How Do Carrots Grow?

Carrots are grown directly by seed. Farmers use seed potato when growing potatoes commercially but carrots will not grow this way. If the top of a carrot is planted the above ground foliage will grow but the carrot, the taproot, will not regrow.

Carrots come in 5 different types: Danvers, Nantes, Imperator, Chantenay, and Mini. All of these types have lots of varieties to choose from within each category. Commercially most carrots planted are in the Imperator category because varieties of Imperator carrots produce deep orange and uniform carrots.

This YouTube video by Eat Happy Project shows carrot seed being planted in the field, carrot harvesting by a top lifting harvester as well as sorting and packaging of carrots.

Taste, yields, top growth, length, uniformity, color, disease resistance, are all factors that come into a farmers decision for which variety of carrot to plant. Color and uniformity are usually top criteria that create marketable carrots. Farmers want good top growth because machine harvesters pull up carrots from their top growth as seen in the video below at the 1:55 mark.

The top growth of the carrot is sheared off at the top of the belt that does the harvesting. You can see the carrots going down the conveyor belt at 2:00 minutes in without their tops. These tops can be used for livestock feed. The harvesting machine dumps the carrots into a truck and then carrots are taken to a produce processing center where they are washed, graded, processed, and packed.

To learn how and where commercial carrot seeds are produced check out “Do Carrots Have Seeds?“.

Carrot Plant Life Cycle

Carrots are biennial plants that are commonly grown as annuals. Being a biennial plant means carrots take two years to complete their life cycle. Most carrots are harvested after 70 days for their edible taproot and not allowed to complete their life cycle. Baby carrots are any carrots that are harvested immaturely and can be harvested anytime the carrot reaches the size of a finger.

Germination – A carrot seed will germinate in 1-3 weeks depending on the weather. They will germinate faster with warmer weather and slower with colder weather. The longer the carrot seeds stay in the ground without sprouting the higher the chance of bad germination rates and possibly needing to replant.

Vegetative Growth Year 1 – Vegetative growth of the carrot plant starts with leaf develpment until the third set of leaves develops. At this point the root will begin to grow. will grow foliage above ground and a taproot that is a food storage root for the plant. This growth will continue until temperatures start to dip below 50 degrees and the plant will start to enter dormancy.

Dormancy – During dormancy the foliage above the ground will die back and growth beneath ground will stop. This is a survival strategy employed by some plants which allows a plant with a long growing season the ability to live and reproduce in an area with shorter growing seasons.

Vegetative Growth Year 2 – During this phase foliage will start to grow above ground again. As the season progresses stems will grow longer and flowers will appear.

Flowering & Reproduction – The large taproot the plant has produced during its vegetative growth gives it energy to form flowers and seeds. A carrot plant produces flowers in clusters called umbels. Within each batch of umbels are smaller clusters of flowers called umbelletes.

Individual umbels will flower for 7-10 days and the entire flowering process of the plant will take 30-50 days. Carrot flowers are insect pollinated with the large majority of pollination done by bees.

Upon successful pollination of a flower the carrot plant produces “fruit” called schizocarps. Each schizocarp will contain one seed and there are around 1,000 schizocarps produced per carrot plant.

Another schizocarp we’re all more familiar with are the winged “helicopter” seeds that fall so gracefully from maple trees.

Do Carrots Grow In Bunches?

Carrots do not grow in bunches. Each carrot is the root system of one plant. The top growth has several stems that come off of the top of each carrot. Some farmers and gardeners will call different varieties of carrots “bunch” type carrots. These are uniform carrots that look good in bunches.

Do Carrots Grow From Seeds?

Carrots are grown by seed. Carrot plants are capable of being produced asexually, that is being cloned from another carrot, but it will not result in the growth of another carrot. The above ground foliage will regrow and flower and produce carrot seeds if pollinated but it will not produce another edible taproot, carrot. Instead if you dig it up from the ground you’ll see roots growing from the bottom and sides of the top of the old carrot.

Carrots grown as clones and let to flower and seed will result in seeds being a mix of the two parent plants and not identical to the carrot they came from. This is because most carrots are grown from hybrid seeds that were crossbred to produce a hybrid with certain qualities like higher yields and disease resistance. If you bought organic or a colorful variety of carrot there’s a higher chance the carrot was grown from open pollinated or heirloom varieties.

Here is an article about seed production and the difference between open pollinated, heirloom, and hybridized seeds.

Do Carrots Need Pollination?

Carrots do not need pollination in order to produce carrots. The carrot plant will produce a harvestable carrot and above ground foliage as part of its vegetative growth during the first year of its life.

To produce carrot seed for planting the next year pollination is required. Carrot plants are biennials and the flowering and reproductive stages of the plants life cycle occur during the second year of the plants life.

Carrot plants are insect pollinated and require insect activity, mostly bees, to carry pollen from flower to flower and pollinate the flowers. Carrot flowers are what’s called perfect flowers with male and female organs on the same flower so an insect buzzing around one flower can also cause pollen spread to the stigma of flowers.

To learn where carrots are grown in the world and the history of the carrot plant “Where Do Carrots Grow?“.

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