15 Carrot Growing Secrets For Your Best Harvest Ever

Carrots can be difficult to grow. My first carrot harvest was heavy with large, beautiful greens, but when I pulled hem out of the ground I was left with only pitiful scraggly roots. They did taste good, I guess, but could hardly be called carrots.

My second year growing carrots wasn’t much better. It was frustrating to say the least. Then I decided to throw myself into research: what does it take to grow really great carrots? I talked to gardners, market growers, and my horticulture teachers.

The next growing season I grew big, beautiful carrots — and plenty of them. The year after that the same thing happened. Today I grow hundreds of carrots each year on my homestead and store them throughout the winter for soups and stews.

I finally feel like I understand what a carrot needs to grow into its best self.

Choose the Right Variety

Bunch of multi colored rainbow carrots.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

Different carrot varieties perform better under different conditions. Long and slender varieties like ‘Nantes’ or ‘Imperator’ are ideal for sandy or loamy soils. If you have heavy or clay soils, shorter varieties like ‘Chantenay’ or ‘Parisian’ might be better. Also, consider the climate; some varieties are more resistant to heat or cold.

If you’re looking to grow enough carrots to last you the whole year — look for carrot varieties that have been bred as storage carrots. This goes for any crops you’re wishing to store.

On Soil Friability & Tilling

Bunch of multi colored rainbow carrots.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

In conventional gardening, you have been taught to believe that carrots need deep, loose, and well-draining soil to grow straight and smooth. And to achieve this, you must till your soil faithfully each year.

If this is how you garden, then before planting, dig the soil to a depth of at least 12 inches and remove any rocks, roots, or hard clumps that could impede root growth. Adding fine sand or organic compost can help improve soil texture and fertility.

However, carrots (and most other root vegetables) positively thrive in a no-till garden bed. If you’re curious, keep it going to the next point.

Growing Bountiful & Beautiful Carrots In a No-Till Garden

Girl holding multi colored rainbow carrots.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

Do you have an established no-till (also called no-dig) garden and you’re wondering how well carrots and other root veggies will do in soil that is never tilled, mixed, or disturbed except in the most minimal ways?

Carrots will do just fine in your garden. The exception here is if it’s your very first year of no-till and you’re converting conventional soil to the new system. In this case, I would loosen the soil before planting and amend it with compost. I would then proceed as normal.

Learn More: No-Till Gardening {Everything You Need To Know}

Use a Wood Ash Amendment

Bunch of multi colored rainbow carrots.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

Wood ash is a great potassium source, essential for healthy carrot growth. It also helps to raise the soil’s pH slightly, which can benefit growth if your soil is overly acidic. Sprinkle wood ash lightly over the soil before planting your seeds.

Plant at the Right Time

Woman holding carrots in hands.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

Timing your planting is crucial to avoid the carrots maturing during the hottest part of the year, which can cause them to become woody and less flavorful. In most temperate climates, planting carrots early in the spring, a few weeks before the last frost, or in late summer for a fall harvest is ideal.

You can succession plant carrots for an abundance.

Thin Seedlings Early

Carrots in wooden box.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

Carrots require space to develop properly. Thin seedlings when they’re about an inch tall, leaving 1-2 inches between each plant. This might seem wasteful, but it’s necessary to prevent overcrowding and to allow each carrot to mature fully.

Use Seed Tape

Bunch of multi colored rainbow carrots.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

There are many tips and tricks to germinating carrots, but the seeds are just so tiny that they can be extremely difficult to manage. So don’t! Buy carrot seed tape instead for perfectly spaced carrots.

It’s exactly how it sounds. Carrot seeds adhere to a thin papery roll that you simply unfurl into your chosen spot, cover with soil, gently water, and that’s it. The disadvantage is that only certain varieties of carrots are available this way, but as a gardening product this is gaining in popularity for obvious reasons.

Interplant Radish

Boy holding orange carrots in hands.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

When you plant your carrot seeds, consider planting radish between the carrot rows. Radish is a fast-growing crop that will be ready to harvest in 30 days, long before they become a problem competing with the carrots.

