Growing root vegetables can be a bit tough because it’s impossible to see how well they are doing until they are harvested. The same applies to grow carrots. Even for veteran gardeners growing carrots that are long and sweet is a bit of a gamble. Most times, carrots can disappoint with their tough, misshapen roots and bland flavor.
However, some cool weather, plenty of water, loose soil, and lots of tender love and care can make them thrive. You can grow carrots from seedlings, but most people sow the seeds directly into their garden during spring. The seeds tend to germinate in 10 to 20 days. The harvest time is 50 to 75 days from germinations.
Importance of Good Soil
Soil preparation is an important step in the carrot growing process. If the roots of the carrots aren’t allowed to grow unobstructed, the crops will turn out misshapen and stunted. Here are ways you can prepare your soil:
- Scan the soil 12 inches deep to ensure there are no soil clumps, stones, or rocks that could hinder the carrot’s growth.
- Avoid using materials rich in nitrogen, such as fertilizer and manure, to prevent the growth of side roots. Instead, use old coffee grounds.
- If the soil is too rocky or has a consistency of clay, consider planting in a raised bed that is 12 inches deep and filled with loamy, airy soil.
Also, check out, Where to plant marigolds in vegetable garden?
How to Grow Carrots?
Growing carrots doesn’t have to be too complex. If you follow the right techniques, you will get sweet and crunchy carrots in no time.
Step # 1
To grow carrots at home, you don’t necessarily need acres of land. A half-barrel raised bed or any other container with planting mix will suffice. As mentioned earlier, preparation of the soil is crucial for growing carrots. Till the soil 12 inches deep.
If your soil is riddled with clay, add well-aged compost and sand to the bed and mix it up with a fork. Loose soil is ideal for carrots. Get rid of any clumps or stones in the soil. They cause the roots to grow malformed.
Add bone meal to the soil but don’t avoid adding manure. Bone meal is an excellent organic fertilizer rich in phosphorous. It works particularly well for root vegetables such as onions, parsnip, and more. On the other hand, nitrogen-rich manure will cause the growth of hairy roots on the carrots.
Deeply water the garden bed before sowing carrot seeds. Allow it to sit for a couple of days to absorb the moisture all the way through. Moist soil is great for the faster germination process.
Since carrot seeds are small in size, you can easily lose count of how many you have planted. Mix seeds you want to plant with a bit of sand in your hand and then sprinkle them across the garden bed. Pelletized carrot seeds can also be used.
Sow carrots seeds evenly and thinly across the garden bed and down the row. Give each seed an inch of space to grow. You can use a rake or a garden hoe to make trenches for the seeds.
Cover the seeds with ¼ inch of potting soil or peat moss. With board or heel of your hand, gently press it down. Doing so will ensure the seeds touch the soil for the germination process to start.
Step # 3
Cover your garden bed with row covers. They will protect the seeds from irrigation or rain. If the weather is dry, use burlap to keep the seedbed moist. Look under the protective cover every couple of days to check on the soil.
Step # 4
The soil should be kept moist at all times. Spray the garden bed with water once or twice a day for the first two weeks. Do not under any circumstances allow the soil to dry out. Once the seeds sprout, continue spraying until they grow and are rooted.
As the carrots start growing, water them thoroughly. We water carrot garden beds deeply to ensure it reaches all the way to the deepest root tips. As soon as you witness the green top wilting, water it. If 3 inches of soil is dry, water it. Be sure to get rid off weeds from the beds. Weeds love moisture and will fight your carrots for space and soil moisture.
Step # 5
You must thin carrots one inch apart so they could grow to the fullest. Gently lift the seedlings that are too close to each other and cut off the green tops using garden scissors. You can eat carrot thinning. Toss them in a salad.
Pests and Insects
Carrots are loved by four-footed critters like woodchucks, rabbits, deer, and gophers. Besides, that carrots are typically problem-free. Although there certain insects and diseases you must be wary of.
