Is a carrot a root?

Taproot

Taproot, main root of a primary root system, growing vertically downward. Most dicotyledonous plants (see cotyledon), such as dandelions, produce taproots, and some, such as the edible roots of carrots and beets, are specialized for food storage.

  • carrotThe tops of the orange taproots of carrots (Daucus carota) emerging from the soil.U.S. Department of Agriculture
  • herbarium sheetHerbarium sheet of a white tufted evening primrose (Oenothera caespitosa variety marginata).Courtesy National Park Service, Pipe Spring National Monument, PISP 5060. Photo by Jordyn Celaya, University of Arizona.

Upon germination, the first structure to emerge from most seeds is the root from the embryonic radicle. This primary root is a taproot. In plants in which the taproot persists, smaller lateral roots (secondary roots) commonly arise from the taproot and may in turn produce even smaller lateral roots (tertiary roots). This serves to increase the surface area for water and mineral absorption. In other plants, the initial taproot is quickly modified into a fibrous, or diffuse, system, in which the initial secondary roots soon equal or exceed the primary root in size and there is no well-defined single taproot. Fibrous root systems are generally shallower than taproot systems.

Two types of root system: (left) the fibrous roots of grass and (right) the fleshy taproot of a sugar beet. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

Different kinds of roots

• The roots of a maize plant, a millet plant and a rice plant are alike.

• The roots of a mango tree, an orange tree and a lemon tree are alike.

• The roots of maize, millet and rice are not like those of the mango tree, the orange tree and the lemon tree.

• Different plants have different roots.

Fibrous roots

Some plants have small, thin roots, all of the same length.

• These roots form a tuft, as for instance the roots of onion, rice, millet, maize.


Rice has fibrous roots

• A plant that has many small roots of the same length, the same thickness, the same shape, has fibrous roots.

Creeping roots

Some plants have roots that are shallow and long.

• Creeping roots do not go deep into the soil.

• These roots go a long way from the base of the plant.

They cover a large area.

They have to find in a small depth of earth the food necessary for the life of the plant.

Many trees have creeping roots.


Creeping roots

• A plant that has shallow, very long roots has creeping roots.

Tap-roots

Some plants have only one root, very thick, deep, straight, called a tap- root.

• Smaller roots grow on this thick root; they are called rootless.

• Tap-roots go deep into the soil.

They cannot penetrate soil that is too hard.


Types of tap root

• Cotton, coffee, cocoa, okra, carrots, papayas all have a root that goes deep into the soil, is very thick and straight.

They have a tap- root.

Tuberous roots

Some plants have very thick roots.

• These roots store up food.

• These roots are thick because they have taken up a lot of food from the soil.

The food is stored up in order to feed the whole plant.

The plant is said to have built up reserves.

For example, cassava.


Cassava roots

• A plant that stores up reserves in thick roots has tuberous roots.

Adventitious roots

In some plants roots start from the stem above the soil, that is, above the collar, and afterwards go down into the earth.

• Adventitious roots grow above the collar.

For example, mangrove, bamboo, maize and rice all have adventitious roots.


A rice plant

• Soil put around the collar helps adventitious roots to grow; the plant is earthed up.

• A plant with roots on the stems has adventitious roots.


Earthing up encourages adventitious roots to develop

Homegrown carrots are known for their sweet and flavorful taste. They also have a bit of a reputation for being hard to grow, but I have found that carrots are fairly easy if they have the right growing conditions. A little bit of information and preparation goes a long way. Being a hobby gardener only, and not a professional, I have personally grown carrots successfully for several years. I’ll show you what I do and give you some how-to tips that can make a big difference in getting them to germinate and grow properly. First some information to help you understand what carrots need in order to thrive in the home garden, then some practical pictures to show you exactly what to do: How to seed, germinate, grow, and harvest homegrown carrots.

Important factors to be aware of

Soil conditions

Carrots like sandy, well drained soil. They do not do well in clay, compact, rocky, or water logged soil. They like moisture, but not wet soil that will not drain. If your natural soil is not optimum for carrots, you could try a raised garden bed and prepare it with soil that will work better. Otherwise, gypsum may help improve clay based soil.

Before you sow, till or work the soil deep and well, down to a couple of inches below the debt of fully grown carrots. Remove rocks, twigs, roots etc. Carrots like loose soil with little / no debris hindering them. You may not be able to get rid of every little bit, so just get the worst of it. Then dig down some fertilizer (see more info below).

Fertilizers

Contrary to a lot of other vegetables, carrots do NOT like a lot of fertilizer! They actually do better in somewhat poor soils, so when it comes to fertilizers, less is more. They do like some nutrition for sure, so don’t avoid fertilizers, but use only half of the amount recommended on fertilizer packages. The best way to know how to fertilize your soil is by doing a soil analyzes at a garden center to figure out the nutrition status of your soil, and go by their recommendations. They cost around $15; bring a bag of about 2 cups worth of your soil, and it may take a week or two to get the result.

In general though, on fertilizer packages you’ll see three numbers in a row that stand for (consecutively) nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium. When I first seed, I often add a little bit of a general, balanced fertilizer such as 10-10-10. But if possible, go very low on nitrogen and more of the other two so you’ll have less green and more carrot. Example: 0-10-10 or 5-15-15. High nitrogen causes a lot of foliage and little to no root growth, which is fine for lettuces but not for root vegetables.

A good way to think about these numbers and and which part of the plant will be focused on, is “Up-Down-All Around”. So for carrots, you want Down and All-around, not so much Up. As a natural supplement every month or so you can add some fish emulsion or sea weed if you’d like (the one linked to has both), which they love! Bone meal is also great, and if adding some potash along with it, you have both phosphorus and potassium covered. Natural fertilizers often add a lot of beneficial trace nutrients as well.

Moisture

Carrot seeds need to stay moist in order to germinate; if they dry out, they will die pretty easily. Carrot seeds are supposedly hard to sprout, and I used to think they were just fussy in general. But for me it has always come down to watering. If I have not been able to keep them moist and they don’t sprout within two weeks, I just try again, no big deal. So far I’ve never had a season without a good carrot crop in the end.

I always succession seed (spacing out two or more sets a few weeks apart) in order keep the goodies coming all summer. When seeding during hot weather, I water at least twice a day, three times if possible. There are times when I delay seeding because I know I’ll be too busy to stay on top of it and there’s no use in even trying.

