How to Grow Great Carrots

organic carrot bunches

Carrots were my gateway vegetable.

I was 5 or 6, helping harvest in the family garden, when I grasped a carrot top and pulled.  I remember the release, the soil shaking off as I held the orange root in the air.  It wasn’t magic so much as discovery—that such brightness could grow underground.  I don’t remember shouting or speaking at all, just a quiet satisfaction that sprouted from motion, from the pull and release, from the give and take.

To this day, carrots are my favorite crop to grow and harvest.

I can’t say they’re the sole reason I farm—many intervening years and experiences wove together to bring me to farming—but that first imprint gave me the whispers of rootedness and transformation and the part I could have in it all.

That original garden of my childhood only lasted a few years before apple and plum trees took its place.  My parents tried new plots, but flowers eventually took over the vegetables.  Now, carrots are the only vegetable remaining in their raised beds, surrounded by marigolds and rhubarb and a curving wall of lilacs.

And no wonder.  Carrots ask so little of us: loose soil, a bit of weeding, some water.  And in return they give sweet roots that store through to the next spring (those that aren’t eaten first, that is).

We’ve grown many varieties over the years, from Scarlet Nantes to Red Cored Chantenay to Cosmic Purple.

Our current favorites are:

  • Napoli F1 : at 45 days to harvest one of the fastest, and most delicious, varieties
  • Miami F1 : a great main season and storage variety, that sweetens in storage.
  • White Satin F1: did you know the original carrots were white?  These are delicious and unique.
  • Yellowstone: beautiful, long roots add a splash of unexpected color to your bunches

Finding the best variety for your garden is part personal preference and part soil type.

First, know the different types of carrots:

  • Nantes : cylindrical roots with blunt tips
  • Chantenay : short and stocky with rounded tips
  • Imperator : long with tapered roots
  • Danvers : short and tapered roots

If you have heavy soil, the shorter rooted danvers and chantenay types will work well for you.  Imperator types need loose, sandy soils for their roots to dive down long and deep.  Nantes types like loose soil, but at 5-7″ long, don’t require as much depth as imperators.

At Good Heart, we grow nantes types, which grow well in our variable soils that go between sandy and clayey, but are overall well-drained.

Tips for growing great carrots:

  • Weed your bed before planting: weed seeds grow faster than carrot seeds, so give your bed a thorough scuffle before seeding.  This will cut down on weed competition as your carrots germinate.
  • Loosen your soil: with a digging fork or broadfork, loosen the soil before seeding.  This helps the carrots grow straight down without competition from rocks or hard, heavy soil.
  • Compost: rake out a thin layer of compost before seeding.  This will give you an even surface to seed into and nourish your future carrot crop.
  • Water: good germination requires consistent moisture.  Water your seed bed a few times a day (or as often as needed so it doesn’t dry out).  Covering the bed with row-cover can help keep moisture in and decrease your time spent watering.
  • Thin: depending on how densely you’ve seeded your carrots, you may need to pull up some seedlings.  Thin to 1-2″ between each carrot.  This will ensure they have enough space to size up.
  • Succession seed: for a continual harvest all season long, sow a new round of carrots every 2-3 weeks.  Leave the last succession in the soil until the first light frost, which will condense the natural sugar in the carrots and sweeten the harvest.

As you grow, trial different varieties to see which ones grow the best in your garden (and which taste the best to you!).

Seed, water, and tend.  Harvest brightness.

 

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