Carrot Rust Flies
Keep a lookout for carrot rust flies. They are tiny green flies with red eyes and yellow heads. They lay eggs on that hatch into larvae. The larvae look whitish and burrow into the roots. When the roots are infected, they turn dark red, and the leaves turn black.
Infestations tend to occur in the spring season. Try to delay planting carrots until summer. Another way to protect your crops is by covering them with a floating cover.
These are green colored caterpillars with white and yellow spots and black stripes, and orange horns. They feast on carrot foliage. They grow into black swallowtail butterflies.
Therefore, don’t kill them. Instead, move them to weeds such as Queen Anne’s lace, and watch the pupa form and then later to gorgeous butterflies.
These are tiny microscopic worm-like animals. They make small knots around the roots that result in stunted carrots. Apply tons of compost on the roots. The predatory microorganisms in the compost will eliminate the nematodes.
Leaf blight is one of the most common carrot diseases. It starts on the edge of the leaves and leaves yellow or white spots that turn brown and watery as the disease progresses. Plant resistant cultivators for a blight problem.
In hot and humid weather conditions, the growth of bacteria increases resulting in a disease called vegetable soft rot. Keep the soil loose and rotate the crops frequently to protect your carrots.
Carrot yellow disease results in the formation of hairy roots and pale leaves. The disease is carried by leafhoppers, and the best way to protect your plants is by covering brand new plants with floating row covers.
Tips to Care for Carrot Crops
Take care of your crops like they are your babies. Cater to their needs and keep a set schedule for feeding and watering. Follow the tips below to care of your carrots.
- Keep the garden bed clear. Get rid of any weeds.
- Water regularly
- Protect your carrot crops against carrot flies. Carrot flies inflict a lot of damage to your crops by laying eggs that hatch and dig into the carrot meet. They leave holes in the vegetables. Since the damage is happening inside, it is difficult to spot them and treat the crops immediately. If you notice the leaves changing color, that means the carrots have been attacked. Protecting the crop early is your best bet because once the carrot flies come in contact with the soil; your crops are done for.
The best time to harvest carrots late in the afternoon or early in the evening.
Gently pull or lift the carrots from the soil. If you’re struggling to pull them out, use a garden fork to loosen the soil around the crops. Don’t tug or jerk the carrots while pulling them out otherwise, the roots will break.
Once the carrots are out of the soil, wash them thoroughly, and cut off the leaves before storing them. If you allow the leaves to remain attached to the carrots, they will draw out all the moisture and flavor. Do not store damaged or bruised carrots. Try to eat them within a couple of days after harvest.
How to Store Carrots?
Carrots can last for quite a while if stored properly. For example, if you have harvested your carrots and don’t have any space in the refrigerator, they can be stored in your basement. Here are some effective methods you can use to store carrots.
After harvest, your carrots rinse them thoroughly and then remove the leaf tops with a pair of scissors. Take damp paper towels and wrap them around the carrots. Take a huge container and place the carrots, and pop it into the refrigerator. The carrots will last you a month, and the leaf tops can be used in salads and will last you a week.
Another way you can store the carrots is by cutting them into sticks and placing them in an airtight container or sandwich bags. Pop them into the refrigerator, and they can last you for more than a week. Every time you need to use carrots for a recipe, they will be chopped up and ready.
Freezing is the easiest way to store carrots. Wash, clean, peel, and cut your carrots. If you want to go the extra mile, blanch, and then cool them, so they retain flavor and color before putting them in the freezer. Once the carrots have dried, put them in vacuum-sealed freezer bags, and chuck them in the freezer.
You don’t necessarily have to store carrots in the fridge or a freezer. If you have a root cellar or basement, the carrots could be stored easily. Sand and large container would be required.
Cut off the top leaves and place the carrots in the container with sand in it all the way to the top until they aren’t visible anymore. You must keep the sand moist for the entirety of the storage. Through this method, the carrots will stay fresh for months.
Another storage option is canning them. It is relatively simple. However, you will require special equipment. Since these vegetables are low acid food, you have to use a pressure can. Before you can wash them, trim, and peel them. You can slice or leave them whole.
