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The Ultimate Guide to Growing Carrots From Seed

Mike Gary
Mike Gary
6 min read
The Ultimate Guide to Growing Carrots From Seed

Carrots are one of the iconic Fall root vegetables, but many gardeners struggle to grow carrot plants from seed.

Fortunately, it’s easy to do once you know what you’re doing. Join us as we delve into the epic world of carrot planting and help your garden develop strong roots this fall.

The Root of the Matter

  • Only plant carrots in loose, soft soil if you want long, straight roots.
  • Carrot seeds are tiny and hard to space, so consider buying pelleted seeds for perfect spacing.
  • You can transplant carrots, though it isn’t always successful. Consider sowing densely, then moving some of the plants to increase your harvest.
  • The variety of carrots you grow makes all the difference to the size of the root.
  • Only ever plant carrots in the cooler seasons like Fall and Spring, then allow them to grow.
  • Carrots planted in Spring give a yield for Summer and Fall, and carrots planted in Fall give a yield for Winter and Spring.

When Planting Carrots from Seed

The main problem that most gardeners have with carrots is usually the seed phase. There are two main dilemmas with carrot seeds:

  1. They’re extremely tiny, which makes them hard to space appropriately.
  2. The emerging seedlings aren’t very strong, and sometimes have trouble breaking through the soil.

It’s not that they’re truly hard to grow, but that they have specific requirements. Here are a few tips to help you grow your carrot seeds:

  • If you’re willing to put in the time to thin the carrot plants later, it’s okay to sow the seed densely.
  • You can buy pelleted seeds if you want perfect spacing from the beginning.
  • Never cover your carrot seeds with a dense layer of soil—It’s best to use a thin layer of soft, rich compost.
  • Don’t allow the soil to dry out over your carrot seeds. It can be fatal, because:
  • If the carrot seeds dry out, it kills the developing plants inside them
  • The ground can form a hard crust, which the fragile carrot plants won’t get through.

Green-Thumb Guidance: Ensure that you put in enough Phosphorus and Potassium when you’re preparing your carrot patch. Excessive Nitrogen or a lack of these two key minerals can cause serious problems later on.

The essential thing to remember when carrot planting is that root vegetables needs soft, consistent soil.

Unless you want knobbly, gnarly roots, or small carrots, you should be prepared to spend plenty of time aerating and preparing the carrot beds. Add plenty of soft, fluffy compost, and ensure that there aren’t any obstacles in the soil before planting your carrot seeds.

The Carrot Timeline

Day 1: Prepare your garden bed, ensuring that the soil is soft, loose, and well-fed.

Day 2: Plant your carrot seeds and cover them loosely with a thin layer of compost.

Days 3-14: Ensure that you mist the carrot bed regularly, so the seeds stay moist, but not wet.

Days 15-21: Keep on misting regularly, you should see your young carrot plants popping up at this time.

Days 16-24: If you sowed densely, now is the time to thin and transplant your carrots so there are roughly three inches between plants.

Days 25-59: Keep misting, checking for pests, and thinning further if required.

Days 60-80: Depending on which variety of carrots you planted, They should be ready to harvest somewhere in this timeframe. Check your seed packet for specific guidance about your variety.

Variety is the Spice of Life

One of the greatest, and most overlooked, qualities of carrots is the sheer volume of variety they offer.

Planting carrots doesn’t have to limit you to short, stubby orange roots, or even long orange roots.

In fact, until the last few centuries, carrots weren’t even orange. The first wild carrots were purple or brown, rather than orange. It was only much later that farmers selectively bred carrots with a yellow hue to make orange carrots.

Carrots come in a range of colors that include:

  • Black
  • Brown
  • Orange
  • Yellow
  • White
  • Red

Orange carrots were bred from carrots that had a yellow tinge, till eventually, the carrots were fully orange.

