How to Plant, Grow, and Harvest Carrots

Carrots are among the most loved vegetables in the world. They are healthy and tasty, can be eaten cooked or raw, and go well in many meals. Carrots are also easy to grow at home – in your garden or even indoors.

We provide all the information you need about growing your own carrots right here. Below you will find tips for planting carrots, caring for them, and then harvesting and storing your carrots.

When to Plant Carrots

The first thing you need to know before growing carrots is when to plant them. You have some options here.

As a cool-weather crop, carrots can be one of the first vegetables planted in the spring. Planting in spring will result in a summer harvest, and the optimal time to plant is two or three weeks before the last expected spring frost.

You can also plant carrots in the summer for a fall crop. The optimal time with this option is around ten weeks before the first expected fall frost.

You can plant carrots every four weeks or so between the periods mentioned above for regular carrot harvests. Just make sure that you consider the local temperatures.

  • Carrot seeds need at least five degrees Celsius (41 degrees Fahrenheit) to germinate.
  • The optimal temperature range for carrots to grow is 13-18 degrees Celsius (55-65 degrees Fahrenheit).
  • Temperatures above 22 degrees Celsius (72 degrees Fahrenheit) will negatively impact the growth and quality of your carrots.

How to Plant Carrots

There’s some flexibility in the way you plant carrots, too. There are four options to choose from.

  • Plant and grow carrots directly in the ground in your garden.
  • Plant and grow carrots in outdoor containers.
  • Plant carrot seeds in indoor containers before transplanting them to the garden.
  • Plant carrot seeds in containers and grow them indoors.

None of these options is definitively better than the others as there are several factors to take into account. However, we don’t recommend planting carrots indoors and then transplanting them into the garden. Carrots don’t always react well to this.

All things being equal, we believe that planting and growing carrots directly in the ground outdoors is the way to go. That’s the option we’re going to be covering in this guide. Check out the following resources if you’d like to learn more about growing carrots in containers or indoors.

To plant carrots directly in the ground, follow these steps.

  • Prepare the soil by breaking up lumps and loosening it to a depth of around 25-30 centimeters (10-12 inches). Remove any rocks or debris.
  • Add some well-rotted compost or manure, and then water the ground.
  • Use the edge of a hoe or trowel to make a seed drill for each row of seeds you want to plant. This shallow trench should be around one centimeter (half an inch) deep. Rows should be 30 centimeters (12 inches) apart.
  • Sow your carrot seeds thinly and shallowly. Keep them approximately five centimeters (two inches) apart.
  • Cover the seeds with a very light sprinkling of soil.
  • Water the ground very gently. We recommend using a watering can with a fine rose attachment.
  • Ensure that the soil is kept moist during germination. This will usually take 10-20 days.

Caring for Carrots

You need to take good care of your carrots after planting and germination. They don’t need too much maintenance, but some attention is necessary. The following tips will help ensure your crop grows properly.

Watering Carrots

Watering is crucial to healthy carrot growth. Too little water will likely mean the roots will be small and stunted, and too much water can lead to split roots. The ideal approach is to keep the soil moist but not soggy, which you can do by watering minimally but regularly.

The exact frequency depends on the weather and the type of soil you have. In the early days, before the carrots are completely established, we recommend watering every few days. Once a week should be enough after that.

Make sure you water the root zone and not just the foliage. Carrots absorb most of their moisture through their roots, so wetting the leaves won’t do much good. Use a hose to direct the water right to the roots.

Mulching Carrots

Carrots can benefit significantly from mulching. Here are the main reasons why.

  • Mulching helps retain moisture in the soil, which is essential for growing healthy carrots. 
  • Mulching helps to keep the ground warm, allowing carrots to grow faster. 
  • Mulching blocks direct sunlight from reaching the carrot roots and damaging them.

Make sure you only mulch your carrot plants once they are established. Mulching the seedbed can prevent the seeds from germinating.

Leave some space around each carrot plant when you do mulch, and don’t cover the base of the stalks completely. This can cause rot and mildew.

The following guide offers some more helpful advice for mulching in general.

Thinning Carrots

Thinly sowing your carrot seeds may avoid the need to thin your carrots further after they’ve germinated. However, there’s always a risk of overcrowding, and it’s vital that you give your carrots enough space to develop fully.

You’ll probably want to thin your carrots twice. Do the first round of thinning when they are still seedlings, at around five centimeters (two inches) high. Then do the second round when the plants are ten centimeters (four inches) high.

Thinning carrots is a simple process. You’re basically just looking to remove enough plants to ensure there is no competition for water and nutrients. That can lead to poor yields.

