Carrots take between 55-120 days to reach maturity with most varieties maturing in 70-80 days and varieties like Aranka and Mokum that can be picked as baby carrots in 36 days.
A baby carrot is just an immature carrot and I believe you can pick any variety of carrot early as a baby carrot when it reaches finger size. Some varieties like those mentioned above are known to be good as baby carrots.
Some Imperator type carrots are late maturing like the Viper variety, and take 120 days to reach maturity. Also, carrots that reach maturity in the fall can be left in the ground until the first frost. The extra time in the ground as temperatures drop makes the carrots sweeter and toughens the skin so they store better.
This article from the Michigan State University Department of Horticulture says that carrots will mature in 90-120 days. There are two reasons for the long maturing times cited by the paper.
- It’s a recommendation for commercial carrot farmers so the time is from planting the seed and not from the time the carrot sprouts.
- The Paper was written in 1986. There has been a lot of carrot breeding since then and newer faster maturing hybrid varieties for gardeners and farmers alike to choose from.
How Long Does It Take for Carrots to Sprout?
Carrot seeds will sprout in 1-3 weeks. They will sprout faster in warmer weather and slower in cold. Carrot seeds need soil temperature to be at least 50 degrees or they will not germinate.
The longer the seeds sit in the ground the lower germination success rates and the higher the chances of replanting.
A soil thermometer, just like a meat thermometer but reads down to zero degrees, is a great tool to have. Put it all the way into the soil around 9-11 AM for a good average of the day or measure a few times throughout the day.
If you live in an area where the ground freezes be sure to break up the soil in the early spring 8-12 inches down to help warm up the ground and unthaw it.
How to Germinate Carrot Seeds Fast
The fastest way to germinate carrot seeds is in paper towels in about 3 days. Seeds planted in a starter tray will sprout in 4-8 days and carrot seeds direct planted into the ground will take 1-3 weeks. With starter trays or direct seed planting the trick to make the carrot seeds germinate faster is to warm up the soil.
Germinate Carrot Seeds In Paper Towels
For this method wet four pieces of paper towel, two for each side. Wet them under the sink and wring them out or use a spray bottle. Lay two pieces of towel down, then the carrot seeds on top, and then the other two pieces on top of the seeds and press down slightly.
Place the paper towels and carrot seeds in a ziploc bag and shut it tight. Put the bag in a warm area of 70-90 degrees and away from most light. Some seeds require light to germinate and some do not. By keeping away from most ambient light we’re mimicking the seed being 1/4″ under the soil.
Check on the paper towels once a day to make sure they’re still moist. The warmer the area the bag is the faster it’ll dry out! To add moisture use a spray bottle or sprinkle water onto the paper towels. The seeds will sprout in 2-3 days.
Sprout Carrot Seeds In a Starter Tray
Carrot seeds will sprout in 4-8 days in a starter tray. A warmer area, around 80 degrees, or using a heating pad under the tray will make the seeds sprout faster. This seed starter tray kit includes a tray, dome, heating pad, and T-5 light. The purpose of the dome and the heating pad is to increase germination rates. The T-5 light will produce a healthy looking tray of seedlings about a foot tall.
A dome over the tray increases humidity which helps keep the growing medium moist and increases germination rates. A humidity level of 95% is recommended for germination by UMass Extension. After the carrot seeds sprout the dome is taken off. Seedlings like a humidity level around 70%. This article from PennState Extension talks more about the different environments for seed germination and seedling growth.
Carrot plants have sensitive roots that don’t like to be transplanted so make sure and use starter pots that can be planted directly into the ground. Cow Pots are a great option. They’re environmentally friendly and add nutrients to the soil. They’re made by a third generation dairy farmer and were on the show “Dirty Jobs” with Mike Rowe.
To water a starter tray gently do so from the bottom. Fill a flat tray with a 1/4″ of water and place the starter pots or tray inside of the flat tray. Now just check on the starter pots every 15-20 minutes by feeling the top of the soil. Once the top of the soil is moist the water has worked it’s way up through the starter pots and you can empty the water left in the tray. Lifting a tray up and feeling how heavy it is is a good way to know the water level.
Germination Of Direct Sow Carrot Planting
Direct sowing carrot seeds in the ground should only be done when the soil temperature averages 50 degrees or more. You can warm the soil temperature in a few ways.
- Use a clear plastic garden cover. A clear cover can raise soil temperatures by 5-10 degrees while a black plastic cover will raise soil temperatures by 3-5 degrees. The reason farmers use black covers for their crops is it doesn’t allow sun in so no weeds can grow in between plants.
- Break up soil in the early spring so it can unthaw. Looser soil will warm up faster than compacted soil and it will prevent any frozen spots from staying in the garden.
- I haven’t seen any studies done on this but I try and use sun warmed water to water with.
Check out this article for more on starting carrots indoors and the correct time to plant carrots, “When to Plant Carrots?“.
How Long Do Carrots Take to Grow From Seeds?
Carrots take anywhere from 60-120 days to grow from seed. If you plan on harvesting baby carrots, immature carrots the size of a finger, you can harvest them as quick as 42 days from direct sowing the carrot seed.
Most varieties of carrots take 70-80 days to grow after they sprout and carrot seeds take an average of 12 days to sprout. So most varieties of carrots take about 87 days to grow from seed.
Are Carrots Hard to Grow?
Carrots are not hard to grow. Be careful about your planting date. Just because it’s summer doesn’t mean it’s a good growing season for every crop. Carrots are root vegetables, and like other root vegetables are a cool weather crop that grow best with temperatures between 55-70 degrees.
Use the average monthly high and low temperatures for your area and the time for maturity of the variety of carrot you’re growing to know when to plant. 55-70 is ideal but not always available. Start carrots in hotter months and let them mature and finish in cooler months.