After sprouting I keep watering frequently but gently for another week or so, depending on weather and temperature, then once or twice a day until they start to really establish and grow. I have also been known to put out a sprinkler with a timer on it mid summer, which frees me up.

Throughout the growing season carrots should be watered regularly just like other crops. But since they grow deep into the ground, they prefer a small trickle over time so it can seep down deep rather than a big downpour that spreads out and evaporates. While also watering other crops, it has also worked well for me to go back and forth between them, allowing water to absorb before adding more.

Seeding Carrots

Before seeding I dig through the soil with a hand rake to get rid of any rocks, twigs, and other debris, and also to fluff up the soil. Afterwards I gently smooth out the top without packing it down, and mark the area to make sure nobody steps where they shouldn’t.

Then I mark lines for rows and make skinny grooves (1/4 inch or so) with my finger or my trusty weeding tool (similar to this one). Seed packets say to space rows a foot apart, but that’s not really necessary unless you have a ton of rows and plan to use machinery to harvest. I usually only have four rows close together at any given time to allow room for weeding and care, so for me five or six inches in between works really well.

The seeds are really tiny, so I pour some into the palm of my hand and pinch a few at a time with my fingertips, rubbing them together and sprinkle into each groove. I move my hand along the row so that they fall fairly evenly into the groove. It’s a good idea to seed them close together, even if they land on top of each other here and there. You’ll space them later. It just helps to ensure that you’ll have enough seedlings growing where you want them, in case some don’t sprout.

After my rows are seeded, I close up the space by pinching a little bit of dirt from either side of the groove, like in the next picture.

Or, if I get impatient, I’ll just sweep my hand over the rows to cover them. In the picture above and below you can also see seedlings from a different planting; some have developed second sets of leaves, while others have just sprouted and still have only two skinny grass-like leaves per plant. (There are also some tiny weeds here and there.) I had decided I didn’t plant enough the first time, so I was at it again.

Then I water; a gentle shower works well. I never squirt with only the hose, I always use some type of sprayer to help distribute the water gently and evenly. It is important to not disturb the seeds or disrupt the tiny little plants as they emerge.

In the next picture you can see more seedlings alongside little sticks, added to make them easier for you to see. This is what they look like in the very beginning. Some of the weeds look similar as well.

Spacing and Care

As you can see in the picture above, some are growing very close together. They can be thinned to about an inch apart as soon as they have emerged or within the first week or two thereafter. You’ll thin more later to give them room as they grow. I’ll get back to that.

To thin, be very careful not to disturb the surrounding carrot roots. So do NOT just pull them out at this stage or you’ll be disrupting the other roots close by and they won’t grow well. Instead, simply snip the unwanted stems off with your finger nails or use a small pair of scissors. Leave the remaining roots alone, they’ll be gone in no-time.

The next picture shows them developing their first true leaves (the second set, not what first comes up), which look much more irregular and like real carrot leaves. Even this early, if you snip one off a bit low down and crush the little root with your finger nail, you’ll notice it already smells like a carrot! Amazing, isn’t it? This test can help you determine whether a seedling is a carrot or a weed, if you’re unsure.

Still only about 2 inches tall. Keep up on weeding so they don’t get crowded out. Be careful to not disturb the carrot roots while weeding.

When the seedlings are around 3 inches tall I go over them to make sure they are about 1 inch apart or a bit more, depending on how the rows look and how the seeds sprouted. At this point they are usually able to handle a little bit more since they are already somewhat spaced. So now I often gently pull them out instead of snipping them, unless some are very close together, in which case I still snip. I thin yet again when they grow big enough to develop some flavor and sweetness, so that we can actually eat the “thinnings”. So I thin and harvest at the same time by pulling from where they’re the closest together, generally trying to space them to be three inches apart.

I’ll pull these two, and about every other in this row:

A small bunch of sweetness!

Eventually, when the carrots are spaced sufficiently to about three inches apart and growing larger, I choose the biggest ones to harvest so the others can continue to grow.

The next two pictures show rows from two different years and using different types of mulch; I definitely prefer grass clippings over black plastic, but it was worth the experiment.

In the picture below you can see two succession plantings of probably a good month apart; the first two rows to the left, which look like one row, and a second double row to the right that’s barely visible. Mulch is helpful to lock in moisture and keep weeds at bay, but I have since learned not to use black plastic around cold weather crops such as carrots or broccoli as it heats the soil too much.

As the carrots grow, you’ll start seeing some of the tops grow up and out of the soil just a little bit.

Make sure to push some dirt up around the tops and cover them well, as the uncovered areas tend to turn green and bitter when exposed to the sun.

It’s a fun stage when you can start to eat the thinnings! The carrot below is not full size yet, but big enough to pull for a tasty treat! As you can see in the picture, I feel the circumference of the top of the carrot to determine its size.

If I want to leave it to grow some more, I just push soil up against it again, making sure the top is completely covered.

Harvesting

You can harvest carrots anytime you like, but they will need some time to develop flavor and sweetness. I like them when they are close to full size. Don’t let them grow too large and thick around or they become very woody and tough. For sweetest flavor and better storage, try to harvest in the morning before the soil heats up too much.

When pulling full sized carrots, take a firm grip at the base of the leaves and the top of the carrot to keep the leaves from breaking off, then wiggle firmly side to side while pulling up:

Otherwise I often like to use my weeding tool again for harvesting, both to loosen the soil around the carrots and to give them a lift before I pull them. It makes the job of pulling large or long carrots much easier and helps prevent them from breaking when you pull. They’re such a pain to get out when they break in the middle! I stick the tool down under the carrot on a slight slant, then push the tool down to lift the carrot.

A hand held garden fork or any small hand shovel can also be useful, otherwise a pitchfork is great for those who have a lot to dig all at once. You would dig down a little bit away from the row to avoid stabbing into the carrots themselves. You just want to break up the soil a bit so you can pull them without effort.

Should I start the carrot seeds inside to get them a head start, then transplant?

NO, you should not!!! It does not work, just look at the pictures below!