Top Tip: Make sure you water your carrots before thinning them. This will make it easier to remove plants without breaking the roots, and broken roots can attract the carrot fly pest.

During the first round of carrot thinning, gently pull out the weakest-looking seedlings with the aim of leaving 2-4 centimeters (.75 – 1.5 inches) between those remaining. During the second round, repeat the process for spacing of 4-8 centimeters (1.5 – 3 inches).

Depending on the variety of carrots you’re growing, you may want to adjust the spacing a little.

Check out the following video for one of our favorite gardening YouTuber’s take on thinning carrots.

Weeding Carrots

Carrot foliage can help keep out most weeds, but there’s no guarantee that they won’t appear. You need to remove them if they do, as weeds can damage carrots.

Try to remove weeds by hand if you can, as this is the easiest way to avoid damaging the carrots. Use a weeding tool if you absolutely have to, but be as gentle as possible.

We recommend weed carrots on a dry evening when there is no wind, as this will help prevent attracting pests to your carrots.

Fertilizing Carrots

Unless the soil is very rich in nutrients, carrots will usually benefit from being fertilized once or twice. Don’t fertilize them too early, though. Wait until the carrot tops are at least five centimeters (two inches) tall.

We recommend using a fertilizer that’s low on nitrogen with more potassium and phosphate. A 0-10-10 or a 5-15-15 will both work well for carrots. We also recommend being somewhat stingy when applying the fertilizer as too much of it could ruin the flavor of your carrots.

How and When to Harvest Carrots

A freshly picked carrot tastes terrific. But how can you tell when your carrots are ready to be harvested? There’s no clear answer to this question because there are different types of carrots and various factors to consider.

Baby carrots are usually ready after 50-60 days, while mature ones take around 70-80 days in most cases. There are exceptions, though, so it’s always best to check the seed label packet ahead of planting. It should specify the best time to harvest the carrots you planted.

Another option is to use your own judgment based on the eye test. Carrots are typically ready for harvesting when the shoulders are around two centimeters (.75 of an inch) in diameter.

Before you start harvesting your carrots, moisten the soil with some light watering. You should then gently loosen the earth with a garden fork and pull the carrots from the ground with as little force as possible.

Storing Your Carrots

As soon as you’ve harvested your carrots, you’ll need to store them safely. Firstly, remove the green tops to prevent them from extracting moisture. Then give them a good clean to remove all the dirt.

Carrots can be stored in a fridge for three to four weeks if unpeeled. Once peeled, they’re only good for around two weeks. Try not to keep them near apples or pears, as those fruits produce ethylene gas that can cause bitterness in carrots.

To store for longer periods of time, you can also freeze carrots. You can pickle them or can them, too.

A somewhat unusual way to store carrots is to keep them in dry sand in a cool, dry location. They will keep for several months in these conditions.

Common Problems When Growing Carrots

Carrots are relatively easy to grow and they are pretty sturdy. However, gardeners may come across a few common issues when caring for these tasty root vegetables.

Here are the problems you’re most likely to face.

  • Pest infestation
  • Plant diseases
  • Failed germination
  • Carrots that aren’t orange
  • Frostbitten carrots
  • Stunted growth

One of the most common problems gardeners face with carrots is pests, especially aphids and carrot fly. Root rot and other diseases can also be dangerous. You need to treat these pests and diseases or risk losing your crop.

Most of the other problems you’ll face with carrots are caused by improper care. You’ll likely avoid them if you carefully follow the advice we’ve offered on this page. However, sometimes you can do everything right and still have issues.

The following guide goes into more detail on the common problems with growing carrots, with advice on how to fix them.

Carrot Growing FAQ

Is it easy to grow carrots?

Yes, growing carrots is relatively easy. However, they need regular care to thrive. Our guide provides all the essential advice you need to grow carrots successfully.

Can you plant carrots in a pot?

Yes, you can plant carrots in pots and other containers. You must use a container that’s deep enough to provide the necessary space for the roots to grow.

How long do carrots take to grow?

Most carrots need between 50 and 90 days before they are ready to be harvested. The exact timescales depend on the variety and the growing conditions.

Can you overwater carrots?

Yes, you can. Carrots don’t do well in soggy soil as it can cause their roots to rot.

Do carrots require fertilizer?

Fertilizing carrots is not essential but is usually advisable. You’ll want to use a fertilizer that specifically helps the plant’s roots because that’s the edible part.

What can I plant with carrots?

You can plant plenty of vegetables alongside carrots. Tomatoes, lettuce, peas, onions, beans, and chives are among the best options.

How far apart do carrots need to be planted?

Leaving 2.5 centimeters (1 inch) between carrot seeds is enough. We recommend a bigger gap, though, of 5 centimeters (2 inches).