Doing this helps you remember exactly where the carrots are planted. It also provides you with a second food crop and maximizes your growing space.

But there is one more benefit and it has to do with the fact that radish can help protect the delicate carrot seeds. Carrot seeds are so prone to drying out in the first few days and weeks that keeping them consistently moist can pose a challenge for the gardener.

Planting radish helps to protect the soil underneath from hard pelting rain and sun. Their leaves will emerge within days and act as a canopy for the vulnerable carrots.

Keep the Soil Moist

Woman holding carrots in hands.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

Consistent moisture is important for carrot development. In the first few days the soil must be kept very moist at the surface. Some gardeners accomplish this by covering their carrot beds with a sheet of plywood placed directly on the surface of the ground for a few days. Others are simply diligent about watering or have irrigation.

If your carrot seedlings are allowed to dry out — they will die. Do not mess this one up.

Uneven watering can also result in split or misshapen carrots. Water your carrots regularly, especially during dry spells, to maintain even soil moisture. However, avoid overwatering as this can lead to root rot.

Use Row Covers

Woman in boots gardening.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

Carrot flies are common and vicious pests that can ruin a crop quickly. Protect your carrots by covering them with a floating row cover right after planting. This prevents the flies from being able to lay eggs near the plants and helps to maintain an ideal microclimate for growth.

You can take the covers off once the risk is past for your region.

Apply Mulch

Man pulling carrots from ground in garden.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

Mulching helps to keep the soil moist and cool, which carrots love. Apply a layer of organic mulch around the plants, such as finely shredded leaves or straw. This also helps suppress weeds competing with carrots for nutrients and space.

We keep our garden beds mulched year round (a layer of compost can also be considered mulch) and then I just dig a shallow trench right though it with my finger for the carrot seeds or tape to move it aside.

Learn More: Benefits Of Mulch In Your Garden {Ultimate Guide To Mulching}

Harvest at the Right Time

Woman holding massive bunches of orange carrots in her fists.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

While carrots can be harvested at any size, they are generally best when they are medium-sized—about ½ to 1 inch in diameter. This size typically offers the best flavor and texture. Overgrown carrots often become fibrous and less sweet.

Carrots taste best if allowed to remain in the ground until after the first frost — they become sweeter.

Leave Some in the Ground for Winter

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In areas with mild winters, carrots can be left in the ground and harvested as needed. The cold weather can convert the starches in carrots into sugars, making them even sweeter. Just be sure to mulch heavily over the carrots to protect them from freezing.

Get Those Green Tops Off ASAP

Multi colored carrotson table.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

Once you’ve harvested your carrots, it’s important to remove the green tops as soon as possible. The tops can continue to draw moisture and nutrients from the root, which can lead to a loss of flavor and crispness in the carrots.

Simply twist or cut off the tops about an inch above the carrot root. This helps preserve the quality and extends the storage life of your carrots, keeping them fresher and tastier for longer when stored in the refrigerator or a cool, dark place.

Store Your Carrots Properly

Multi colored carrots in basket.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

Proper storage is crucial to maintain the freshness and nutritional quality of your carrots after harvest. After removing the green tops, ensure your carrots are clean and dry. Avoid washing them before storage, as the moisture can promote decay.

Store them in a cool, dark place, such as a refrigerator or a root cellar. If using a refrigerator, placing the carrots in a plastic bag with holes for air circulation or in a crisper drawer can help retain moisture and prevent them from becoming limp.

For longer-term storage, carrots can be kept in boxes of moist sand or peat moss to prevent drying out and to maintain their crisp texture.

Learn More: The Complete Guide to Storing Carrots: From Garden to Table

No-Till Gardening Revolution

Girl holding tomatoes in apron.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

This method lives up to the hype and will make you a better gardener.

Learn More: No-Till Gardening {Everything You Need To Know}

My Favorite Cover Crop

Purple radish growing in a garden.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

this thing is a beast.

Learn More: Tillage Radish: The Best Cover Crop For Soil Health

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