Carrots should ALWAYS be seeded directly into their growing area, and here’s the reason: Right after sprouting, the seedlings will send down one really skinny, loooong tap root that will later grow into a carrot. If this tap root is disturbed in any way, such as meeting the bottom of a shallow container, or if it is simply bent or moved a little bit as you try to transplant it, it will grow in very funky ways and often want to shoot out new arms and legs from here and there, and they will end up looking like the ones on the following picture. This can also happen when carrots grow in very junky, debris filled soil. The carrots below were from my very first set of seeds that I had started inside and transplanted, because I didn’t realize at that point that this shouldn’t be done:

So, yeah, not too cool! Some were pretty funny looking though, like the one below, so we did get a few laughs at least!

And though they are definitely edible, they are a royal pain to clean! You just can’t get to all the crevices to brush the soil off!

I started a new row of carrot seeds a few weeks later that same summer, and those carrots (below) ended up looking much better. Same seed variety, same soil and conditions, but these were direct seeded and never transplanted. The difference was remarkable!

After harvesting, instead of leaving the green tops on, like you see at the farmer’s market (it’s what people like to see), cut the greens off ASAP as the leaves will absorb sweetness and moisture from the roots just like other plants do. So I always cut them off immediately before bringing the carrots inside. It’s best to do the cutting a bit away from the garden, as the scent can attract pest insects.

Storage

To store, I gently rub off most off the soil in the grass before I take them in, then I place them in a plastic bag and store in a very cold spare refrigerator. My carrots typically last me all winter this way and stay sweet and crisp. Storage temperatures should be just above freezing, and the carrots should be kept moist. If they dry out, they’ll go limp and soft very quickly and will not last long. I have had some that developed a little bit of ice on the outside but not frozen through, and they kept very well. But do not let them freeze solid!

I hope this post has helped you know what to do in order to grow carrots successfully! If you can get them to germinate and live past the first week or so after sprouting, you should be all set as long as they get watered regularly. It isn’t that difficult, and it feels so good to be able to harvest your own, tasty, home grown carrots!

Can you believe these are carrot flowers?

Photography by Caitlyn Galloway of Little City Gardens

A friend sent me this photo from San Francsisco-based Little City Gardens and I couldn’t help but share it. Who knew carrots produced such pretty blooms!?

Caitlyn Galloway, one of Little City Garden‘s co-founders and lead farmers, shared that they seeded the carrot bed in fall, harvested carrots in spring and left the rest in the ground to flower. By early summer, the carrot plants left in the ground formed these beautiful umbel-shaped flowers. And—you guessed it—purple carrots make purple flowers. Caitlyn and her team grew two varieties of carrots: ‘Nelson’ (orange carrots, white flowers) and ‘Purple Haze’ (purple carrots and flowers).

Keep in mind that carrots are a biennial crop that is grown as an annual. The first season, carrots grown from seed produce leaves, stems, and tasty roots. At this point, we usually pull them up while the roots are young and tender. Left in the ground for another season, the plants “bolt.” Stems elongate, flowers bloom, and seeds form. You can’t get a double-whammy and harvest carrots and flowers from the same plant; you’ll have to choose.

Next year, I’d like to grow enough both for carrots and for blooms. The flowers look just as delicate as Queen Anne’s Lace and would be perfect as a filler for summer bouquets of dahlias, cosmos, and zinnias. I love the idea that a blossom this beautiful comes from a vegetable—it’s almost like a reward for those of us who forgot to harvest the carrots in early spring.

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The Difference Between Tubers & Root Crops

Md Didarul Islam / EyeEm/EyeEm/GettyImages

Root crops and tubers both grow underground. These plants have been providing humans with nutritious food for thousands of years. Roots and tubers look alike, but there are differences.

What are Roots and Tubers?

A root is a compact, often enlarged storage organ with hairy stems that develops from root tissue. A tuber is also a root. More specifically, it’s an enlarged storage organ, but it develops from elongated stem tissue, or rhizome. So a tuber is a root crop, but a plant can be a root and not a tuber.

Carrots and cassava are root vegetable crops. Potatoes, sweet potatoes and yams, on the other hand, are edible tuber crops. There are differences in the way edible root crops, or plants, grow and the way edible tubers grow.

The reason root vegetables and edible tubers contain so many starchy nutrients is because these are the parts of the plants that fuel the growth of the plant above ground. While most vegetables grow above ground, root and tuber vegetables are the part of the plant that grows below the soil or on the soil surface.

Tubers as Plants

Tubers grow on underground rhizomes that run horizontally just below the soil or at the soil surface. The tuber itself is simply a swollen section of these rhizomes. Nutrients collect in these swollen chunks. Their purpose is to store nutrients for the plants in order to generate healthy new growth each spring.

Tubers aren’t like what most people think of as traditional plants with a root. There’s no compact root producing an above-ground plant. Instead, enlarged rhizomes spread horizontally, and along these stems are nodes or eyes.

These nodes may grow up through the surface as shoots and stems or down into the soil like roots. Unlike root plants, you can cut tubers apart and replant them and they’ll grow.

The Function of Roots

What we think of as root vegetables grow like many common vegetables. They have foliage above ground and a root, usually a hairy root, below ground. Roots that aren’t also tubers don’t have those horizontal rhizomes.

But, root vegetables often have the same nodules and growths on them that tuber vegetables have. That’s why it’s hard to tell the difference between these vegetables once they’re harvested.

Root vegetables differ from vegetables grown above ground only in the part of the plant that’s eaten. Sometimes, plant roots and foliage are both edible. Beets and beet greens are a good example.

Tubers That are Edible

The white potato is the most common tuber that most Americans eat. Another tuber is the Jerusalem artichoke. Also called a sunchoke, this plant is often eaten raw. It can also be boiled or roasted similarly to potatoes.

Sweet potatoes aren’t closely related to white potatoes, but they’re tubers, as are yams. Sweet potatoes, native to America, grow in different colors, including orange, white, yellow and red. Yams, which aren’t sweet potatoes, are native to Africa. They’re very large and have white flesh and dark skin.

Cassava is another edible tuber. It’s grown in tropical areas and is an important food starch in many parts of the tropical world. It has a short shelf life, however, which makes it hard to grow commercially.

Tubers provide the starch to keep the plants growing, and this is why tubers are important sources of starch in many parts of the world.

Edible Root Crops

Carrots, with their hairy stems, are a good example of a root vegetable. They look like a plant root. The part of the carrot plant that we eat grows underground, while carrot greens are the feathery foliage that grows above ground. Carrots, like other root vegetables, contain nutrients and starches for growing the above-ground plant.

