil there are many short varieties that may be used.
Carrots are a warm weather vegetable and will not grow after heavy frost. Plant in spring after last frost date.
A moment of thought will tell you what carrots need for optimum growth. Just remember, carrots grow under the ground. Depending on variety planted, the carrot must push it's way into the soil 4-10 inches as it matures. If you plant a carrot that wants to grow 10 inches deep and it is planted in hard or rocky soil, the carrot will be stunted or malformed. Therefore, plan ahead as to the variety to plant according to your soil type.
Prepare the soil by rototiling or shoveling to a 12 inch depth. Add 1 inch of compost and 1 inch of well aged steer manure and work well into the soil. Plant seed 1/4 inch deep and 2 inches apart in rows 10 inches apart. Raised beds (square foot) works good for carrots. In raised beds do not plant rows. Instead cover the entire growing area with seed 2-3 inches apart in every direction. Thin seeds to 3-4 inches apart when the seedlings are 2 inches high. Water well but not to the point of leaving standing pools on the surface.
Carrots are not bothered by a lot of pest above ground (rabbits) but can be harmed by maggots underground. The best organic fix for this is to use row covers. Row covers (a plastic or cloth covering) is available at your garden shop and may be re-used year after year. They will prevent the fly's from laying eggs at the base of your plants where the maggots emerge to feed on your carrots.
Watering and Fertilizing
Carrots need about one inch of water per week. The best way to determine when you need to water is to push your finger about 4 inches down into the soil a few inches away from the carrots and if it feels dry, it's time to water. Remember that carrots grow as much as 10 inches under the ground so water slow and for an extended time.
Carrots need a low nitrogen fertilizer like 0-10-10 (the first number represents the amount of nitrogen). Fertilize when the tops are about 3 inches tall around but not touching the base of the plant. Scratch the fertilizer into the soil gently.
Carrots are the sweetest when left to full maturity before harvest. So, don't harvest too early. Pull a test carrot periodically and check for flavor. When you like the taste, you should harvest all in the next 2-3 days. In cool weather you can leave them a little longer. Carrots may be refrigerated in a sealed plastic bag for a week. They also may be frozen. If you have a storage area that is around 35-40 degrees (basement, garage) you can store them all winter by placing the roots in a wet sand.