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Tips for Growing Great Carrots

October 4th, 2011

Yesterday, some readers asked if I had any tips for growing great carrots, so I thought I’d share a few things that work well for me. I’m by no means an expert carrot grower and sometimes things work well in one place and not in another. If you’ve had difficulties growing carrots, keep trying new varieties and different methods, keep amending your soil, eventually you’ll find a variety that works for you. Here are a few tips I’ve learned.

Carrots like loose rich soil, preferably a little sandy, and soil that’s been worked quite deeply. I find that they work best when planted where I’ve grown something like potatoes or sweet potatoes because the soil has been worked up well. Having loose sandy soil, will allow you to grow long slender straight carrots. If you have heavy soil, like I do here at Chiot’s Run, try growing shorter round varieties like Oxheart and Parisienne while you spend time amending and loosening the soil. Remove as all rocks and debris, because carrots will form “legs” when they hit a rock. If you’ve ever seen a carrot that looks like a pair of pants you know what I mean.

Carrot seeds take a while to germinate and they like even moisture during the process. This can be a bit of a chore since they are very small and are sowed very close to the surface where the soil dries out quicker. You can water your carrots twice a day to keep the top of the soil damp. That can be time consuming, so I usually cover them with a layer of burlap to hold the moisture. I only have to water them every couple days and this works beautifully for me. Make sure you check under the burlap every day for germination, at the first green sprout, remove the burlap and water daily until they have all sprouted.

Carrot seeds like to be planted close to the surface of the soil, the general rule: plant one and a half to two times the width of the seed. When I plant carrot seeds I usually sprinkle them on top of the soil and cover them with fine vermiculite, which holds moisture, thus it helps with germination rates.

I usually plant one big wide row of carrots four feet wide and about ten feet long. I use my square foot gardening template that Mr Chiots made for me, sprinkling one or two seeds in each hole, the cover with vermiculite. This method works really well for me because I know exactly where each carrot seed should be and I can pull any weeds sprouting outside the vermiculite. This way I do not have to thin the carrots since usually only one or two carrots germinates in each spot. I’ve also read that carrots do better when slightly crowded, so this close planting should make your patch more productive. Planting in one wide row also saves garden space as compared to having several long rows with paths in between then.

As with all root vegetables, carrots appreciate a lot of phosphorus in the soil. As you should do with onions, garlic, potatoes and other root vegetables, give them a healthy dose of bone meal when you work up the soil at planting time. An occasional watering with a light fish/seasweed emulsion like Neptune’s Harvest or Dr. Earth Liquid Fertilizer will also help them size up and grow beautifully, especially if your soil tends to be on the lean side.

Make sure you do not plant carrots where you had sod growing the previous year, they do not take kindly to this. For even greater success You can also plant mustard as a cover crop in the area you are planning to plant your carrots. Mustard does a wonderful job mitigating problems for root vegetables. I’m hoping that soon, the soil here at Chiot’s Run will be amended enough and cleared of stones so I can grow a nice crop of carrots here. Until then they’ll have a spot in the potager that I share with my mom.

Any great tips & tricks you want to share about how to grow carrots more successfully?

51 Comments to “Tips for Growing Great Carrots”
  1. daisy on October 4, 2011 at 5:44 am

    Wow! Fab-oo idea with the frame and vermiculite! Absolutely brilliant!
    Thanks for the tips!

    Reply to daisy's comment

  2. John on October 4, 2011 at 6:47 am

    Some great advice – well done!

    Just go easy on the fertiliser. Carrots don’t need a lot of feed, so once a fortnight using any good general purpose liquid fertiliser should be plenty. They must never be soggy or allowed to dry out.

    Reply to John's comment

    • Susy on October 4, 2011 at 8:06 am

      Yes, for all root veggies go easy on the fertilizer, especially that with lots of nitrogen as it will produce lush leaves with tiny roots.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  3. Ben Church on October 4, 2011 at 7:00 am

    Just found your site. I’m always reading anything that pertains to gardening. I have a blog on ‘growing a garden’. So I like to see what others are writing about he subject.

