Secrets to Growing a Great Carrot In The Vegetable Garden

Folks dream about a plump growing carrot but thee specific growing needs sometimes frustrate gardeners.

There are a few simple things to understand about this crop and once you deal with those, they are no more difficult to grow than any other vegetable.

Major Problem Growing Carrots

Most of the problems are in the soil. If you compact the soil around the neck of the growing carrot (walking in the row too close to the plants will quickly do this) then your root is likely going to"fork" or grow extra roots.

If your soil is compacted, then you'll wind up with a stunted or misshapen root. This plant does not like having to drive itself down into the soil – think of them as lazy vegetables. If the soil is right, they'll grow long and straight. If not, you get terrible looking crops.

Sudden weather changes, late frosts or cold seasons will cause really rough looking roots on your growing carrot. If you let them dry out or give them way too much water, you'll find they'll look ugly.


Carrots Freshly Pulled From Garden

Hairy Carrots and Cracking

If you overfeed this plant, you'll likely get roots with a LOT of small feeder roots. It looks like the root has grown a head of hair.

And cracks are caused by too much water at harvest time or allowing the root to get too old before harvesting.

The Secret

So what's the secret? The real secret to growing carrots is to double-dig the garden soil. A deep, well composted soil will grow a terrific root.

Raised garden beds will also grow great roots if you take the time to make super soil in those beds.

Bottom line is the bottom line – you want a soil that is wonderful stuff and about a foot and a half of it deep.


Mulched carrots keep cool and don't dry out


Sow the seed very thinly in the row. Some gardeners mix radish seed into the carrot seed so they'll tell where the row is. Soil temperatures should be at least 60F before sowing seed and seed should be sown so there are 3 to 4 seeds per inch of row. Rows should be 12 to 18 inches apart.

Sow by laying the seed on the surface and then covering the seed very lightly with one quarter inch of soil. Tamp the row down gently to make sure the seed is in contact with the ground. If you bury this seed deeply, they won't germinate. Water with a fine nozzle to soak the ground and keep damp until germination.

If you have a clayish soil, do not let the soil crust over or the seedlings won't be able to penetrate the crust.

Sowing every week until mid-summer is a good idea to avoid the bad weather that is sure to knock out some of your crop. You can harvest carrots at any stage of growth and the smaller plants or those you thin make excellent additions to salads.

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Green Shoulders

If you see"green shoulders" on some plants, it is a good idea to hoe up a little dirt around the shoulders to prevent or reduce this. You'll likely cut it off anyway but you can reduce the damage by"gently" hilling up around the carrot.

Major Pest: Carrot Rust Fly

Adult flies don't do much damage, but female flies are attracted to carrots, parsnips, celeriac and celery.

It's the larva that are the problem. After eggs hatch, larva burrow into the crop and wind up killing the plant.

How Do I Know It's Carrot Fly

The frass (excrement) from the larva is reddish or rust-colored and deposited in the tunnels of the root you want to eat.

How To Control Organically

You can't control the larva so you have to go after the adult fly before she lays her eggs.

Yellow sticky traps have been effective at attracting the adult fly. Some U.K. research suggests putting the plastic sticky board at a 45-degree angle works better than straight up and down.

Regular sprayings with neem and natural pyrethrums have given some control.

Using row crop covers, securely tucked into the ground around the carrots, have shown to be effective at preventing the fly from reaching the carrot to lay her eggs.

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