Carrot: Direct Sow Vegetable
How to Sow
- Carrots can be sown early, after danger of heavy frost is over. Sow every two weeks thereafter for continuous harvest, or simply sow a second crop in midsummer for fall harvest. In frost free areas, sow in fall.
- Carrots do not like to be transplanted and are best sown directly into the garden bed. Sow carrot seeds in deep, well-worked soil in full sun. Straight roots require soil that is light, loosened deeply, and free of stones, so prepare a carrot planting thoroughly. Consider using a soil amendment such as compost if your soil is heavy. If you choose long carrot varieties, your soil will need to be worked more deeply.
- Sow thinly in rows 12 inches apart and cover with ½ inch of fine soil. Firm lightly and keep evenly moist.
- Since seedlings have fine leaves it may be beneficial to plant radish along with your carrot seed. The radishes will be harvested well before carrots form and act as a guide to the carrot row.
- Seedlings emerge in 14-21 days.
- Thin carrot plants to stand 1 inch apart when seedlings are 3 inches high.
How to Grow
- Keep weeds under control during the growing season. Weeds compete with plants for water, space and nutrients, so control them by either cultivating often or use a mulch to prevent their seeds from germinating.
- Deep, consistent watering and soil well-enriched with compost help carrots form high quality roots by encouraging lush leafy tops that shade the roots, helping to prevent "green shoulders."
Keep plants well watered during dry periods to promote uninterrupted growth. Plants need about 1 inch of rain per week during the growing season. Use a rain gauge to check to see if you need to add water. It’s best to water with a drip or trickle system that delivers water at low pressure at the soil level. If you water with overhead sprinklers, water early in the day so the foliage has time to dry off before evening, to minimize disease problems. Keep the soil moist but not saturated.
- Monitor for pests and diseases. Check with your local Cooperative Extension Service for pest controls recommended for your area.
Harvest and Preserving Tips
- To make harvesting easier, soak your carrot bed with water before pulling. Twist the tops off while pulling the roots up.
- You can leave carrots in the ground after the first frost. In cold climates, pull carrots up before the ground freezes. In warm climates, you can harvest carrots all winter.
- Cut the greens off the top after harvest to about ¼ - ½ inches above the shoulder. This will help the carrot to keep longer as the greens can take moisture from the root.
- Carrots store best at 32-38 degrees F at 98% humidity.
- You can store them in the refrigerator in plastic bags, or they may be blanched and frozen for later use.
- Carrots may be canned or pickled as well.
Common Disease Problems
Alternaria Leaf Spot: Small, round reddish brown spots with white to gray centers for on the upper surface of the leaves. The lesions may encircle the stems and cause wilt. This disease is worse in warm, wet or very humid weather. Burpee Recommends: Avoid getting water on the foliage. Remove infected plant parts and do not work around wet plants. Provide plenty of air circulation. Contact your Cooperative Extension Service for fungicide recommendations.
Carrot Yellows: A virus disease that causes severe stunting and yellowing foliage. This disease is spread by leafhoppers. Burpee Recommends: Remove infected plants and control leafhoppers.
Powdery Mildew: This fungus disease occurs on the top of the leaves in humid weather conditions. The leaves appear to have a whitish or greyish surface and may curl. Burpee Recommends: Avoid powdery mildew by providing good air circulation for the plants by good spacing and pruning. Contact your Cooperative Extension Service for fungicide recommendations.
Root Knot Nematodes: Microscopic worm-like pests that cause swellings (galls) to form on roots. Plants may wilt or appear stunted. This is a serious problem in many Southern states. Burpee Recommends: Do not plant into infested soil. Grow resistant varieties. Try planting ‘Nema-Gone’ marigolds around your plants.
Root Rots: A number of pathogens cause root rots of seedlings as well as mature roots. Burpee Recommends: Practice crop rotation and do not plant related crops in the same area for several years. Pull up and discard infected plants. Make sure your soil has excellent drainage. Contact your Cooperative Extension Service for recommendations.
Common Pest and Cultural Problems
Aphids: Greenish, red, black or peach colored sucking insects can spread disease as they feed on the undersides of leaves. They leave a sticky residue on foliage that attracts ants. Burpee Recommends: Introduce or attract natural predators into your garden such as lady beetles and wasps which feed on aphids. You can also wash them off with a strong spray, or use an insecticidal soap.
Carrot Rust Fly: This insect burrows into roots damaging the roots and leaving small white maggots. There are no above ground symptoms. Burpee Recommends: Sow for a fall crop rather than a spring crop. Consult your Cooperative Extension Service for other insecticide recommendations.
Flea Beetles: These small hopping beetles feed on plant foliage. Burpee Recommends: Rotate crops with plants in a different plant family. Use floating row covers to prevent damage to young foliage.
Leafhoppers: Leafhoppers cause injury to leaves and stunt growth. They also spread disease. Burpee Recommends: Remove plant debris. Use insecticidal soaps. Consult your Cooperative Extension Service for other insecticide recommendations.
Slugs: These pests leave large holes in the foliage or eat leaves entirely. They leave a slime trail, feed at night and are mostly a problem in damp weather. Burpee Recommends: Hand pick, at night if possible. You can try attracting the slugs to traps either using cornmeal or beer. For a beer trap, dig a hole in the ground and place a large cup or bowl into the hole; use something that has steep sides so that the slugs can’t crawl back out when they’re finished. Fill the bowl about ¾ of the way full with beer, and let it sit overnight. In the morning, the bowl should be full of drowned slugs that can be dumped out for the birds to eat. For a cornmeal trap, put a tablespoon or two of cornmeal in a jar and put it on its side near the plants. Slugs are attracted to the scent but they cannot digest it and it will kill them. You can also try placing a barrier around your plants of diatomaceous earth or even coffee grounds. They cannot crawl over these.
Why do I have carrot tops but no carrots? Carrots are a long season crop, they take a lot of time to grow their tap roots. If the greens of the carrot were cut during the growing season, energy is misdirected back into foliar growth instead of root growth. Protect your carrot greens. Poor soil will also inhibit root growth, as well as a phosphorus or potassium deficiency.
Why aren’t my carrots sweet? Carrots grown and harvested in warm weather are not as sweet as carrots grown in warm weather and harvested in cool weather. Fall harvested carrots are best because sugars from the foliage move into the root with the onset of cold.
Why are my carrots forked or deformed? Soil preparation is everything to good carrot root formation. Heavy clay soils and stones of any size will impair a carrot’s downward growth. Also too much nitrogen causes forking. Carrots like additional potassium and phosphorus, and not nitrogen.
Why are my carrot roots very hairy? Carrots are vulnerable to the disease “Aster Yellows”, this disease shows itself as deformed flower heads and abnormal root growth.
Can I start carrots indoors? No, carrots have a tap root and will not transplant well. They are easily direct sown in spring or summer.