Otherwise known as Daucus carota sativus, you are more likely to call these tasty root vegetables carrots. Unless you’ve grown one yourself, you’ve probably never tasted a fresh-from-the-ground carrot. Learning when to plant carrots gets you one step closer to experiencing just how magical these crops are.
No, baby carrots don’t count. Homegrown carrots are fresher, crisper, and prettier. Knowing when to plant carrot seeds allows you to experience the process of growing your own food and appreciating them more when you harvest them.
The carrot growing season isn’t too different no matter where you live. Still, finding the best time to plant carrots allows you to work with more carrot varieties and taste the differences between each cultivar.
Plus, when you learn how to grow carrots on your own, you’re more likely to use the entire plant, including the carrot tops, and eliminate your food waste.
All about Carrots
When you close your eyes and think of carrots, what is the first image that you see? We bet your carrot roots look like long orange taproots with fluffy greens on top. While some carrots do look like this, you’re missing out on much more than you realize.
It may surprise you to find out that the wild carrot that many of our favorite cultivars originate from is white. The traditional orange carrot that we think about is newer to us than many other colored carrots, whether you grow carrots indoors or outside.
A thousand years ago, people were eating more yellow and purple carrots than orange ones. Researchers believe that they originated in Central Asia and are as old as 5,000 years.
Knowing a little more about the cultivation history of this root vegetable may open your eyes and encourage you to learn when to plant carrots in your garden beds.
Today, we have heirloom and hybrids that are black, red, yellow, white, and purple. Each has a unique look and taste that you’re probably dying to get your hands on by now.
When to Plant Carrot Seeds
The carrot growing season is an exciting time because you don’t have to put in much work for these plants to grow. Find out when to plant carrot seeds and how to take care of them in every one of the USDA hardiness zones.
When to Plant Carrots in Zone 3 – 4
USDA hardiness zones three and four are relatively cold climates. While carrots don’t mind a little bit of cold weather, you have to be strategic about when you plant them here.
Knowing when to plant carrot seeds is crucial. Start to plant carrots towards the end of April or the beginning of May in these two zones. The seeds refuse to germinate until they can withstand the cold, and sowing them too early means you’ll lose a few to the snow.
When to Plant Carrots in Zone 5
Now that you’re in a warmer zone, you can plant carrots a little earlier in the season. Plant carrots in this zone around the end of March or the beginning of April. Don’t wait too long, or the heat makes them start bolting too soon.
When to Plant Carrots in Zone 6
Don’t sow carrot seeds any earlier than the beginning of April in growing zone six. It is safe to plant these root veggies with many of your brassica crops like Swiss chard, collards, kale, kohlrabi, radishes, and peas. You may also plant leaf lettuce, onions, and beets at this time.
When to Plant Carrots in Zone 7
Once you move into higher zones, it is best to wait until the end of summer to sow carrot crops. The best time to plant carrots and celery is by sowing carrot seeds outdoors from mid to late August for a successful fall crop.
When to Plant Carrots in Zone 8 – 10
You may either plant carrots in early February or mid-September if you live in zones eight or higher. These vegetables to grow in February temperatures ensure that the carrots won’t sit out in the heat and still produce roots instead of focusing their energy on the carrot greens.
Caring for Crops during the Carrot Growing Season
The best way to start the carrot growing season is by sowing carrot seeds because the roots are sensitive and don’t transplant well.
Many people choose to use seed tape for tiny seeds like carrots and radish seeds. This tape keeps your seeds in one place and holds them in evenly spaced areas. However, it isn’t necessary.
Choose a location in your garden that receives full sun, and there is plenty of sandy soil and loose soil. Refrain from heavy soils like clay soil with lots of clods or rocks in it.
Most carrot seeds are sown in the early spring in either outdoor plots, raised beds, or container gardens. Ensure that the ground’s soil temperature is at least 40°F for germination to occur.
Spacing for carrot rows should be ten inches apart, with two to six seeds sown an inch apart. Cover the carrot seeds with half an inch of soil and pat them down gently. Water the seeds lightly to keep the soil surface moist.
Keeping the soil moist without being too wet is key to preventing diseases between your root vegetable crops. You might need to water every day until germination takes place.
Carrots are a biennial plant that is often grown as an annual. Take good care of them during their first year of life. Add lots of potassium to the soil by using compost or other types of fertilizer.
Try mulching around the plants with organic mulch chips or straw to keep weeds from taking over the area. Too much nitrogen could be detrimental when planting carrots. Perform a soil test if necessary.
Remember that pests are a massive problem with carrot plants. Use a row cover to keep leafhoppers, nematodes, carrot rust fly, and other pests away.
Types of Carrots
There are four types of carrots, including Chantenay, Nantes, Imperator, and Danvers.
Danvers carrots are what you’re most likely thinking of when you envision a carrot. They have a long, skinny shape that tapers at the bottom. The orange color makes them rich in vitamin A, and the foliage and taproot are longer than the others.
Nantes types are almost perfectly cylindrical. The foliage is sparse, and they have a nice crunch and sweeter flavor. There are about 40 different carrots in this single category. Little Finger and Bolero carrots are some of the most popular Nantes carrots.
Imperator carrots are what many commercial growers produce and what you’re most likely to find in a grocery store. They look similar to Danvers but are usually thicker and have higher sugar content.
The Chantenay carrot is the best for heavy and rocky soils. They only reach about six inches long, and the bodies are short and wide.
They are suitable for gardeners growing in difficult terrains or for those who enjoy carrot tops. The Royal Chantenay is a great variety to work with if you grow this kind.
Cooking with Carrots
It’s common to throw your favorite carrots into a stew or roast, but there are other fun ways to work with these plants. Knowing when to pick carrots is important, as you want them at just the perfect ripeness.
Harvest carrots by pulling them directly from the ground. When ready to work with them, rinse them and peel them first. Check your carrots over so you don’t make these tasty pickles with bad carrots.
The most popular way to keep baby carrots fresh is by storing them in the fridge, but for something different, try making pickles.
Add your sliced carrots to a large glass jar and set them aside. Bring the remaining pickling ingredients to a simmer over medium heat to dissolve the sugar before pouring them over the carrots.
Put the lid on your glass jar and store the carrots in the fridge for two days before snacking on your crunchy carrot pickles.
Knowing when to plant carrot seeds is only half of the fun of growing them. The more you learn about these unique root vegetables, the more likely you are to work with different cultivars and use them in unique ways in the kitchen.
If learning when to plant carrots has helped your veggie garden thrive, share this guide for the carrot growing season on Facebook and Pinterest.