Carrots are just one type of edible root vegetable. Beets, parsnips and turnips are other good examples. All of these vegetables, along with edible tubers, are full of nutritious starch that provides energy for both plants and humans.

Root Vegetables
© Denzil Green

What we call Root Vegetables aren’t actually all roots: the category also includes other strangely named things such as corms, rhizomes and tubers. For instance, a potato isn’t a root; it’s actually a “tuber.” Peanuts are “technically” Root Vegetables, because they are tubers that grow off a rhizome underground, but they are treated as a nut (and so would you be, if you went looking for them next to the parsnips.)

Technically, to be a “true” Root Vegetable, the vegetable should meet two conditions: grow underground and play the role of a root for the plant, absorbing moisture and nutrients from the ground. The following vegetables are examples of true Root Vegetables: Carrots, Horseradish, Radishes, Rutabagas, Parsnips, Salsify, and Turnips. They are actually the taproot of the plant, which is formed from the very first root that the seed put out.

Generally, though, the term is used for any underground part of a plant that we eat. Even though onions and leeks are both related, we would call an onion a Root Vegetable but not a leek, as leeks grow aboveground.

Root Vegetables have never been very fashionable. Throughout history, they were largely seen as peasant food. And no new fans are being won with people applying to Root Vegetables the current fashion of undercooking vegetables: almost all Root Vegetables need to be well cooked, and can’t be eaten raw.

Most hearty eaters, though, love their “root veg”, as they affectionately refer to them.

Bulbs

Bulbs of a plant that grow underground, as in onions and garlic.

Corms

Corms are underground stems that grow vertically. Celeriac, Eddo, Taro and Water Chestnuts are corms (even though Water Chestnuts grow underwater, not underground.) Corms store starch for the plant.

Rhizomes

Rhizomes are stems that grow horizontally underground. Off of rhizomes grow roots, and the parts of the plant that will appear above ground. Ginger, Galangal, Kratchai, and Turmeric are rhizomes.

Tubers

Tubers are underground stems. They grow in thickness instead of length.

Literature & Lore

Adherents of the Jainism religion do not eat any Root Vegetables, because harvesting them requires killing the whole plant.

How to Grow Carrots

Do you have carrots growing in your garden? Rich in vitamin A and beta-carotene, this vegetable is easy to grow and tastes sweet and delicious when garden fresh. You can grow carrots in short, medium or long rooted varieties depending on your soil type. Seeds can be sown directly in the garden, in raised beds and even in containers. At Southern States®, our gardening experts have advice for growing tasty carrots.

Carrots are not difficult to grow, but the condition of the soil will impact their ability to thrive. In order for carrots to develop long, straight roots, they need to be planted in deep, loose, sandy soil without any stones. If your soil is compact or rocky, plant this root vegetable in raised beds or containers. Make sure your container is deep enough – 12 inches or deeper is recommended. The biggest challenge to container gardening is watering. Keep your carrots watered and don’t let your containers dry out.

For best results, follow these steps:

Step One: Supplies

Choose carrot seeds with the right root size and shape to suit your soil. If your soil is heavy or rocky, grow short rooted carrot varieties. Other supplies you may need include: compost, sand, rake, organic mulch, deep containers and a garden trowel.

Step Two: Prepare Your Soil

Take the time to prepare your soil before planting and you will be rewarded with an abundance of delicious carrots. Work the top 8 inches of dirt with compost and sand to create rich, loose soil. Some gardeners recommend adding a little wood ash to the soil because it contains soluble potassium which is a great nutrient for vegetables.

Step Three: Sowing Seeds

Carrot seeds are tiny and can be difficult to space. Sow your seeds in the ground, in a raised bed or in a container about 1/4 inch deep in the soil. Sow several seeds together about 2 inches apart. Provide ample space (12 – 18 inches) between rows. Keep the soil moist until the seeds germinate.

Step Four: Thinning

As your carrots grow, you will need to thin out your plants. Thinning provides carrots ample room to grow underground. Thin out tender plants once the carrot leaves are two to three inches high (about 25 days old). Thin the seedlings so the young plants are about two inches apart, depending on the variety’s mature size. Next, apply a thin layer of organic mulch to help the soil retain moisture.

Step Five: Harvesting and Storing

Most carrot varieties take approximately 65 to 75 days from sowing to harvesting. When ready, grab the top of the carrot, give it a half-twist and pull. Cut off the green tops immediately to prevent moisture loss. Rinse and store in the refrigerator or other cool, dark location.

Shop Southern States for everything you need to grow carrots. We have lawn and gardening supplies in your local store and online to help you get the job done.

With their rich orange color, sweet taste, crisp texture and overall versatility, carrots are a popular and well-loved vegetable. However, because they are a root vegetable, many people assume they are difficult to grow. But that’s simply not true. Carrots are a relatively easy vegetable to grow, hardy enough for all zones, and come in a number of varieties to suit every taste. Consequently, they make a great crop for the beginning and experienced gardener alike.

Table of Contents:

  1. Before You Plant
  2. Planting/Growing Carrots
  3. Maintenance/Harvesting Carrots
  4. Additional Tips and Advice

Before You Plant

Choose the Right Type of Carrot:

Choosing the right variety depends on your individual tastes and type of soil in your garden. Generally, varieties are classified by length and color. There are too many varieties to list here, but here are some of the more popular, along with some basic soil guidelines:

  • Short varieties, such as Thumberline or Little Finger come as small as two inches, and are generally as wide as they are long. There varieties, because they are more compact, generally have a higher sugar content and are therefore quite sweet. They do well in heavy clay soils.
  • Medium length, or “half-long” varieties, such as Danvers (5″-6″) or Chantenay (4″-5″) also do okay in heavy soils, but prefer looser, well-drained soil. They will have a lighter color, later maturity and can tend to taste more woody, rather than sweet.
  • The longer varieties, such as Nantes (6″-7″) and Imperator (8″-10″) do best in rich, well worked and well drained soil rich in compost. These long, fat carrots are the most popular of home gardeners, and are generally the variety you would see on your grocer’s shelf.
  • While most people think of carrots as orange, if you like to step out of the box a bit, carrots come in other colors as well, such as the Red Samurai, the Purple Haze and the Yellow Carrot. These tend to be long, some growing up to 11 or 12 inches, and prefer rich, well worked and well composted soil.
  • “Baby carrots” (i.e. the type you see in the “Cello” bag, are a shorter type of carrot and are generally more difficult to grow. They are not recommended for the home gardener.