    Found your site to be interesting and informative. Would be glad for you to visit my site and check it out.

    Thanks for sharing. You’re doing a great job with your site.

    Thanks for sharing,

    Ben Church

    Reply to Ben Church's comment

  4. Melissa on October 4, 2011 at 7:54 am

    I’ve been using peat moss for the same process as vermiculite– works brilliantly. The burlap is a good idea- would be easier than dragging an old board out to the garden. I’ll have to remember that for the next crop of carrots.

    Reply to Melissa's comment

  5. Kaytee on October 4, 2011 at 8:36 am

    I got lucky this year and it was nice and rainy right after I seeded my carrots, so I got lots of germination. I’m going to use your vermiculite idea in the future though.

    I love the template idea. How big is it? And how large are the holes? I think I need to make one of those. I bet it would be great for plant lettuce seeds as well.

    Reply to Kaytee's comment

    • Susy on October 4, 2011 at 8:47 am

      Mr Chiots made the spacer for me, I have a few with different distances for planting a variety of things. Here’s my post about my square foot gardening templates. Basically a square foot with holes drilled at 3 or 4 inches apart. One has 16 holes one has 9, you could even make one with 4 if you wanted.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  6. Chicago Mike on October 4, 2011 at 9:00 am

    The template with the vermiculite. Brilliant. Really. Wow.

    Reply to Chicago Mike's comment

  7. Misti on October 4, 2011 at 9:07 am

    We just planted some carrots last night! Can’t wait to try them!

    Reply to Misti's comment

  8. goatpod2 on October 4, 2011 at 9:21 am

    We planted carrots at the first house I grew up in and my Dad helped my niece plant carrots in their backyard when we were there this summer ’11.


    Reply to goatpod2's comment

  9. Sincerely, Emily on October 4, 2011 at 11:00 am

    I had a few carrots resembling the “pants” you mentioned. I have loosen my soil more this year and hope to have all single-legged carrots this year. I like your idea with the vermiculite over the seeds. Thanks for sharing that wonderful idea. Emily

    Reply to Sincerely, Emily's comment

  10. Amy @ Homestead Revival on October 4, 2011 at 11:00 am

    Thank you, Susy!! This is just what I needed to know! Before, I was getting so discouraged I was about to give up, but now I’m excited to try again. Really appreciate you addressing this at length!

    Reply to Amy @ Homestead Revival's comment

  11. Grace on October 4, 2011 at 12:30 pm

    Great tips! I had trouble with my carrots this year and now I know why:)

    Reply to Grace's comment

  12. Mike Lieberman on October 4, 2011 at 12:37 pm

    I’ve heard that if you mix your carrot seeds with coffee grinds before planting it helps to increase the harvest.

    Reply to Mike Lieberman's comment

    • Susy on October 4, 2011 at 1:27 pm

      That’s a great tip, I always have plenty of coffee grounds to go around!

      Reply to Susy's comment

  13. Alyssa on October 4, 2011 at 2:04 pm

    Thanks so much for the tips! I’ll be sure to refer back to this next spring when I plant some more. Thanks again (and please keep it up, these little posts help me SO much)

    Reply to Alyssa's comment

  14. Sandra on October 4, 2011 at 4:33 pm

    I love that template. I’m guessing he made one for the different ratios of how many seeds/plants you plant in each square foot? Trust me I will be adding this to my honey do list :0)


    Reply to Sandra's comment

    • Susy on October 4, 2011 at 4:34 pm

      Yep, I have two, one with 16 holes and one with 9. You could also make one with four. I’m thinking a long skinny one row version of this would be nice too!

      Reply to Susy's comment

  15. deedee on October 4, 2011 at 7:18 pm

    I’m dying laughing reading this today… I seriously just came in from clearing out the garden for the season, and was telling Nick how I need to research how to grow better carrots! Thanks for doing it for me:)

    Reply to deedee's comment

  16. Eleanor @ Planned Resilience on October 4, 2011 at 11:14 pm

    Thanks so much for this post. The first year I grew carrots was a disaster. This was the first year that I got a good harvest, but they were kind of bitter. I will try this next year. I really like your suggestion of vermiculite. The burlap too.
    Have you ever thought of selling Mr. Chariots planting templates?

