The cultivation of carrots (Daucus carota subsp. sativus) in the house garden has a completely special advantage: The tasty roots can be harvested over long time always freshly. They are a little smaller at the beginning, but have a particularly mild and sweet taste. Over time, the aroma intensifies and the crop becomes larger and larger.
Planting carrots: location and requirements
The carrot, Daucus carota, Likes loose, sandy soil just like all other root and tuber crops. If the soil is too loamy or stony, carrots tend to be leggy (instead of one spike, there are two or three), form strange shapes or, in the worst case, are severely stunted in growth. On heavy soils, a preceding, strongly root-forming green manure (z.B. oil radish) to loosen the soil. In addition, ridges, mounds or raised beds can be a good way of cultivating carrots profitably even on poor sites.
A wrong soil structure often leads to leginess [Photo: Bk87/ Shutterstock.com]
Sunny locations are particularly fond of carrots. Due to the higher risk of attracting the carrot fly, carrots should not be grown on beds that have been freshly fertilized with manure. Carrots particularly like locations where leeks were previously grown and are happy to have onions, dill, garlic or leeks in their neighborhood. The smell of the onion plants helps the carrots namely to keep away the carrot fly so annoying to them.
If you have had problems with carrot fly, do not sow carrots again on the infested bed for at least three years. As a precaution, you can also choose a different place each year.
Tip: The carrot also finds a sunny location on your windowsill. There you can grow the purple carrot ′Purple Haze′ and four other colorful vegetables with the help of the Plantura vegetable set. Everything you need is already included in the set.
Propagate and sow carrots yourself
To propagate carrots by oneself is quite a laborious affair. Carrots are biennial plants and produce flowers and seeds only in the second year. In our latitudes carrots do not survive the winter, so for reproduction certain carrots must be harvested in the fall. Carrots must be harvested unharmed and retain about 2 cm of their greens. They are then best stored unwashed in sand in an earth cellar or other cool place over the winter.
The carrot forms beautiful umbels
In the spring, plant two of the stored carrots back into your bed, for example. Carrot plants grow more than a foot tall and form beautiful umbel flowers around July. Seeds are ripe at the end of September. To prevent self-seeding, cut off the seed umbels in time, and then hang them to dry. By gently rubbing the umbels between your fingers, the seeds will come out.
Sowing carrots: the right time
Carrots are not particularly sensitive to cold and can therefore be sown early in the spring. Early sowing, for example in early March, is recommended for early varieties, which can be harvested from around the end of May/beginning of June, depending on how warm the spring is. To be able to harvest fresh continuously, sow for example from the beginning of March every four weeks until May. So-called storage carrots, which you want to keep for the winter, should also be sown only in May. They will then grow just large enough by the fall and can then be stored.
Carrots can be sown as early as early spring [Photo: Heike Rau/ Shutterstock.com]
Sowing carrots: the correct procedure
- Draw several grooves about 3 cm deep, each 20 cm apart
- Sow the carrots thinly, preferably with a space of 2 to 4 cm between each seed
Tip: Carrots have a very long germination period. It may take up to four weeks for you to see the cotyledons on the soil surface. If you sow a radish in your preplanted grooves between each carrot, you will make the best use of the space between the carrots. Depending on the weather, the radishes will be ready to harvest after about six weeks and the carrots will have their space back to full use.
- Sow a row of dill or radishes around the carrots. These germinate faster and thus mark the location of the carrots. By the way, dill and carrots promote each other’s growth.
- Cover the grooves along with the seeds with soil, lightly press the soil and water.
Another way to sow is to lay seed ribbons. With them, the carrot seeds already have the right spacing and you certainly don’t have to thin them out later on.
Growing carrots: Suitable varieties
The different carrot varieties differ mainly in the time of ripening, in the suitability of the location, in taste and in shape. There are strongly conical shaped carrots, often called "Chantenay type," more round, cylindrical to blunt or very long varieties. Storage suitability can also vary, the early varieties are usually less suitable for storage. A large selection of carrot varieties can be found here.
Carrots don’t have to be orange
Caring for carrots, watering and fertilizing
Carrots are generally a very low maintenance vegetable crop. They do not need to be watered until dry, do not require extra fertilizer if bed management is good, and do not need to be thinned if seed spacing is correct or seed bands are used. If the soil of your bed settles a bit or the carrots were sown a bit too high, the heads of the roots may be sticking out of the ground. By mounding the roots back up with soil, you will prevent green carrot heads from forming.