Find a Suitable Place:

  • Choose a spot that gets full sun. Carrots will tolerate a small amount of shade, but generally don’t do well in heavily shaded areas.
  • Carrots do well in all zones, but are cool weather vegetables, and thrive in temperatures of between 60 and 75 degrees. Therefore, in the warmer zones (generally Zones 8, 9, 10 and 11) you will want to plant quite early since hot temperatures will adversely affect the taste and texture of the carrot.
  • Carrots also do well grown in containers or pots, so long as the pot or container allows for at least 12 inches of soil

Prepare the Soil:

  • Depending upon the variety of carrot you’ve chosen, the soil may need to be worked well and heavily composted. Even when planting in heavy or clay soil, carrots will do better with good compost (organic or commercial) mixed into the soil.
  • Make sure that the soil in the area where you are planting will accommodate a depth of up to 12 inches. Otherwise, if you’ve chosen a longer variety of carrot, its growth will be stunted.
  • Some of the shorter varieties will do fine in rocky soil. However, we recommend that you remove larger rocks, stones, branches and other debris that may inhibit growth; remember, the carrot is a root, and will grow down, so anything that gets in its way may stunt its growth or result in a deformed carrot.

Planting/Growing Carrots

What You Will Need:

  • Carrot seeds
  • Garden shovel
  • Gardening gloves
  • Short Sticks (such as popsicle sticks)
  • Fence or garden netting

How to Plant and Grow Carrots:

  1. Since carrots are root vegetables, they do best when the seed is planted directly into the soil, rather than started indoors and transplanted into the soil when greens sprout.
  2. Work your compost into your soil with the garden shovel, turning and mixing the soil until the compost is evenly mixed into your planting area.
  3. Direct seed carrots into a well-prepared soil.
  4. Seeds should be sown in rows spaced about 12 to 18 inches apart, at a depth of about ¼ inch.
  5. Do not compact the soil on top of the seeds as this will inhibit germination and growth.
  6. Mark the rows with the short sticks so that you will know where you have planted the seeds.
  7. Place a fence or gardening net around the area, along with a wind chime or wind-catcher to help deter birds and other garden pests.
  8. Water sparingly until the seed sprouts and takes hold (about 10-15 days for most varieties).

Maintenance/Harvesting Carrots

  • Clippers
  • Garden hose
  • Mulch

Steps for Maintenance and Harvesting:

  1. After the seedlings have emerged, thin them to one inch apart. You can either use the clippers to cut the green part off at the base of the stem, or gently pull the entire carrot out of the ground, being careful not to disturb the other nearby plants.
  2. When the tops of the carrots grow thicker, thin them to about two to three inches apart. Again, you can either use the clippers to cut the green part off at the base of the stem, or gently pull the entire carrot out of the ground, being careful not to disturb the other nearby plants.
  3. Be generous with the mulch throughout the growing season, cultivating it lightly into the soil at the base of the leafy stem.
  4. Weed around your carrots regularly as an excess of weeds can sap vital nutrients away from your carrot root, and inhibit growth. Be careful when pulling weeds, however, so as not to disturb the carrot root.
  5. When cultivating the soil around your plant, either to weed or to mulch, keep it shallow so as not to disturb the root’s growth.
  6. If the top of the root pokes through the soil (i.e. you see orange bulging up under the green leaves), cover it with mulch; exposing the root to the sun will result in a bitter, tough carrot.
  7. Keep your carrots well-watered through-out the growing season, but cut back as they reach maturity, cut back on the water to avoid having the root split.
  8. Harvest your carrot after the appropriate time for the variety you have chosen (the time frame should be indicated on your seed packet, but generally between 65 and 75 days). It is okay to pick carrots a little earlier than indicated on the seed packet if you prefer to have a more tender and juicy vegetable.
  9. When harvesting your carrots, push away some of the soil so that the root is exposed. Grasp the carrot by the root (not the greens), push down slightly, wriggle the carrot in a circular motion to loosen it, and pull up firmly. If the carrot won’t budge or the soil is too hard to wriggle, try wetting the area down thoroughly before harvesting.

Additional Tips and Advice

  • To extend your harvest you may want to do both a spring planting and an autumn planting, depending upon your climate. Since carrots grow underground, they can withstand colder temperatures longer than most garden vegetables, so your harvest may even extend into the winder months.
  • If you have a fireplace or wood burning stove, try sprinkling some of the wood ashes over the planting area before you sow your seeds; the extra potassium will boost your crop.
  • Avoid fertilizers that have high nitrogen content; while they may encourage leaf growth, they may inhibit good root development.
  • Watch out for the Carrot fly, the most common nemesis of your carrot crop. In the maggot stage, this small white worm will eat along the outside of your carrot and severely damage the root. Pesticides are available to help control this problem and can be found at your local home improvement or gardening store. Garden nets will also help. They are effective and environmentally friendly, but can be a bit pricey and labor intensive.
  • While the cliche is that rabbits love carrots, they are more likely to feast on the leafy vegetables in your garden. Rather, your carrots are more likely to suffer the ravages of other pests, such as mice and moles, who will burrow underground and nip at the carrot roots. You can find various traps and repellants effective in getting rid of mice and moles and other such pests at your local home improvement or gardening store. Also, check your local yellow pages to find service providers in your area specializing in animal trapping and removal.
  • When storing fresh carrots, always remove the green top (it will draw moisture from the carrot and cause it to shrivel), place in a plastic bag, and place in the vegetable crisper at 32 to 45 degrees Fahrenheit. Use the carrots within 2 weeks for best flavor.
  • When storing fresh carrots, keep them away from fruits (especially apples) as fruits give off ethylene gas while ripening and will cause the carrots to get bitter.
  1. How to Grow Broccoli

