#1a Plant at the correct time.
Plant carrots when weather is warm, about mid-July through the end of September in zone 9. This helps carrots get a “jump-start” on growth before it gets cold. Carrots planted in July and August are ready in early November. But, if you wait until after the first frost to harvest (mid to late November or December) the carrots will be amazingly sweet. Carrots planted in September will be ready in spring.
#1b Plant at the correct time.
Carrots are also planted in January, but germination takes longer. Carrots planted in February or March are ready after about 70 days. If you wait until April and May to plant, the hot weather will cause carrots to taste “woody” when raw. These carrots are best used in soup.
#2Prepare the soil well.
Carrots love fluffy, loose soil full that’s full of compost. Carrots grown in rocky or cloddy soil become knobby and twisted. Add 6″ of compost and mix into the soil with a shovel or rototiller. It’s best to do this no matter what type of soil you have.
When you open a seed packet you’ll see that carrot seeds are very tiny! Make a happy home for them by using your index finger to “draw” a row that is 1/8″ deep. Space carrot rows 10″ apart. After planting, take a handful of soil (or compost) and sprinkle lightly over the top of the seeds, barely covering them. Carrot seeds planted too deeply are buried under too much soil and can’t break through all that soil. (pause for a moment to think of all those carrot seeds you’ve killed. Then move on with your life. I have!)
#4 Keep Soil Moist.
Carrots take 14-21 days to germinate, which means 2 weeks of “babysitting.” Keeping soil moist may seem like an impossible task in 90-100°F weather. Try covering the soil with burlap or newspaper and check underneath for sprouts and then remove.
Thinning is removing plants that are growing too closely together. If you don’t thin, the carrots will crowd each other become stunted. Thin about two weeks after your carrot seeds germinate.
#6 Harvest at the right time.
The neat thing about carrots is once they are ready, you can harvest at your leisure. If needed, carrots planted July-September can stay in the ground until January. Carrots planted in spring should be harvested before the plants begin to “bolt” (make flowers/seeds.) If you wait too long, the carrots will turn tough and bitter.
Carrots are originally from Afghanistan, but orange carrots were made popular by the Dutch. Hundreds of years ago, William of Orange decided all carrots should be orange, and made the orange carrot his mascot. After that, other colors were less commonly seen. Renee’s Garden, Botanical Interest and other seed companies sell colorful carrot seeds.
“Baby” carrots have a fascinating origin that started with a California vegetable farmer who hated carrot waste (approx 400 tons daily in 1985). The carrots were lost due to “imperfections” in their appearance. Farmer Mike Yurosek found a way to use the carrots and save money. He used an industrial green bean cutter to cut the carrots into 2″ pieces, the he sent them through a potato peeler to create the baby carrot shape.
The American public loved baby carrots, and has made them the popular vegetable they are today. See this really cool carrot article to watch the process.