    Reply to Eleanor @ Planned Resilience's comment

    • Susy on October 4, 2011 at 11:18 pm

      If you plant your carrots in mid summer and harvest after the weather turns cool, the sweeten up considerably after the cooler weather hits. I would also recommend a different variety as there might have been something with the variety you chose and the microclimate in your garden.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  17. mrbrownthumb on October 5, 2011 at 1:41 pm

    These are really good tips, especially about the phosphorus.

    Reply to mrbrownthumb's comment

  18. Andrea Duke on October 6, 2011 at 8:35 am

    Great post! I grew carrots last year, but they were small, so you’ve inspired me to try again in the Spring :)
    I also have a handy friend who is going to make me a few templates.

    Reply to Andrea Duke's comment

  19. KimP on October 7, 2011 at 1:37 pm

    When I plant my carrot seeds, I cover them lightly with grass clippings (untreated). By the time the grass clippings have turned brown, I can see the green carrot tops coming up. :)

    Reply to KimP's comment

  20. Sierra on October 9, 2011 at 8:12 pm

    Wow, those are great tips! Those are also the beautiful carrots I’ve ever seen! I love your gardening template, I think I’ll have Walter make one for me too–if I attempt gardening again next year, of course. :)

    Reply to Sierra's comment

  21. pinterest « grace garden on October 17, 2011 at 8:30 am

    […] always had trouble growing carrots, so I’m going to try these tips next […]

    Reply to pinterest « grace garden's comment

    • Gwen Walker on February 1, 2012 at 11:27 am

      Try grow carrots in a large container. Then you control the soil and there isn’t rocks or clay chunks that keep carrots from growing easily. We have had great success using the container method for carrots. Good Luck!

      Reply to Gwen Walker's comment

  22. John Dinnery on August 11, 2012 at 1:42 am

    My wife & I grow our carrots in a 3 ft high, 4′ X 4″ wooden box and have great harvests each year…easily getting 12″ long carrots. The soil is well amended, which we add to each year..i.e., potting soil, top soil, little bit of sheep manure, leftover plant pot soils etc etc…as I type, (August 10), the box is packed full of “seed tape” carrots which are now in full “green” leaf about 18″ high. I’m positive we’ll have yet another batch of 10″ – 14″ carrots…hope this helps…it works for us.

    Reply to John Dinnery's comment

  23. Becky on November 9, 2012 at 6:18 pm

    I always mix my carrot seeds with my radish seeds. The radishes sprout fast and are harvested in about a month. The carrots are just starting to grow about that time I harvest my radishes and I get double the space by planting both together

    Reply to Becky's comment

    • Susy on November 9, 2012 at 8:11 pm

      Great idea!

      Reply to Susy's comment

  24. scott schluter on November 9, 2012 at 7:38 pm

    What are you using to amend your soil in the carrot beds? I have heavy sandy soil and I am trying to make it better…unsuccessfully.

    Reply to scott schluter's comment

    • Susy on November 9, 2012 at 8:11 pm

      I used a cover crop in fall and then added lots of compost and chopped leaves. Mulch heavily over the winter and you’ll be rewarded with softer soil come spring. If your soil is very heavy, consider growing smaller round carrots. For loosening heavy soils gypsum is very valuable and so inexpensive. Find it in 50 lb bags at your local farm supply store, sprinkle over the soil and mulch heavily over the winter. If you do this 3 years in a row your soil will loosen considerably!

