Planting Fall Carrots

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These Carrots Daucus carota subsp. sativus ‘Calliope Blend’ are a beautiful multi-colored variety with a crisp texture and softer inside. As we all know, carrots are packed with vitamin A and other healthy nutrients making this an ideal vegetable to grow. They are also root vegetables and frost resistant. In Carteret County, they should be sown 10 to 12 weeks before the first fall frost date and can only be grown in the fall, winter and early spring as the soil temperature in the summer is too hot. September is usually the best month to plant.

Carrot fronds

Carrots growing with tall fronds by Michael W. Thomas

Carrots should be direct seeded at ¼ inch depth, with 3 inch spacing, rows every 6 inches. They are a great crop if you only have a small amount of space. However, be sure the soil where you plant is loose, clod and rock free as this will encourage larger carrots (raised beds work well). As carrot seeds are very small, many people sprinkle seeds in dug out rows and thin to every 3 inches after the plants begin to emerge. Thin by cutting plants with scissors as pulling might disturb adjacent carrots. In my experience, Calliope Blend takes 120 days to mature when grown through the winter here, but in ideal climates maturation can happen in 65-75 days.

Make sure that your soil has plenty of phosphorous and potassium, but go easy on the nitrogen. Too much nitrogen will create odd, often “obscene” looking carrots. Regular watering is essential. Carrots should be harvested when you begin to see what we know of as a “carrot” emerging from the ground. Because of the milder climate here, carrots can be left in the ground for storage and to continue growth through most of the winter. However, if the ground is frozen for several days, it may destroy the crop.

There are four primary groups of carrots:  Chantenay are 5-6 inches, short, fat and tapered; Danvers are 6-8 inches and thinner; Nantes are 6-7 inches and cylindrical (no tapered ends); and Imperator which can be up to 10 inches long and has the longest roots with tapered ends. They are also what is normally found in grocery stores.

If there is a particular plant that you have an issue with or need help identifying, visit North Carolina Cooperative Extension or call (252) 222-6352.

Written by Michael W. Thomas – Extension Master Gardener Volunteer – Carteret County