Yard and Garden: Planting Carrots in the Home Garden

March 30, 2017, 1:28 pm | Richard Jauron, Greg Wallace

AMES, Iowa – Carrots are a great part of any garden vegetable crop and an excellent addition to a homegrown garden bounty. Where do you plant them? When is the best time? Which varieties work well in this climate?  

Iowa State University Extension and Outreach horticulturists can help answer questions about how to best handle carrots. 

What would be a good garden site for carrots?

The garden site should receive at least six hours of direct sun per day. Carrots perform best in well-drained, slightly acidic, sandy loam soils. In heavy, compacted soils, carrots grow poorly and often develop branched or distorted roots. A raised bed would be a good option for gardeners with heavy, clay soils. 


When should I sow carrot seeds?

Sow carrot seeds at a depth of ¼ to ½ inch beginning in early April in central Iowa. For a continuous harvest, make additional plantings every three to four weeks. The last practical planting date for carrots is Aug. 1.  

Space rows 18 to 24 inches apart. If necessary, thin the seedlings within a few weeks of germination. After thinning, seedlings should be spaced 2 to 3 inches apart.

What are some good carrot varieties for Iowa? 

Numerous carrot cultivars are available to home gardeners. The main differences between cultivars are the shape and size of the root. Carrot roots can be long and tapered, cylindrical, or even roundish.  Most carrots are orange. However, yellow, red and purple colored cultivars are also available.  

Suggested carrot cultivars for home gardeners in Iowa include: ‘Bolero’ (bright orange, slightly tapered, 7 to 8 inches long), ‘Danvers 126' (deep orange, conical with blunt tips, 6 to 7 inches long), ‘Mokum’ (deep orange, slender, 6 to 7 inches long), ‘Nelson’ (deep orange, cylindrical, blunt tipped, 6 to 7 inches long), ‘Nutri-Red’ (coral red, tapered, 8 to 9 inches long), ‘Purple Haze’ (purple exterior with orange core, tapered, 8 to 10 inches long), ‘Royal Chantenay’ (red-orange, conical, 5 to 7 inches long), ‘Scarlet Nantes’ (reddish orange, cylindrical, 6 to 8 inches long), ‘Sugarsnax 54' (dark orange, tapered, 9 to 10 inches long), ‘Yaya’ (bright orange, cylindrical, 5 to 6 inches long), and ‘Yellowbunch’ (yellow, tapered, 7 to 9 inches long).

Is it necessary to water carrots? 

Carrots like a consistent moisture supply from seed germination until harvest. Adequate moisture supplies are most important during germination and root enlargement. Dry soils during germination usually result in poor stands. Inadequate moisture during root growth may result in small, woody, poorly flavored carrots. Cracking may occur if there is a sudden increase in the soil moisture levels (either from rain or irrigation) after a long, dry period.  

Carrots perform best when they receive 1 inch of water each week. If possible, water once a week during dry weather.  

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