      Reply to Susy's comment

      • scott schluter on November 12, 2012 at 8:39 am

        Thanks Suzy. What materials to mulch with. We don’t have much money and I live in a sandpit so we build all of our soil. Mostly I use bags of leaves and grass I get from my landscaping friend (no chemicals used). I also can get seaweed. Most of my beds are lasagna beds with layers of seaweed, grass and leaves, and compost from kitchen scraps and junk mail shredded. The carrot beds were built from the loamy sand upper layers of native soil here. I added leaves and grass once turning it into the soil to over winter. Still seems to be too dense. My leaves are mostly oak in this area. Any advice appreciated. Carrots and Beans are the two crops I want to drown in. Beans I got. Carrots, I still am lacking. TIA

        to scott schluter's comment

      • Susy on November 12, 2012 at 9:52 am

        You can also sprinkle some gypsum under the fall leaf mulch which will help your sandy soil retain more moisture. Cover crops are a very inexpensive way to improve your soil as well!

        Oak leaves to take longer to break down than other types of leaves. Chopping them up as finely as possible will help, other than that – patience is your best asset for soil building. The worms do a much better job that we can, only they work a little slower than we sometimes want.

        to Susy's comment

      • scott schluter on November 12, 2012 at 10:03 am

        Susy, not Suzy, sorry. Thanks for the tips, guess I just have to keep on keeping on.

        to scott schluter's comment

  25. mark on January 20, 2013 at 1:06 pm

    If you add a bucket of wood ashes, a bucket of sand and a couple buckets of compost into a bed they should do well. Before planting them, you could put the seeds spread out on a moist paper towel and put in an airtight bag out of light, but in heat so they will germinate. Then you can carefully take the sprouts and put them in the moist prepared bed and space them well with salad greens planted between them so they work together a make full use of the space.

    Reply to mark's comment

    • janice on May 24, 2013 at 11:03 pm

      And if you’re feeling brave, you can try putting potting soil in a clear container – a glass jar with a lid works fine, adding your carrot seeds and giving it a vigorous shake, then place in a sunny window. Be sure the soil is moistened so it clumps loosely in your hand. Give it a shake every day and watch carefully for the tiny white sprouts to start showing, then gently sprinkle the contents on your prepared garden and cover very lightly. The carrots get a great head start on the chickweed. I’ve had wonderful luck, altho the ‘row’ isn’t perfectly straight and pretty, I find much less thinning than usual.

      Reply to janice's comment

  26. Marjorie on May 24, 2013 at 4:55 pm

    I came across your site from Pinterest and read all the comments as I was thinking of growing carrots in a large pot this year. Over here, it is all about saving your carrots from the carrot fly and my thinking is that the carrot fly will hover at a lower level and won’t find the carrots so easily from a height. One suggestion also is never to disturb the plant while growing as it gives off the scent which attracts. So I was totallly amazed to find not one comment from your friends about carrot fly! I was then guessing you were from some wonderful foreign land, and then I read “about me” so of course you are! Here in West Midands, U.K., all we worry about in this direction is of course the carrot fly. Our own little plot carrots get just eaten away. So are’nt you lucky? And how do you do it? Plenty in the shops but pretty sure using chemicals.

    Thankyou very much for the wonderful template idea which will be much easier in every way inclluding trying to keep a straight line. I may attempt to make one from the black plastic trays, cutting away the indented circles intended to hold the pots.

    Reply to Marjorie's comment

    • Ingried on June 15, 2013 at 6:06 pm

      Marjorie~had to respond as soon as I read your address in the West Midlands! My Aunt in Kidderminster has a gorgeous garden, and she has mentioned Carrot Fly. Not sure how she deals with it, but I will ask. I live in Central Labrador, Canada, and I can share what works for me:

      (1) Mulch, mulch, mulch We get surprisingly hot summer temperatures here, and mulch helps prevent both burning and drying out…
      (2) Wood Ash. Carrots love it…
      (3) Go easy on the amendments~carrots like it simple
      (4) Loads of compost worked in before you plant

      Good Luck!

