As a relative newbie in the veggie patch, I was a little doubtful about growing carrots year round. Way too much work for sketchy results, I thought.
But then I discovered seedtape at my local garden centre which took all the hard work out of growing carrots. Now I’m a convert. With minimal effort, I can have carrots coming out of my ears all year round. The best part is it doesn’t take a whole lot more energy than planting and growing in the summer.
Here’s everything you need to know about growing carrots year round:
1. Wet is wonderful
Ducks and frogs agree. Wet is good.
Above all else, carrot seeds hate drying out. Carrot seeds germinate very slowly (between 14-21 days) so if you’re sowing seed in summer, a good way to keep them moist is to lay wet newspaper on top of the damp soil.
Start checking your seeds around the 14 day mark by lifting the newspaper, and once you see the wispy green fronds poking through the soil, you can relax a little.
As your carrots mature, make sure you keep up with a regular watering schedule. If not given enough water, carrots will fork as their roots search for additional moisture.
2. Timing is everything
Falling in love. Telling a good joke. Yup, just like the other things in life, timing is everything when it comes to sowing seed. If you’re a little confused about planting dates, like I was, here’s all you need to know to be guaranteed a continuous carrot crop:
For Summer Eatin’ – Plant from March to May for summer harvesting (June-Sept).
For Winter Feedin’ – Plant in early July for winter harvesting (Oct-May).
As you can see, the window for planting carrots is actually pretty wide. The thing to remember is that if you’re planting for a winter crop, make sure you plant early enough to ensure they are fully grown before the winter comes. You can leave them in the ground and just dig them up as you need them. Pretty cool, eh? Mother nature’s sophisticated storage system!
(My apologies. I’m a west-coaster. If you’re planting outside the pacific coastal region, you’d be best to consult a planting guide that relates to your area.)
3. Stagger, stagger, stagger
Staggering your carrot seeding so that you’re not inundated with them all at once is a smart gardening move.
a. Plant a few feet of carrots instead of an entire row, and then plant another few feet again 2-3 weeks later.
b. As generous as it feels to unload –I mean, share– your 18 bushels of carrots with your unsuspecting friends and neighbours, it’s more responsible to grow only what you know you can reliably eat yourself. Not only will you use less water, you’re also more likely to lavish better care and attention on a smaller, more manageable crop.
c. You can still donate your surplus crops to your local food bank — staggering your seeding dates just makes it easier.
4. Turn, turn, for every season
In other words, crop rotation. The carrot, onion and mustard families are the most important crops to rotate every year. This is because they’re most at risk from root insects and diseases in the soil. They also deplete nutrients that can be easily replenished by growing different crops in that location the following year.
a. Ideally, try to wait three years before planting carrots back in their original location.
b. Good carrot chasers (veggies to plant the following year in place of carrots) are beets, spinach, swiss chard, endive and lettuce.
c. Better yet, integrate your carrots into your perennial borders. The wispy tops of carrots are fantastic foliage for contrasting with broadleaf plants like hostas.
5. Choose a great cultivar
A ‘cultivar’ is plant lingo for ‘variety’, which are plants that we humans have genetically manipulated to give us desirable characteristics. Like broad shoulders and being kind to strangers.
a. For summer there are so many great cultivars, although I especially like the coreless “Scarlet Nantes’ which has tender, bright orange flesh with lovely delicate flavour.
b. For overwintering, you can try the cold-hardy “Autumn King” and “Yaya”. Don’t worry too much about finding a hardy variety for winter. You can overwinter any carrot variety.
c. Try experimenting with different varieties until you find one that you love. (You’ll have less choice if you’re buying seedtape.)
d. Dig up any remaining overwintered carrots by April so that they don’t start growing again.
So there you have it. A few tips for growing carrots all year long. It really doesn’t have to be a lot of work. And until you’ve tasted the stunning sweetness of a carrot pulled from your own garden – in the dead of winter – you haven’t really tasted a carrot!
Now that I’ve shared what I’ve learned about carrots, I’d love to hear about any of your techniques. Do you have a great carrot-growing tip?