How to Grow Carrots From Seed
Learn how to grow carrots from seed as well as how to harvest and store them with this simple step-by-step guide and enjoy homegrown carrots in season and year-round!
Carrots are one of my favourite vegetables to grow from seed. For one, they’re easy to grow just about anywhere, from in-ground garden rows and raised beds to a container on your balcony.
Second, you can grow a pretty substantial amount of carrots in a fairly compact space, making them a great candidate for urban gardeners and apartment homesteaders as well as traditional homesteaders looking to maximize their harvest out in the country.
Third, they’re a crowd pleaser when it comes to putting them on our dinner plates and there are so many fun heirloom and hybrid varieties to grow and try in addition to the standard long orange carrot.
And finally, harvesting them is always so much fun because, unlike vegetables that grow above ground, you never know quite what you’re gonna get when you pull up a carrot root! Sometimes you get nice big, straight carrots. Other times you get some pretty interesting shapes and sizes. And if you grow Rainbow Blend carrots, well then you never know what colour you’re gonna get either! (Purple is my personal favourite).
But carrots definitely weren’t always one of my favourite vegetables to grow. In fact, the first year we tried to grow carrots from seed, we managed to kill every single one! We had no idea what we were doing when it came to starting seeds. We started our carrot seeds indoors when we lived in our condo in the city with no real plan as to where we would move them to later, or the fact that we could have just direct sown the seeds into a pot.
Then we overwatered them to the point of basically drowning some of the seeds and seedlings and then forgot about them in our spare bedroom for long enough that any little seedlings that had survived the flood most definitely did not survive the drought that followed. Oh, and I think we started them in like, June or something.
My point is, carrots really aren’t that difficult to grow, but if you don’t know what you don’t know, then you could have a similar carrot-growing experience to our first one. And that might make you never want to try growing carrots again. And I just can’t let that happen on my watch!
So if you’re new to gardening or growing carrots from seed (or you just need a refresher on the specs), here’s a step-by-step breakdown of exactly what you need to do to SUCCESSFULLY grow carrots from seed. Because it really isn’t that difficult! Here’s what to do…
How to Grow Carrots From Seed
- Prepare soil by making sure to remove any rocks or hard clumps that could prevent the carrot roots from growing straight down
- Water the soil deeply before planting to help keep it moist
- Direct sow carrot seeds starting from about two weeks before your average last frost date right into midsummer for a fall/winter harvest
- Sow seeds about ¼ of an inch deep, an inch or two apart
- Sow at three-week intervals for a continual harvest
- Stop sowing seeds about 10 to 12 weeks before your average first frost date
- Seeds can take up to three weeks to germinate, so be patient!
- Keep the top couple inches of soil moist while seeds are germinating
- Thin seedlings to about 4 or 5 inches apart as they begin to grow
Because carrots are root vegetables, they do best in loose, well-worked soil free from rocks and other obstructions that might prevent the roots from growing straight down. If you’re planting in the ground, till the soil to a depth of about 10 to 12 inches and remove any rocks and debris. If you’re planting in containers, be sure to run a hand cultivator or rake through your soil to loosen it up and remove any debris.
Water the soil where you’ll be planting your carrot seeds thoroughly in order to help keep the soil moist. Since carrots can take up to three weeks to germinate, it’s important to keep the soil very moist during the first few days.
Direct sow carrot seeds outdoors any time from about two weeks before your average last frost date until about 10 to 12 weeks before your average first frost date for fall and winter crops. Continue sowing seeds every three weeks or so for a continual harvest all summer and fall. You can succession plant carrots after pulling up your peas, radishes and other spring crops.
Keep the top couple inches of soil moist for for at least the first 10 to 14 days, and continue to monitor moisture levels until carrot tops begin to sprout.
If planting in the summer when it’s hot and dry, you might want to place something on top of your planting area such as a row cover or plastic bag in order to keep the soil moist until seeds begin to sprout.