Even seasoned vegetable gardeners will admit there are some vegetables that are simply harder to grow than others. Vegetable gardening should be an enjoyable and rewarding task. There’s nothing like picking your first homegrown tomato or watching a pumpkin fill out. Most vegetables are pretty straight forward to grow. You plant a seed or seedling, keep it watered and it eventually matures into something delicious.
The vegetables discussed here all pose a different challenge to gardeners. Some never seem to fill out and others grow but don’t taste good. I hope you won’t have problems with all of these vegetables, but if you are struggling to grow them, here are some tips to get a better harvest.
Carrot seeds are tiny, making it difficult to plant them evenly. Plant them only about 1/4 inch deep. Spacing the seed about an inch apart is ideal, but impractical. Chances are good you will wind up doing some thinning. Thin any plants that are within a 1/2 inch of each other, when the seedlings reach 1–2 inches tall. Snipping or pinching the seedlings off at the soil line is the best way to avoid hurting the remaining roots.
If you need to thin again later, you can use the tiny carrots in salads. When you’ve finished thinning, your carrots should be far enough apart so they won’t rub shoulders when mature.
Carrots can be easy to grow or they can give you endless grief. Here are some common carrot growing problems and how to avert them. The Seed Never Germinates: Carrots won’t break through encrusted soil. Make sure you keep the soil moist, but not soaking wet. Don’t let it dry out and crust over. An old trick for keeping the soil loose is to plant radish seeds right up next to the row of carrots. The radishes will germinate first and keep the soil loose. Another trick is to cover the seed with sand or vermiculite. These won’t make as hard a coating as garden soil.
Plants Go Right to Flower and Seed and Never Develop Roots. Don’t put your seed out too early. Carrots are biennials and low temperatures make them think they’ve already gone through winter and it’s time to go to seed.
The Shoulders of the Carrots are Green and Bitter. This is an easy one to fix. Just make sure the whole root is covered with soil. Exposure to sunlight will cause them to turn green from developing chlorophyll.
Skinny Carrots. This usually is caused by nearby weeds that compete for nutrients and water. Keep the area weed free.
Short, Stumpy Roots. The soil is probably too warm. If the soil heats to over 70°F, the roots become stunted. Use a mulch and keep the soil well watered during hot spells, to keep the soil cool.
Deformed roots. Forked or bent carrots are the result of something getting in the way of the developing root. Either the soil is too hard for them to grow through, or they hit a rock, or maybe there’s another carrot planted too closely. Make sure the soil is tilled and soft at least a foot down, before you plant. And thin your carrots early.
If you’ve done all that and you still get forked roots, the problem could be root-knot nematodes. If that’s the case, you will need to solarize the soil by covering it with clear plastic and letting it fry in the summer sun. Definitely remove the carrots before you cover it.
Roots Crack Done the Side. Cracking is caused by inconsistent watering. Carrots that are left dry for a period and then given a lot of water will swell up and crack. Give them water every week and mulch the area so the soil remains moist. Also harvest when the roots are mature. Leaving them too long is another cause of cracking.
Carrots have Lots of Tiny Roots All Over Them. This is caused by too much nitrogen. Don’t over feed your carrots and don’t you a high nitrogen fertilizer.
Bitter Carrots. Carrots like cool soil. If the temperature never cools off at night to at least somewhere near 60°F, they will use up some of their stored sugars to acclimate. Keep the soil moist and mulched and maybe hold off planting carrots in the middle of summer. Hope this will help with growing carrots. More coming on vegetables that are hard to grow.
taken from http://gardening.about.com/od/problemspests/ss/Five-Challenging-Vegetables-to-Grow
Till next time, this is Becky Litterer, Becky’s Greenhouse, Dougherty, Iowa

Pre-sprouting carrots is the best way to short-cut carrot germination.

Carrots and other carrot family crops such as parsley and parsnips can be slow to germinate. They require consistently moist soil and sometimes two weeks or more for germination. Dry or windy weather can mean slow or no germination for carrots.

Carrots, parsnips, and parsley take 14 to 21 days to germinate; that means you must keep the seed bed evenly moist for up to three weeks or longer. This may require near constant attention.

Pre-sprouting is the best way to short-cut carrot germination and insures a crop; there is no guessing whether the seed bed has accidently gone dry and delayed or derailed your crop.

Carrots and carrot family crops are slow to germinate because they have hard seed coats (seed coats or hulls protect seed embryos from decay and deterioration). For seeds to germinate and begin growing moisture must penetrate the seed coat and activate an enzyme triggering respiration and plant cell duplication and growth. Both heat and cold can speed a seed’s intake of moisture.

More carrot growing details at How to Grow Carrots.

Two Ways to Pre-Sprout Carrot Seeds

1. Boiling water method. Sprinkle seed across a tray of sterile potting soil or seed starting mix (you can also use peat moss, peat moss and sand or vermiculite). Pour very warm or just boiling water over the seed. Boiling water removes the cuticle and some lower epidermal layers of carrot seed hulls. Cover the seeds with potting soil or seed starting mix and place the tray inside a clear plastic bag. Mist the soil with a kitchen spray bottle twice a day until the seed has sprouted.

2. Freezing method. Mix the seed with damp potting soil or seed starting mix or peat moss; spread the mix across a seed-starting tray or paper plate. Place the tray or plate in a clear plastic bag, seal it, and set it in the freezer for twenty-four hours but not longer. (This is called cold stratification; placing the seed in the freezer for twenty-four hours is enough for the seed to think it has gone through a winter, but not long enough to freeze and damage cells inside the seed.) Then place the seed and soil mix—still inside the plastic bag (use a large zip lock bag for a paper plate)—on a seed-starting heat mat or refrigerator top or other appliance top at 70° to 80°F for three days or longer—until the seed sprouts.

What to do next. Once seeds sprout, take them out of the plastic bag—soil mix, seeding starting mix, or peat moss and all—and gently set the sprouts in prepared rows and furrows ¼-inch deep then cover them lightly with potting soil. Keep the new sprouts well watered until they are rooted and growing.

The sprouts will grow uniform in height and produce a crop two weeks earlier than if you had sown seed directly in the planting bed.

Most carrot varieties take 70 to 80 days from sowing to harvest. The best time to grow carrots is in the cool times of the year—spring or fall. Fall grown carrots can be stored in the garden bed until you are ready to use them—as long as the soil does not freeze.

