Planting carrots

The number one rule with growing carrots is to sow directly into the soil. Some garden centers will sell you punnets of carrots to plant out, but carrots (like other root crops) don't transplant well. Disturbing the roots during transplanting will give you deformed carrots that are impossible to peel.

Be sure to prepare the soil well, and take extra care to remove any lumps and stones. If necessary, sift the top layer of soil before planting. Our DIY section has plans for a simple soil sieve.

Growing carrots can be fiddly because you need to thin them up to two times after planting. However, if you follow the techniques I describe, you should be able to get away with thinning them only once.

Tip: carrot seed is very fine and can be hard to spread evenly. To avoid having you carrots come up in clumps, follow this process when planting:

  • Combine approximately 1/2 a teaspoon of carrot seed with 1 cup of seed-raising mix (or very fine soil)
  • Mix gently so the seed is distributed throughout the seed-raising mix
  • Use your finger, a stick, or the tip of your trowel to create a small trench in your prepared soil (only about 1cm, or 1/3 inch deep) Fill this trench with the mixture containing the carrot seeds

The quantities above should be enough for a row of carrots about a metre (3 feet) long.

If you are planning more than one row, standard row spacing is about 20cm (8 inches) apart. However, I find you can do double rows. To make a double row space two rows as close as 8cm (3 inches) apart. You can plant multiple rows in groups like this, with a 20cm (8 inch) gap between every seccond row.

Make sure the soil dosen't dry out while you are waiting for the seeds to sprout.

Thinning carrots

When carrots are about 2cm (just under 1 inch) high, pull out extra plants until no young carrot plant is closer than 3cm (1 inch) from its nearest neighbour. Try and choose the weakest looking plants to pull out first and then work your way up so that the healthiest plants are left to mature.

If you followed the planting procedure described above, your carrots shouldn't have come up too thickly. Having your young plants too close together makes thinning much more difficult. Use less seed next time or spread more thinly if you have this problem.

Harvesting carrots

Depending on the season and the size you are aiming for, carrots may be ready to harvest in as little as 2-3 months. Pull out a healthy looking plant from the end of the row and if it is too small then wait a week or two and try again. Don't waste this carrot though, as it will be edible no matter how small it is.

Don't be disappointed if your carrots have lots of leafy growth but not much under the ground. This result can be a sign of too much manure, but big leaves are usually followed by good sized carrots within a few weeks.

Pull up your carrots as needed, and leave the rest in the ground. Carrots will keep well in the ground during winter, but use before the following summer as they may go to seed and become woody.

The row of carrots in the photo is about three months old. I have pulled out the one in the foreground. These ones turned out quite short and fat, which could have been because I didn't go deep enough when preparing the soil. They still tasted great though.