Carrots are a root vegetable that are not difficult to grow. Like other root vegetables they are a cool weather crop that grow best with air temperatures from 55-70 degrees.
Carrots are a high reward crop based on what it takes to grow carrots and what they yield in return. Many nutritional experts have raised the carrot into the superfood category because of the amount of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants packed into each carrot.
Carrots are the taproot of the carrot plant. When we think of roots of a plant we usually think of a fibrous root system that has lots of branches going in all different direction. A taproot system is when a plant sends one major root straight down deep into the ground and side roots grow sideways and off the bottom of the taproot.
Grow Sweeter Tasting Carrots
A carrot will get its flavor from the sugar content and the amount and type of terpenes in the carrot. Carrots develop terpenes that can give a carrot a piney, soapy, bitter, or spicy flavor. Terpenes also give a carrot its smell – piney, soapy, or floral are common aromas that terpenes give off.
For a carrot to develop a high sugar content the right temperature conditions during its last month of maturity is important. Highs during the days around 70 and lows at night around 50 make sweet carrots. The warm sunny days allow the carrot plant to make sugars and the cool nights allow the carrot to rest and not burn the sugars off.
To learn about carrot yields and how to grow bigger carrots check out “How Many Carrots Per Plant?“.
Can Carrots Survive Frost
Carrot foliage can survive light frost from 28-32 degrees but will freeze and die off with a hard frost. Carrot growth below 50 degrees is slowed significantly so don’t count on much growth in a month with highs regularly below 50 degrees.
Carrots themselves can overwinter underground in a dormant stage until the spring comes. This is a mechanism plants that have biennial life cycles have adopted to be able to grow in areas with shorter growing seasons..
Even with air temperatures below 0 degrees carrot roots can survive underground especially with a layer of snow on the ground acting as insulation.
If you’re area proves troublesome to overwinter carrots you can add mulch to insulate and increase soil temperature.
Best Soil For Carrots
The best soil for carrots is similar to the best soil for most vegetables and that is loamy soil or sandy loam soil.
Loamy soil is a mixture of 40% sand, 40% silt, and 20% clay. This mixture of different size particles allows air, water, and growing roots to pass through freely but will retain moisture and nutrients.
A sandy loam soil is a soil that has a higher percentage of sand in the soil. If the soil is too sandy it will not hold water or nutrients.
The best way to improve the soil you already have it to add aged compost to it. To get access to large amounts of compost call your local city government and find out if the city has mulch piles. Many cities will collect grass clippings and leaves and put them into huge piles where you can get as much compost as you want.
Potting soil is nice because most come with all the fertilizer you need for the growing season already mixed in. If you’re looking for potting soil Miracle-Gro is a good standard soil and Organic Plant Magic is a good organic brand.
Best Fertilizer For Carrots
Carrots are divided half into top growth and root growth. Nitrogen is mainly for above ground foliage growth, and potassium and phosphorous are for root and fruit growth. There is no fruit growth with carrots but the root growth is what we’re after and it takes potassium and phosphorous.
For carrots applying an all-purpose fertilizer throughout the season will result in good yields. Another technique that makes sense is giving an all-purpose fertilizer at the beginning of their growth and then a fertilizer with a 1:2:2 ratio the rest of the season.
Jack’s Classic is a great standard water soluble fertilizer that measures 20-20-20. Organic Plant Magic is my favorite organic fertilizer because it’s full of different organic materials and has 13 different strains of beneficial soil bacterias. Lilly Miller has a standard fertilizer with a 5-10-10 N-P-K.
Fertilizer is labeled with three numbers N-P-K. These are the main nutrients plants need to grow and produce. The letters stand for the macronutrients that plants need, Nitrogen-Phosphorous-Potassium.
There are three secondary nutrients plants need: magnesium, sulfur, and calcium, and then there are the micronutrients boron, chlorine, copper, iron, manganese, molybdenum, and zinc. This soil test will check for 13 nutrient levels.
How Often to Water Carrots
Water carrots with 1″ of water a week including rainfall. It’s best to water carrots and most other garden plants with less frequent deeper waterings as oppose to more frequent shallow waterings. The reason for this is twofold.
- A deeper watering will go down 6-8 inches into the ground and force roots to grow deeper and more extensively to reach the water as the topsoil drys.
- Frequent shallow waterings leave the shallow roots of plants constantly drenched which can invite root rot and plant death.
Using a rain gauge or a rain barrel you have measured will give you an accurate reading of how much rain has fallen. Watering right after a light rain is a good habit.
To get an idea of whether or not to water feel 3-4 inches down in the soil. If it’s moist let it be and if it feels dry water.
Do Carrots Need Full Sun
Carrots can grow in partial shade but do like full sun and should get about 6 hours of direct sunlight. Partial shade or anything to keep soil temperatures down during the hottest hours of the day is good for carrot development. Frequent waterings during hot spells, shade cloths, and mulch on top of soil can all help. You can use mirrors, water, or glass sculptures to increase the sunlight in a garden.
Carrot Pests & Diseases
To organically control all foliage diseases and insect problems I highly reccomend neem oil and manual eradication.
Neem oil is an organic substance made from seeds of a neem tree. Spraying neem oil on the leaves of vegetable plants covers them with a wax like coat that is not appetizing to insects and doesn’t allow disease like powdery mildew to come into direct contact with the leaves.
Neem oil has a natural active ingredient, Azadirachtin, that will eat away at insect eggs and mature insects exoskeleton. When I get a bug problem in the garden or foliage disease I’ll spray neem oil on the plants 2-3x a week.
Manual eradication is done by walking through the plants and throwing bugs in a bucket of soapy water or squashing. The regular combination of manual eradication and neem oil gets insect problems under control quickly.
For more specific information on carrot pests & diseases check out this article from University of Georgia Extension.
Check out “Companion Planting Carrots” to make your carrot plants even happier.
Please comment below with any of your own thoughts or experiences with carrot growing.