More tips: Carrot Seed Starting Tips

Whatever type of carrot seeds you plant it’s easy to learn how to grow carrots from seed. Here are some common characteristics. Carrots are biennials, so they use their leaves in the first year, to gather energy from the sun to build a big, starchy root. This is where they store their energy over the winter. The following spring they use that stored energy to send up a tall umbel of white flowers, looking strikingly similar to Queen Anne’s Lace to which they are closely related. When the weather gets cold in the first year of growth, carrots convert a lot of their starches to sugars, so the roots become sweeter in winter.

Carrot Shapes

All carrots can be harvested immature as baby roots, which tend to be crunchy but tender, and quite sweet. They can also be left to reach their full size, shape, and colour, of course. All carrots are high in beta-carotene, a pigment that we metabolize as vitamin A when we eat it. A lack of vitamin A can result in poor vision, hence the notion that carrots are good for your eyesight. Carrots are also rich in Vitamins C, B6, and Niacin.

Because of the relatively vertical nature of the plant’s form, carrots can be grown fairly densely, and are therefore useful within the economy of space in a smaller growing area. That is, even a little garden can produce a lot more in carrots than by, say, lettuce of cucumbers. The seeds can be sown from early spring right through late August for a harvest that will last nearly year round, so they form an essential part of nearly every vegetable garden.

The trick with carrot seeds is to sow them shallowly and then maintain moisture in that top layer of soil until they germinate. Because they may take as long as three weeks to germinate, this can be challenging, especially in hot weather when the surface of the soil is nearly always dry. The way to achieve this is to water very deeply prior to planting, and then either water very regularly or employ some other means to reduce evaporation. Some growers like to use lightweight row cover, which helps to maintain moisture and has the added benefit of keeping away the dreaded carrot rust fly. But we’ve also seen some growers simply lay a 2×4 beam, or even plywood, over the damp seedbed. This is lifted every few days to check on progress, and then removed at germination.

If you have the luxury of growing carrots without the presence of carrot rust flies, you may still be concerned with soil dwelling insects such as wireworms, which seem to be true lovers of carrots. They are so attracted to carrots, in fact, that a full-grown carrot makes a very good lure for wireworms. Just bury carrots or pieces thereof in several areas around the intended seedbed, and mark where you bury them. If wireworms are present, you can then dig up the carrot pieces and easily remove the wireworms from the bed, or at least go a long way to reducing their population.

Take extra care with your carrot bed to insure that the soil is loose and completely free of stones or other debris. Truly beautiful carrots are easy to grow if you take the extra time to produce a good home for them. Avoid nitrogen-heavy fertilizers and manure that has not been composted for more than a year, as you may end up with big, bushy tops on pitiful, spindly roots.

Latin
Daucus carota
Family: Apiaceae

We Recommend: Bolero (CR283). It’s not fair to recommend one carrot over another because they are all so different and appealing in their own ways. But for simple ease of planting Bolero carrot seeds can’t be beat.

Season & Zone
Season: Cool season
Exposure: Full-sun
Zone: 4-10

Timing
Direct sow April to mid-July for harvests from July to November. Direct sow winter-harvest carrots in the first two weeks of August. Sow at 3 week intervals for a continuous harvest. Optimal soil temperature: 7-30°C (45-85°F). Seeds take as long as 14-21 days to germinate.

Starting
Because carrot seeds are tiny, they need to be sown shallowly. The trick is to keep the top-most layer of soil damp during the long germination period. Water deeply prior to planting. Direct sow the tiny seeds 5mm (¼”) deep, 4 seeds per 2cm (1″), and firm soil lightly after seeding. Make sure the seeds are only just buried. Water the area with the gentlest stream you can provide, and keep it constantly moist until the seeds sprout.

Growing
Ideal pH: 6.0-6.8. The softer and more humus-based the soil, the better. When soil is dry enough in spring, work it to a fine texture. Broadcast and dig in ½ cup complete organic fertilizer for every 3m (10′) of row. Avoid fresh manure. Carrots will become misshapen, but still edible if they hit anything hard as they grow down into the soil. Keep weeded and watered.
It is very important to thin carrots in order to allow them room to grow, and so they don’t compete for available nutrients, moisture, and light. Then to 4-10cm (1½-4″) when the young plants are 2cm (1″) tall. Use wider spacing to get larger roots. As they grow, carrots push up, out of the soil, so hill soil up to prevent getting a green shoulder.

Here are some more good tips on how to grow carrots from seed.

Harvest
Carrots can be harvested at any size, but flavour is best when the carrot has turned bright orange. After harvest, store at cold temperatures just above 0ºC. You can store in sand or sawdust, or simply leave carrots under heaped soil in the garden during the winter, and pull as you need them.

Seed Info
In optimal conditions at least 60% of seeds will germinate. Usual seed life: 3 years. Per 100′ row: 2.4M seeds, per acre: 1,044M seeds. Rates are for raw, not pelleted seeds.

Diseases & Pests
The Carrot Rust Fly – This pest lays its eggs at the base of the growing carrots. The larva of the fly chews tunnels and unsightly grooves through the surface of the root, causing rot. Unfortunately the damage isn’t just cosmetic; the activities of the Carrot Rust Fly larva changes the flavour of the carrot and makes it quite inedible. Use our floating row cover to keep the adults away from the carrots. Plant after the beginning of June to avoid the first and worst infestation period. The good news for apartment dwellers who want to grow carrots on their balconies is the Carrot Rust Fly is not a good flyer. It is unlikely to infest their high-rise crop.
Wireworm – These are the larva of click beetles. They are about an inch and a half long, slender and reddish brown. When squeezed they turn as rigid as a wire, hence the name. Wireworms chew irregular holes through roots, making the carrots inedible. Wireworms prefer a moist soil so preparing your carrot bed so that it is well drained will help. Interplanting with mustard leaf is an excellent way to discourage wireworm damage. The flavour of the mustard is one deterrent, and mustard also helps to dry out the soil, forcing the wireworm away from the roots.
Predatory nematodes are an effective control for both Carrot Rust Fly and wireworm. Apply generously in the spring when the larva of both pests is most active.

Companion Planting

Plant with bean seeds, Brassicas, chives, leeks, lettuce, onions, peas, peppers, pole beans, radish, rosemary, sage, and tomatoes. Avoid planting with dill, parsnips, and potatoes. Carrots planted near tomatoes may have stunted roots, but will have exceptional flavour. Chives also benefit carrots.