This is what healthy carrot plants look like [Photo: Viktollio/ Shutterstock.com]
Watering carrots properly
Carrots like it evenly moist, but reduce their moisture requirements as root size increases. The bigger the carrots get, the more likely they are to tolerate a little drought at times. Anyway, carrots should be watered only in dry conditions. Because an overabundance of water will cause the plants to put their energy into strong leaf growth instead of root growth.
Fertilize carrots correctly
Carrots are medium feeders. They therefore do not require a lot of nitrogen and react to heavy fertilization with strong leaf growth. However, since you want to harvest the root, not the leaves, you should hold off on fertilizing them. Compost, in the fall, along with a soil-rooting green manure such as oil radish, provide enough nutrients for a subsequent bountiful carrot crop. Equally suitable is a primarily organic bio-fertilizer, which delivers its nutrients slowly and gently to the carrot. Our Plantura organic tomato fertilizer meets these conditions perfectly and also stimulates an active and healthy soil life.
If the bed is cleared early last year, it’s also good to plant a nitrogen-fixing green manure crop like clover or lupine. Manure should definitely not be fertilized in the spring, but small amounts of compost can help for seeding or youth development if the bed is very low in nutrients.
Caring for carrots: Thin out and weed the plants
Carrots that are sown too tightly must be thinned out without fail. If this does not happen, even after waiting for a long time, you will harvest a lot of mini carrots, but not large specimens. The plants then simply have too little space to form larger roots. At the beginning of the development, it is difficult to see how many plants are involved and how many should be pulled out, especially in the case of very closely sown plants. Therefore, you should wait with thinning until the plants have grown at least 5 cm high. Thinning should take place during wet rainy weather. Rain prevents the odor emanating from the small roots from spreading far and wide, attracting the carrot fly to your garden.
Weeding is important to reduce competition [Photo: iva/ Shutterstock.com]
Carrots that have been pulled out will grow very poorly if you try to plant them in another location. If the plantlets are still very small, save yourself the work and add them to the compost. If miniature carrots are already there, enjoy the sweet delights. Close any voids created next to the remaining carrots with soil again and press the soil down well. After thinning, each plant should have at least two inches of space from the next plant. For fall varieties that will be harvested very thickly, thinning thinner carrots about a month before the final harvest may be a good idea.
Lack of space can cause deformation [Photo: NeydtStock/ Shutterstock.com]
Carrots are not particularly vigorous and competitive, so it is important to clear them of weeds when they are young. When weeding with a hoe, one must be very careful, as the small roots are easily injured. It is safer to remove the weeds by hand.
Harvesting carrots: Identify the harvest time
There is no optimal time when harvesting carrots. When to harvest is literally a matter of taste. Because the larger the roots become, the more intense their flavor becomes. Harvested earlier, carrots are sweeter and milder and almost everyone will want to eat them unpeeled. If you like the tasty roots in all sizes, you can simply harvest as needed.
The time of harvest can be chosen at will
Generally, it is said that carrots can be harvested after about three months. This timing varies, of course, depending on the prevailing weather conditions. Carrots sown in a cold March are likely to take a few more days to weeks to germinate than carrots sown in April or May. Accordingly, very early-sown carrots will tend to be even smaller and thinner when harvested three months later, and should perhaps be left in the ground a little longer.
How to harvest carrots properly, you can learn here.
Freeze and store carrots
Since carrots are excellent for harvesting on an as-needed basis, there is often no need for long storage at all in many home gardens.
Usually a bunch of carrots is quickly processed
Carrots in the refrigerator
Carrots lose moisture quickly and therefore should be kept in the refrigerator. Wrapped in newspaper or in a keep-fresh bag with a few air holes to prevent mold, the carrots will keep for a good week. Then they slowly begin to shrivel.
Carrots can be prepared ready for cooking, i.e. peeled and cut into small pieces if necessary, and can also be frozen. However, they change their consistency a little. However, for stews, to cook along in a variety of dishes, or for a soup that will be pureed afterward anyway, this form of preservation is ideal.
Carrots can be stored very well when frozen [Photo: Ahanov Michael/ Shutterstock.com]
Storing carrots differently
Carrots can also be stored in sand boxes in dark and cold cellars, traditionally called earth cellars.
You can read all about the origin of the carrot, and what else it is called, in our special article.
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I studied crop science and have always enjoyed gardening, even though my first attempts as a small child were rather unsuccessful. With the expertise from my studies, I now succeed in almost everything – I find topics such as mixed culture, raised beds and composting particularly exciting.
Favourite fruit: cherries, plums and pears
Favorite vegetables: broccoli, chard and peas
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