      Reply to Ingried's comment

  27. Carey on August 31, 2013 at 1:29 pm

    GREAT Ideas!!! I am going to use some of them next season thanks SO much! .. fellow gardener

    Reply to Carey's comment

  28. Linda from Arizona on October 3, 2013 at 9:17 pm

    Thanks for these great ideas. My carrots didn’t grow all summer. When I went to pull up some dead plants, I found 3 carrots growing. Where did they come from? I’ve never had luck with carrots in N E Arizona. I’m definitely trying the burlap next year.

    Reply to Linda from Arizona's comment

  29. Shelly on November 21, 2013 at 1:43 pm

    I am a new gardener but have found if I water well and cover the day I plant my carrots with a piece of cardboard held down by rocks I don’t have to worry about watering. They take 14 days to germinate and so after 14 days off come my cardboard and within a day they are sprouting little hairs of carrots. It works wonderfully for parsnips as well.

    Reply to Shelly's comment

  30. TJ on January 26, 2014 at 7:24 pm

    Great article on raising carrots. I raised a fall crop (I live in Indiana, USA) planted them in September 2013…and due to a wet fall, they grew very well. I mulched them with straw. Due to time and crazy weather, I went out to dig them the second weekend of December. I had a huge crop, they were very sweet and because they grew well after our frost, we didn’t have any problems with pests. I canned them in pint jars, and put some in sand in a pail and keep them in the garage…they are just like fresh when you go to get them out. All for the love of carrots…also, I tried the purple carrots for the first time..they were a huge hit!

    Reply to TJ's comment

    • Trudy on February 6, 2014 at 2:06 pm

      Thanks for the tip I live in IL and seem to have trouble with carrots…they always taste like dirt! I am going to try a late season crop. When you used the sand in a pail…is that as simple as it sounds?….put sand in a bucket and put carrots in the sand? I eat carrots daily and add them to a lot of my meals so to have carrots on hand that are like fresh would be awesome! Thanks!

      Reply to Trudy's comment

  31. Christin Stoufflet on March 9, 2014 at 11:04 am

    Love the idea of using the template for carrots. Also the vermiculite and burlap sound like just the right thing. I have had a garden for 6 years and I always plant carrots and they NEVER amount to much. This year I have a new garden( new house) and have soil tested and am ready to finally grow some carrots! Thanks for the good advice!

    Reply to Christin Stoufflet's comment

  32. Lesa barker on July 2, 2014 at 4:27 pm

    This is my first attempt at growing carrots and all seemed to be going well. I did some weeding last week and one the carrot foliage has all wilted. Can you tell me if they are dead or is there something I can do to solve the problem?

    Reply to Lesa barker's comment

  33. Tracy @ Our Simple Life on August 26, 2014 at 11:56 am

    I just love the idea of the garden template, what a wonderful way to plant closer together but be neat and tidy!

    Reply to Tracy @ Our Simple Life's comment

  34. Beth S on February 2, 2015 at 1:17 am

    im doing square foot gardening with gorgeous soil and even watering. Our carrots had gorgeous tops but the roots were short, thin and had knarly warty knobs the size of peas all over them. Tasted terrible and were like soggy, woody texture. What happened?

    Reply to Beth S's comment

    • Susy on February 2, 2015 at 2:12 pm

      Probably too much nitrogen, which will produce lots of leafy tops and no roots.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  35. Janei on April 1, 2015 at 2:01 am

    I live in Colorado..where we have cool nights. even mid summer, the nights are mid 50’s…
    I grow carrots in 2 liter soda bottles- cut just above the label, peel off label, add 4 -5 holes in bottom, and plant in rows. . The soil, vermiculite and potting soil.( not fertilized) I’ve also done these in large plastic tubs, like for Christmas trees. Easier to harvest, I want to try a drinking straw down middle with holes punched, and sealed bottom. I have a friend who gets great results this way.
    6-8 per bottle, never have too many, I Prob do 60 bottles or more a year.

    Reply to Janei's comment

  36. Karen on November 21, 2015 at 8:01 pm

    We have recently moved to a new home in Arizona and are planting in 3 foot high raised beds. My carrots looked nice, but the texture was rubbery. What do you suggest?

    Reply to Karen's comment


This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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