More on Companion Planting.

How to Grow Carrots Infographic Page 1

How to Grow Carrots Infographic Page 2

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Growing carrots successfully can be a challenge, but they offer sweet rewards for a job well done. Here’s how to grow the tastiest carrots year-round.

This article may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for more info.

First, I’ll share some interesting facts about growing carrots, then I’ll show you how to prepare your garden and grow a continuous crop of carrots all year long.

Facts About Growing Carrots

  • Carrots take a long time germinate: 12-15 days on average. If it’s cool, like in early spring, don’t give up if you don’t see sprouting right away.
  • Carrots take a long time to grow to maturity: 3-4 months. Although you can pull and eat carrots at anytime, but the best size for flavor and texture is finger-length size.
  • Carrots don’t take up much space. Grow 16 carrots per square foot or grow them 2 inches apart in rows. That means you can sneak them in just about anywhere you find an opening in the garden or landscape! Just be sure to use the tips below.
  • Carrots attract the eastern swallowtail butterfly caterpillars, which eat the carrot foliage. Since this activity will not damage the carrot crop, I prefer to let the caterpillars do their thing and be rewarded with lots of visiting butterflies!

Eastern swallowtail butterfly caterpillar on carrot foliage

Site Selection, Preparing the Soil, & Selecting Seeds

Site Selection

Choose a well-drained garden bed in a location with full or partial sun (at least 6 hours of sun per day).

In addition, carrots need a well-prepared bed to thrive. They prefer deep, fertile, loose soil.

Preparing the Soil

To prepare the soil for planting, mix worm castings and compost into the soil two weeks before sowing carrot seeds. Use a spade fork or broadfork to loosen the soil as you mix.

Because carrots like deep, loose soil a raised bed or planter can work well. Even a container with a 12-inch depth will work great. I have never had more success than when I grow carrots in our 18-inch tall raised beds.

See also:

  • The Lazy Gardener’s Way to Make Fertilizer
  • Building a Compost Bin (5 Ways)

Selecting Seeds

One of the fun things about gardening is that every garden is unique. This means that you will have to run your own experiments to see which carrot varieties work best for your climate and soil type.

After some trial and error, I now grow an heirloom variety called ‘scarlet nantes‘ for my fall and winter carrots because it is hardier than many other varieties. Throughout the rest of the year I like to grow a variety called ‘red core chantenay‘ because it grows well in my clay soil. It is a stockier carrot that only grows to about 6 inches.

Companion Planting for Success

According to the book Carrots Love Tomatoes, carrots benefit from being near onions, rosemary, or sage, all of which help repel the carrot fly. I’ve never had a problem with the carrot fly, but if you can work these plants into your garden design, it’s not a bad idea to have them intermingled with your carrots.

See also: 6 Flowers to Grow in the Vegetable Garden

What is the Best Season for Growing Carrots?

Carrots need warm temperatures in order for the seeds to germinate—around 70 degrees Fahrenheit or warmer. That’s why carrots are slow to germinate in cooler spring temperatures.

However, carrots need cool temperatures for developing sweet, fat roots—around 40 degrees F.

What time of year do we typically see warm temperatures followed by cool temperatures?

You guessed it: Late summer and into fall.

The following schedule will help you grow carrots year-round, and make sure that you don’t miss out on that ideal fall harvest for the growing the sweetest carrots.

Growing Carrots: A Planting Schedule Overview

The main idea for growing carrots year-round is to sow seeds every 3 weeks, from the spring equinox (mid-March), through the fall equinox (mid-September). To follow this method, you’ll need at lease 4-5 rows of dedicated gardening space. Sow one row every 3 weeks. Carrots are harvested every 3-4 months.

Planting Carrots By Season

Spring

Begin sowing around the spring equinox (mid-March).

Note: The window for sowing seeds in your garden will vary depending on your growing zone. I’m in USDA hardiness zone 6a. To get an idea of your unique sowing and growing window, get my downloadable Seedstarting & Planting Worksheet as a free bonus when you purchase my book, The Suburban Micro-Farm: Modern Solutions for Busy People.

When I sow my first carrot seeds of the year in March, I know that I have 3-4 months before I will get my first harvest. Remember that carrots are slow to germinate and get growing in the cold spring soil.

This means that my first harvest of homegrown carrots won’t be until June orJuly. Doesn’t sound so early, huh? You can help your carrots along by using row cover or a cold frame to keep the germinating seedlings warm (and growing faster) in those cool months.

Tips for Success:

  • If you use a season extension method like row cover or a cold frame, be sure to open it on days when the interior temperature is above 70 degrees.
  • Keep the carrot bed well watered for good germination.

Continue sowing carrots every three weeks (one row each time) to keep your carrot bed constantly producing.

Summer

Harvest spring-sown carrots around the summer solstice (mid-June).

Mix some compost into the row and sow more seeds.

Especially important, sow the last seeds for fall and winter carrots by mid- to late- July so you can harvest sweet carrots by October and November.

Fall

Harvest summer-sown seeds around the fall equinox (mid-September).

This is the time of year that I get really excited to harvest the sweetest carrots! After a few hard frosts the flavor is really sweet.

Harvest half of the carrots, and mulch the rest well to help insulate them over the winter. I use shredded leaves, but you can get more of my ideas in my article Mulching in the Permaculture Garden.

If you experience freezing winters, you may want to cover your carrots with row cover or a cold frame. This will reduce the chance of the soil freezing solid, so you can continue harvesting right through winter. As an example, here in USDA hardiness zone 6a, I can harvest at least until January using these techniques, and sometimes throughout the entire winter and early spring if it’s mild enough.

Winter

Harvest the rest of your carrots around the winter solstice (mid-December), or alternatively leave some to continue harvesting until the spring equinox (mid-March), depending on your climate.

Growing carrots is an especially rewarding experience, and the tips in this article will help you grow the sweetest carrots.

Need more ideas for growing vegetables in the permaculture garden?

READ NEXT:

  • Grow the Best Cucumbers with These 12 Tips
  • Starting Seeds Indoors: A Step-by-Step Guide
  • Your Guide to Preventing Pests in the Garden

Are you looking for more strategies for your permaculture garden? You’ll find loads of information just like this in my book, The Suburban Micro-Farm.

Have you had success at growing carrots? Share your tips below.

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