Plant carrots at the earliest when soil temperatures average 50 degrees or above and there is no danger of frost. On the late side plant carrots with enough time to reach maturity before low temperatures average below 45 degrees.
To get a good average of the soil temperature use a soil thermometer, an inexpensive tool that looks like a meat thermometer, between 9-11 AM when the night time cold has worn off but before the afternoon sun inflates the temperature.
Carrots are a root vegetable and like other root vegetables they are a cool weather crop. Carrots grow best with air temperatures between 55 and 70 degrees. Lower temperatures between 40 and 55 about 2-3 weeks out from harvest may make carrots sweeter.
Do Carrot Seeds Need to Be Soaked In Water Before Planting?
Carrot seeds do not need to be soaked in water before planting. The point of soaking seeds is to increase germination rates or speed up germination. Hard seeds like watermelon, corn, or bean seeds benefit from being soaked and the outer shell softened making it easier for the seed to sprout.
Is It Too Late to Plant Carrots
The latest carrots should be planted is 70 days before the first frost. Carrot varieties take between 70-120 days to mature depending on the variety so if you’re short on time choose a fast maturing variety.
Carrots can be picked early before reaching full maturity when they are finger size. This is what true baby carrots are, just carrots picked early. Baby carrots in the store are almost always big carrots when harvested cut to be small.
Carrot plants can handle a light frost but by the time it comes the carrots should be pretty much developed. Temperatures below 50 degrees will slow down carrot growth. Temperatures between 55 and 70 degrees lead to the best growth.
Germinating Carrot Seeds
You can germinate carrot seeds indoors in starter trays, or in paper towels in a ziploc bag, or direct seed them into the ground. Indoors in a starter tray seeds will germinate in 5-10 days.
To germinate carrot seeds indoors with paper towels get four pieces of paper towels and wet them with water. Wring them out so they aren’t completely soaked.
Next lay out two pieces of paper towel and spread out the carrot seeds on top of the sheets. Then lay the other two pieces of wet paper towel on top of the carrot seeds.
Place the paper towels and seeds in a ziploc bag and put the bag somewhere warm between 70 and 85 degrees and dark. The hotter it is the more often you need to check the paper towels to see if they have dried out and sprinkle water on them if they have to keep them moist.
After 2-3 days the seeds should sprout. You can tear pieces of the paper towel to not disturb the sprouted root and plant it with the small piece of paper towel attached.
Germinating carrot seeds directly in the ground can take 1-3 weeks for the seeds to sprout. They will sprout faster with warmer weather and slower with cooler. Keep the soil around the planted seeds moist and water them with room temperature water when the soil starts to dry out.
How To Plant Carrot Seeds & Transplants
Carrot seeds are tiny and need to be planted shallowly, about 1/4″ deep. Before planting, water the ground where you want to plant the carrots to help the carrot seeds stick where you place them. Next use a stick or skinny pole to make a line where you want the row of carrots. Space rows 12″ apart.
Space the carrot seeds along the row 2-3 seeds per inch. Don’t worry too much about spacing as you’ll be thinning the carrot plants down to every 2″ after they sprout and grow to about 4″ tall. Sprinkle dirt over the seeds and water in gently.
Plant carrot transplants every 2″ apart in rows spaced 12″ apart. Cover the root ball of transplants with about 1/2″ inch of soil and water them in.
Bigger varieties of carrots may need more spacing between carrots and if top growth is also known to be big rows may need to be spaced further apart as well. Remember to water the rows of seeds with room temperature water before they sprout to help germination.
Starting Carrots Indoors
Starting carrots indoors is a great idea to increase germination rates, extend the growing season, and give carrot plants a great start.
Avoid root shock when transplanting outdoors by using a compostable starter pot. Cardboard egg cartons can do the trick. Put a few toothpick size holes into each egg spot and cut each egg spot out individually when it comes time to transplant.
Cow pots are environmentally friendly starter pots made by a third generation American dairy farmer.
Use a seed starting mix or potting soil to fill the starter tray. Seed starting mixes are a mixture of organic materials that are very light and loose and provide a texture that allows easy root growth. Potting soil will also work fine.
Either seed starting mix or potting soil will have enough nutrients in the mix to last the seedlings until they’re transplanted. Filling the trays with garden soil is generally considered a no-no because of possible pests or disease in the soil.
Once the starter trays are filled with your selected growing medium put a carrot seed on top of each pot. Take a pencil and push the seeds down into the soil about 1/4″. Then cover the seeds with some dirt and gently water the pots from the bottom.
To water starter trays from the bottom fill a tray with about a 1/4″ of water and set starter pots in the water. Check the starter pots by feeling the top of the soil every 20 minutes. When the soil on top feels moist the water has worked its way up through the containers and you can dump out any remaining water.
Lifting a starter tray up to feel how heavy it is is a good way to know when to water. Use water that’s at least room temperature. If you’re starter tray is under a grow light, on a heating pad, or in a hot area expect the soil to dry out sooner.
Try and keep the starter tray in a warm area that stays between 70 and 85 degrees. Even though carrots are cool weather plants that grow best with temperatures from 55-70 degrees, germination will be faster and more successful with warmer temperatures.
After seeds sprout they need light. If you have a large south facing window that should do fine. You’ll know if the seedlings don’t get enough light because the stem will get spindly stretching for light and the plant will fall over on itself.
To start a lot of plants indoors it’s ideal to have numerous south facing windows in a row, or a three seasons room, or supplemental lighting.
If you have a small space or only want one starter tray of seedlings this kit includes a tray with a dome, a small light, and heating pad. I used a T-5 Fluorescent for years. They’re great for vegetative growth but probably not the most cost efficient way to go about getting supplemental lighting.
They can be used for a plants whole life cycle to flower and fruit but are ideal for vegetative growth. The T-5 fixture above measures 2×4′ and will cover an area of 4×4′ very well and an area of 4’x6′ well. At the ends of the 4′ ballast light stops abruptly but on the sides light casts outwards.
T-5 fixtures like this have 8 bulbs and two power switches that allows you to operate 4 bulbs independently. The bulbs last for about two years with nearly full time use. The second year they operate around 75% or so power.
LED lighting is another fancy option that costs 3-4x initial cost of the T-5 but uses 1/3 of the electricity. Lush Lighting I know produces quality LED lighting.
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