Pack them up into jars filled with boiling water. Leave 1inch of space at the top. Process quarts for 30 minutes and pints for 25 at 10 pounds.
If you own a food dehydrator, you can dry the carrots that can be later used in different recipes such as carrot cake or stews. If you don’t have a dehydrator, you can use an oven.
Wash, trim, peel, and slice the carrots. Make sure you slice them thin. Blanch them for a couple of minutes and then dry at 125 degrees or until they are slightly brittle.
Human beings have been using pickling as a method of preserving food for over a century. It is not as easy as other methods but is highly effective.
Vinegar is an acid used for preservation purposes. Since it is an acetic acid, it inhibits the growth of bacteria, molds, and yeasts. Few micro-organisms can survive in vinegar. Vinegar tends to change the pH levels to prevent the enzymes in bacteria and fungus from working. It does so by destroying the cell walls. Therefore using vinegar to pickle or preserve carrots is the best method.
Here are some recipes to help you store carrots. You can use the carrot pickles as a condiment with a variety of dishes.
Quick Pickled Carrot
- 1 pound of carrots with leaves tops removed, peeled and sliced into sticks
- 1/3 cup of water
- 2/3 cup of distilled white vinegar
- 1 tablespoon organic cane sugar
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- Take a large glass container , place the carrots inside and then set it aside.
- Add water, vinegar, sugar and salt to a small sauce pan. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat and stir until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Taste and adjust the flavor accordingly. Add more salt or sugar if needed.
- Pour the brine into the jar with carrots ensuring they are fully submerged.
- Seal the jar and shake well.
- Put in the refrigerator for an hour to marinate.
- For a deep and robust flavor, allow it to sit in the fridge for 24 hours.
- Pickled carrots will last you for three weeks in the refrigerator.
Asian Pickled Carrot
- Half a pound of carrots peeled and cut into sticks
- 1 cup rice wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon coarse salt
- 2 tablespoon light brown sugar
- Chili pepper flakes, crushed
- Put the carrots in a bowl and toss them with the salt. Use your hands to ensure the salt coats all the carrot sticks. Allow them to sit for an hour.
- After an hour, you will notice the carrot sticks have released all the moisture. Drain the water well.
- Combine brown sugar, chili flakes, and vinegar in a saucepan. After the sugar dissolves, set the mixture aside to come to room temperature.
- Pour the mixture to the carrots and allow them to marinate for a couple of hours.
- Store them in the jar and keep them in the refrigerator until you need them. They will last you for two weeks.
Carrot and Cucumber Pickle
- 2 carrots, cut into julienne
- 2 cucumbers, deseeded and cut into julienne
- 1 green chili deseeded and chopped into strips
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
- ¼ teaspoon asafetida powder
- ½ teaspoon mustard seeds
- 1 teaspoon Sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon lime juice
- Salt and sugar to taste
- Take a stainless steel bowl or a large mason jar. Add the carrot and cucumber juliennes along with green chilies, salt, sugar, and lime juice.
- Mix all the ingredients until thoroughly combined and set aside for 20 minutes.
- Drain the water from the vegetables.
- Heat the oil in a pan, add mustard seeds, turmeric powder, and asafetida.
- Once the mustard seeds begin to pop, turn off the heat and add the oil with spices into the carrot and cucumber mixture. Toss everything together.
- This carrot and cucumber pickle can last in the refrigerator for a week.
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You can store carrots naturally if you live in a place where there is prolonged subzero weather. In many places across the world, carrots are left in the ground through the winter if there is no space in the fridge, refrigerator, or root cellar. The cold temperature stops the carrots from growing. However, if the winter is mild, then avoid leaving the carrots underground.
Otherwise, the carrots will keep trying to grow and become tough and woody. Whether you want to grow orange carrots, or a rainbow of purple, red, and wide varieties, these sweet, crunchy root vegetables are exciting to grow and harvest, fun to store, and great for your health.
I am Elsa, love gardening. I spent lots of time with plants, flowers, it gives me lots of happiness.
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