VEGE FOCUS: HOW TO GROW CARROTS
HOW TO SOW CARROTS:
In Zone 6, sow carrots directly in your garden as soon as the soil can be worked starting in the middle of March and continuing until the end of April (2 to 4 weeks before last frost in other Zones). Start sowing a second crop in early August until the end of September. Sow new seeds every few weeks or so to have a crop of carrots from June until November.
Carrot seeds are very tiny and thus, difficult to space. Try to plant the seeds about 1/2 inch deep and apart. Regardless of your effort however, you will likely have to thin the seedlings later. Carrot seeds can take up to 2 weeks to germinate so be patient.
HOW TO GROW CARROTS:
Once the seeds germinate and seedlings grow to about 2 inches, thin the seedlings to about 2 inches apart with floral shears. (Yes a time consuming process.) This means, leave only one seedling every 2 inches to grow. Without proper spacing, the carrots may be stunted or deformed. You don't want to pull the seedlings out because you will likely damage any seedlings nearby.
Carrots like moisture, so be sure to water regularly. In the heat of summer, mulch the carrots to keep the soil cool.
PROBLEMS WITH CARROTS:
The hardest part about growing carrots is that they are underground so you really don't know what is going on with them. Space the carrots properly to avoid them being too small and misshaped. Plant carrots in a new section of the garden each year to limit overwintering insect larvae from eating and creating insect tunnels in your carrots. Also, stick to the cool season planting and harvesting schedule because with the hotter days, carrots loose their sweetness and can be tough and bland.
HARVESTING AND STORING CARROTS:
Depending on the variety, carrots take about 60 to 80 days from sow to harvest. The seed package will give you this information. Don't wait too long to pick the carrots because it will affect their sweetness. You can check to see if they are ready by feeling or seeing if the size of the carrot at the soil surface is the correct size. To harvest the carrots, simply loosen the soil and pull them out.
Carrots can be stored either in the refrigerator or in a box layered with sawdust or sand in a root cellar. Before storage, cut off the foliage one inch from the top of the carrot.