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Carrots are another easy crop to grow, but they require soil preparation for best results. They come in many varieties and colors. To find the best carrots for your area, you can ask other gardeners or the County Extension Agent, or experiment by growing several varieties yourself. I have found by experimentation that Danvers Half Long grows best in the ground in my garden. I have not tried container growing yet.
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Types of Carrots:
You should pick the carrot type that corresponds to your soil conditions. Some carrots grow in heavy soil or shallow beds; others grow best in sandy soils, or deep, loose beds.
Some carrots for heavy or shallow soils are Ball, Thumbelina or Chantenay, which is like Ball, but longer. Another variety is Danvers, which grows in a short, stout form.
In sandy soils, or loose soils like container gardens, try Nantes, or Imperiator, which produces long carrots like you see in the supermarkets.
There are also different colors of carrots: the traditional orange color, but also purple (Dragon Red), crimson (Atomic Red), white (Lunar White) and yellow (Amarillo). Check seed company catalogs for the various varieties.
You should grow your favorite carrot variety, but I am a fan of experimenting with other varieties–you might find one you like as well as your favorite!
Soil for carrots:
Carrots prefer deep, loose and rock-free soil. Raised beds or containers are best for carrots, in order to control the soil composition. Use compost and worm castings (vermicompost) for fertilization. Avoid N-heavy fertilizers; use one heavier in P and K; try 4-5-4 or 6-6-6 types of fertilizers. Fertilize 5-6 weeks after planting.
If you are using deep containers for carrots, use peat, vermiculite and fertilizer for soil. Plant as usual, and thin to 3-4″ apart. Keep an eye on the water needs of your container, and keep the soil moist.
Carrots require 6-8 hours of sunlight. Since you are planting before other plants, be aware of where taller plants are to be located. Don’t plant carrots where other tall, fast-growing plants will shade them.
Start planting 2 weeks before the last frost date, (March 1 in Zone 9) and continue planting every 2 weeks, for a continuous harvest until the soil temperature is too high for germination. In the fall, you can begin to plant 10-12 weeks before the first fall frost date. Planting after this time can be done, but the carrots won’t be mature before the frost date. In Zone 9, this may not be a problem, and you can grow carrots throughout the fall and winter. I have some in my garden now that survived the cold weather and are still able to be harvested.
Sow 1/4″ deep, 2 inches apart. To get good depth, scatter on surface, then cover with 1/4″ soil. Water gently to avoid washing the seeds away. Keep soil moist but not soaked, with one and a half inches of water per week. Don’t transplant, as carrots don’t like their roots (the actual carrot) disturbed.
Carrots will germinate in 7-21 days. Make sure the soil temperature at planting is 50 degrees or higher.
Caring for carrots:
Thin the seedlings to 4-6″ apart, as they need room to grow and develop properly. Don’t pull the excess plants; instead, clip the tops to avoid damaging the roots of other plants. Do this when weeding also-don’t pull, but clip.
Carrot need loose soil to form properly. Compacted hard soil, or rocky soil will not allow the carrots to reach their full size and shape. That is why I suggested selecting the carrots to match your soil type.
When the carrot shoulders appear, cover them with mulch or soil, or else the carrot tops will turn green. Mulch will also keep the weeds down.
Don’t let the beds dry out. Carrots need 1.5 inches of water per week. If they do dry out, rehydrate over several days, because too much water applied too fast will cause splitting.
Harvest after 70-80 days; you can also keep them in the ground until you need them. Fall carrots are sweeter, as the cold weather makes them put sugar in the root. Harvest after moistening the soil or loosening the dirt so that they are easier to pull without breaking the tops.
Carrot don’t have many insect enemies. One is the Carrot fly larvae that burrow into the carrot root. Control the Carrot fly by interplanting carrots with onions, rosemary and sage. Planting with Chives will improve growth and flavor, but planting near dill will retard carrot growth.
Carrots need 2 years to produce seeds. Leave some in the ground, and next year, they will flower and produce seeds. Harvest the seeds by placing the seed head in a bag. Rub the seed head to cause the seeds to fall into the bag. Bees are also attracted to the white flowers.
Growing the best carrots can be done with a little planning and foresight. Plant carrots for your soil type, keep the soil loose and weed-free, keep the soil watered, and you will get a great harvest! Let the community know of your carrot experiences in the comment section below!