Depending on the variety you choose, you can grow:

  • Long, hairy carrots that look like the wild type
  • Short, smooth carrots that look nothing like the wild form, but are early producers
  • Long, smooth carrots that provide great yields
  • Short, hairy carrots that are a nightmare to clean, but you can’t help loving them.

Short carrot types like the Little Finger and Thumbelina, don’t grow large but can be harvested four to six weeks before large varieties.

Longer carrots, like Kuroda or Javelin, have longer growing periods but produce plentiful harvests.

There’s nearly no limitation to the color and shape of the carrots you can grow. If you want to try a few different varieties this year, here are some color superstars to check out:

  • The Cosmic Purple Carrot
  • The Lunar White Carrot
  • Solar Yellow
  • Atomic Red

If you want to get out there and grow something original, consider something like the Siyah Havuch, an heirloom variety that farmers have grown in Turkey for hundreds of years. Its hairy purple-brown roots are a far cry from the orange roots we see today.

Carrots aren’t only good for eating though, and you might turn your eye to some carrot plants for ornamental beauty as well. Check out the wild carrot, or Queen Anne’s Lace, which produces masses of tiny white or purple flowers and can catch the eye.

FAQs About Growing Carrots

There are plenty of misconceptions and questions out there about planting carrots, so we’ve rounded up some frequently asked questions which we’ll answer below.

What’s the Right Spacing When Planting Carrots

Planting your carrots three inches from one another in rows that are four inches apart is the ideal spacing when planting carrots.

Carrot seeds are exceptionally tiny, and it can be next to impossible to get the spacing right. Many gardeners sow densely and then pull the extra carrots to leave the ideal spacing.

Another excellent option is pelleted carrot seeds, which come in a larger, dissolvable capsule. The sole purpose of the capsule is to make the seeds large enough so you can space them properly when you’re planting carrots.

How Long Does it Take for Carrots to Grow from Seed?

Carrot plants take around 60-80 days from seed to harvest.

Growing carrots from seed to harvest isn’t one of the fastest things you can try. Carrot seeds generally take two to three weeks to sprout into little carrot plants.

It takes a further 40-60 days for the carrots to form fully, though it may take longer if the conditions aren’t ideal.

How Many Carrots Are Produced from One Seed?

When you’re planting carrots, you can expect one carrot for each seed you plant.

The carrot vegetable is the main root of a carrot plant, so each carrot produces exactly one root. It’s best to sow generously, and then thin so that you know you have enough carrots.

Can You Transplant Carrots?

Yes, you can transplant carrots.

As those of you who have bought carrot starts at a local garden center or nursery know, it’s possible to transplant young carrot plants.

However, transplanting carrot plants is far from foolproof, and doesn’t always pan out well.

Most carrot plants make a central root surrounded by hundreds of tiny root hairs that help absorb nutrients from the soil. If you pull up a carrot seedling, you accidentally break the root hairs, which causes great harm to the plant.

If you’ve sowed densely, and want to move some of the young carrot plants, your best option is to loosen the patch with a long, narrow trowel, like the type used for bonsai, or something like a hori hori knife.

The more roots you keep intact, the better your chances are of successfully transplanting the carrot plants.

How Many Varieties of Carrots are There?

There are approximately 44 listed varieties of carrots.

Most of the listed carrot varieties fall into a category like Chantenay, Kuroda, or Little Finger, which refers to a specific shape of a carrot.

There are, however, many other colors and varieties to choose from if you look into heirloom carrot varieties.

Carrots like the Cosmic Purple, Atomic Red, Solar Yellow, and Lunar white can add a splash of color to your meals in the months to come.

How much Sun do Carrots Need?

Carrot plants do best in full sun since they rely heavily on photosynthesis to gather the sugars they store in their roots.

We know that everything doesn’t always go according to plan, so check out our guide to common problems with Fall root vegetables. It will help you plan for any troubles you may encounter.

Which variety and color of carrot are you planning on planting this Fall? Let us know in the comments below.

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Mike Gary

Garden Expert