How to grow and harvest carrots

Grow delicious carrots in your vegetable garden

Adding carrots to your vegetable patch is easy with our step-by-step guide. Carrots come in an array of varieties from orange to purple and white, can be easily stored, and are a versatile ingredient to enjoy.

Quick facts

Best time to plant: February - June

Harvesting season: May - October

Difficulty: Easy, suitable for beginners

When to plant your carrots

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Carrots prefer to be grown at the cooler end of the growing season in early spring, but each variety has it’s own planting time. Your seed packet will give you the information you need to choose when to sow them.

There are two different types you can grow, either earlies or maincrops. Early carrots are thought to be more tender when compared to maincrops. However, maincrop carrots will store for far longer and are better suited to maturing later in the year.

Early carrots, like Amsterdam 3, can be sown in February under horticultural fleece. Maincrops, such as Autumn King, can be sown from April.

Where to plant your carrots

Carrots thrive in loose deep sandy soil, and need to be in a nice sunny spot. They can be sown straight into the ground or into a deep container depending on your available space. If you have heavy, clay soil, using a container is a great way to create a better growing environment for them.

Our video guide

We’ve put together a handy video guide for all the information you’ll need about growing and harvesting your carrots.

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Preparing your soil

The best soil to grow your carrots in is loose, deep and sandy. If the soil is thick and heavy, your carrots won’t be able to grow out and will be stunted.

Clear the soil of all weeds and stones, carrots can’t push through these, so you’ll need a nice clear patch of ground to grow them in.

Thoroughly dig over your soil, adding soil improver or sand if it’s clay heavy. You could use a tiller to ensure your carrots can easily push though the soil.

Avoid adding manure or organic matter to the soil before you plant your seeds, as this can make the carrots fork and deform.

Sowing your carrot seeds

Step 1:

With the end of a cane and straight edge of timber, make 2cm deep trenches or drills in the soil, spacing each row 15cm to 20cm apart.

Step 2:

Sow your carrot seeds thinly along the drills.

Top tip

Carrot seeds are very small, and it can be hard to see what you are sowing. To help sow them evenly, mix them in a pot with a small amount of dry sharp sand and then sprinkle this into the drill so you can see where you have sown.

Step 3:

Draw the soil back over the seeds with your hand so they are covered. Don’t forget to add a plant label to each row so you can see what you’ve planted and when.

Step 4:

Water the area well with a fine rose headed watering can. Keep the soil moist until the seedlings start to germinate. After they’ve emerged, keep watering to a minimum, and only water if the soil is dry.

Step 5:

After a month, feed your carrots with a balanced general-purpose liquid feed every couple of weeks or use a slow-release fertiliser.

Thinning out

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Carrot seeds are small, so when you’re planting them it will be difficult to plant them singularly with the necessary distances in between them. To avoid overcrowding, and to make sure you get a healthy carrot crop, you need to thin out the plants when the foliage reaches about 10cm tall.

Remove the scrawniest, smallest plants so you’re leaving 3cm to 4cm between your carrots. Repeat this in 3 to 4 weeks as necessary.

Controlling pests

Carrot fly, also known as root fly are the biggest threat to your carrot crop. Once they take hold of your carrots, there’s nothing you can do to get rid of them, so prevention is key. The female fly lays her eggs on the carrot and their larvae tunnel their way through the carrots, causing them to rot.

To prevent this, cover your carrots with horticultural fleece when the foliage starts to appear. The fleece will allow air, water and light through but prevent the fly from accessing the carrot tops and laying her eggs. A cover of fleece will also protect your carrots from cold weather.

Alternatively build a simple, 80cm to 90cm high barrier all the way around the carrots. The flies fly low to the ground and the barrier will prevent them from accessing the carrots.

Companion planting is another option. Planting garlic or onions near to your carrots will help mask the smell of the carrots and stop the fly from finding your carrots.

If carrot fly is a problem in your garden, choose carrot seeds that are less susceptible to carrot fly such as Flyaway F1.

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Harvesting your carrots

Your seed packet will tell you how long your carrots need in the ground before they’re ready to be harvested. Generally, baby carrots take 50 to 60 days, and mature carrots take 75 to 85 days.

Loosen the soil around the carrot with a hand fork and pull them up by the foliage. To store them, remove the green tops, brush off the soil with your hand (don’t wash them yet) and allow them to dry off in the sun. Keep them in the vegetable tray of your fridge for up to 3 weeks and only prior to preparing them for the table.

You can leave them in the ground for an additional four weeks to save you harvesting more carrots than you can use.

Be aware of the carrot fly when thinning out your carrots and when harvesting… the smell of the disturbed carrots will attract them, so it’s best to put any foliage in the waste bin rather than on your compost pile.