Carrots are one of the most versatile vegetables you can find. They go great in salads, stews, casseroles and many other delicious meals. They can be prepared steamed, grilled, sautéed, baked, stir-fried, or eaten raw as a superb snack.
Carrots are known for their nutritional value since they are high in beta carotene and vitamin A, but low in calories. Many herbs and spices can enhance the flavor of carrots including, dill, fennel, mint and ginger. Carrots can also come in many different colors.
For small gardens, containers, or where the soil cannot be worked deeply, try ‘Kinko’ or ‘Round Romeo’ cultivars. The Kinko variety grows to about 4” long and is ready to harvest in 50-55 days. The Round Romeo is a ball-shaped cultivar that reaches 1-1½” in diameter.
For medium sized carrots, you can plant ‘Danvers Half Long’ or ‘Scarlet Nantes’, which produce carrots that are 4’5” long and very sweet. For long cultivars try ‘Japanese Imperial Long’ or ‘Yellowstone’, which can reach a length of 12”.
I personally grow the ‘Scarlet Nantes’ cultivar in my garden because of their sweet taste and ease in growing.
How to Plant & Care for Carrots
When growing carrots, choose a sunny location with loose, fertile soil. To achieve the best results, work the soil as deep as possible and remove any stones or debris. Direct sow carrot seeds in rows 12” apart 2-4 weeks after the last frost date.
Carrot seeds need to be planted ¼” deep and as close as 1” apart. Wet the soil before planting to keep the seeds from blowing away while sowing. Carrots should always be sowed directly to the garden; they do not do well transplanted.
Keep seeds evenly moist to ensure germination, which can take up to 3 weeks. If the soil dries between waterings, cover the rows with burlap to help retain moisture until the seeds germinate; water right through the burlap.
Thin seedlings to about 3” apart; sow more seeds if necessary to fill in gaps in rows. Weed carefully by hand to remove competition for moisture and nutrients.
How to Harvest Carrots
In northern areas, wait until after the ground has begun to freeze before digging the rest of the carrots; the cold weather will increase the sweetness.
Carrots can also be overwintered in the ground. Cut off the green tops to about 1” and mulch heavily.
Pests & Diseases of Carrots
Growing carrots in your vegetable garden can be very challenging, but the sweet roots of the plant are well worth the extra effort. Carrots are a good vegetable to get your children involved in growing, as some cultivars are very easy to grow – like the ‘Round Romeo’.