Once carrot tops are a couple inches tall, start to thin the seedlings to about 4 or 5 inches apart. Thinning can be hard because instinct tells you to keep all of the seedlings for more carrots later on, but if you don’t give the carrots enough space, you’ll end up with spindly, barely edible carrots when it comes time to harvest. Instead, thin seedlings out and give them space to grow and you’ll be rewarded with much bigger carrots in the end, which means more actual food for you and your family!
Harvesting and storing carrots
- Harvest carrots anywhere from around 60 to 100 days (check individual seed packets for specific instructions)
- Harvest fall and winter carrots before the ground freezes
- To store, remove tops and brush dirt off of carrots, but do not wash
- Store in the fridge or in a cold/root cellar
- For optimum longterm storage, bury carrots in sand in a wooden crate or box in a root cellar or garage
Carrots can technically be harvested and eaten at any point in time. But you’ll probably want to wait at least 60 or 70 days for most varieties and up to 90 and even 100 days for others. Check the time to maturity on each individual seed packet to get specific information for the particular carrot variety you’re growing.
While carrots are actually biennials (meaning they don’t produce a flower to collect seeds from until the following spring), if you are harvesting them for their roots, you’ll want to remove them from the ground before the ground freezes. A light frost will actually make carrots sweeter, but a hard freeze can affect the quality.
To store carrots, brush off any excess dirt and remove the carrot tops to keep them from rotting. The carrot tops are also edible, in case you didn’t know. You can turn them into a pesto or add them to soups and salads, or feed them to chickens and rabbits.
Store carrots in a cool place. If you only have a relatively small bunch, you can store them in the refrigerator. If you’ve got a more substantial amount, it’s best to store them in a root cellar if you have one. If not, you can store them in the garage.
If possible, bury them in sand to keep them cool and moist. Put a layer of moist sand in the bottom of a crate, then lay a single layer of carrots on top. Then cover with another layer of sand and another layer of carrots until all of your carrots are buried and top with a final layer of sand. Store in the garage or root cellar.
You could also store in an outbuilding to keep them cold if you have no other choice, but it should be well protected from rodents and other critters looking for an easy meal in the winter.
If you’re in an apartment or smaller space but you manage to grow enough carrots to preserve (or even if you just pick some up from your local farmers market), but you don’t have a root cellar or garage and your fridge isn’t large enough, you can also pickle, pressure can, dehydrate, ferment or blanch and freeze carrots. So don’t worry. There are lots of storage options!
Plant carrot seeds now for an abundant harvest this summer and fall!
Carrots are an easy and rewarding vegetable crop to grow from seed. All you need is a little space and a patience while you wait for them to mature.
If you’re looking for some good and perhaps some different varieties to try this year, here are some of my favourites:
* Just as an aside, the following are not affiliate links, however this is the seed company I purchase from and recommend here in Canada in the Pacific Northwest.
- Danvers (large heirloom variety, good storage carrot)
- Nantes (classic carrot, quick maturing heirloom, good for storage)
- Paris Market (small round heirloom carrots, great for container gardening)
- Rainbow Blend (multi-coloured hybrid variety, white, yellow, orange and purple, great “novelty” carrots)
For information on how to grow other common vegetables from seed, check out the following guides:
- How to Grow Tomatoes From Seed
- How to Grow Broccoli From Seed
- How to Grow Peas From Seed
- How to Grow, Cure & Store Garlic At Home
P.S. Don’t forget to download a free copy of my seed-starting starting cheat sheet, with at-a-glance information on how to grow 10 common garden vegetables from seed!
Wishing you homemade, homegrown, homestead happiness 🙂
P.S. Want more help growing your own food at home? Download my free guide, How to Grow Your Own Food in Less Than 15 Minutes A Day and learn how to grow an organic grocery store in your backyard even if you’re limited on time!
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* This article may contain affiliate links. For more information, please read my Affiliate Disclosure. Okay, I’m just gonna come out and say it: I’m a total sucker for pumpkin spice. Call me #basic, but it’s the truth. In fact, I’m all about everything fall:...