Carrots are one of the most universally popular vegetables that anyone can grow, regardless whether they have a green thumb or not. You can grow carrots quite easily in the comfort of your own home or garden, without seeds, or any specialized area in your backyard to grow them; in fact, a balcony or patio is more than adequate to grow carrots. Let’s examine the ways you can grow carrots at home, from either their seeds or leftover tops.
Growing carrots from carrot tops
Whole carrots that you buy from the market usually will have their tops intact, and this allows you to regenerate carrot plants from those carrot tops. So instead of throwing them away into the compost bin, use those carrot tops to regrow healthy carrot greens. Simply place the tops in a bowl of water about an inch deep, with the cut side facing down and the top halfway covered by the water.
Place the bowl on a windowsill and change the water daily. When the carrot tops start to sprout new shoots, transfer the carrot tops to a pot/container of soil. You can then either harvest them when they are young or wait till they are more mature. Do note that carrot leaves are actually also edible, tasting a bit like parsley.
Growing carrots in soil from seed
Carrots prefer loose, well-drained soils of a sandy loam nature. If your soil is not sandy at all, you may wish to add extra sand in first. In heavy soil, they take longer to mature, and the roots often turn out ugly. Prepare the soil by removing any rocks and large debris from the surface. Using a spade, dig and churn up the soil to about 8-12 inches deep (until the soil is fine and crumbly). We recommend creating small raised rows due to the fact that raised beds encourage better air and water movement through the soil.
For home planting, 5-10 feet of rows or ridges (about 1 pound of carrots per row) per person should be enough for consumption. It’s important to use fresh organic carrot seeds, as they will not keep from year to year. The raised carrot rows should be about 1-2 feet apart. If you are going to space the rows further apart, it’s recommended to plant two carrot seed rows per raised carrot ridge.
Carrots can be grown from seed, and they are best planted in early spring or late fall. Plant them as early as 1 month before the last anticipated frost date. Those are when the temperatures are a bit cooler (high temperatures lead to ugly carrots). Create a small trench (or two – as mentioned) about 0.5 inches deep on top of those raised beds/ridges. Scatter about 20 carrot seeds into these trenches (per foot), and cover them up lightly. The seeds normally take about 14-21 days to sprout.
Before planting carrots, it is recommended to scatter one cup of whole fertilizer or good quality compost per 10 feet of carrot row. Using a rake, mix the fertilizer into the soil up to 4 inches deep. When the carrots start growing to a height of 4 inches, you might want to add a couple more tablespoons of fertilizer to each row, and also when they reach 6-8 inches tall, depending on their appearance. Pale leaves indicate lack of nutrients, so gauge by how healthy they are.
To ensure your carrots contain more calcium content, you can amend your soil by mixing in crushed egg shells that have been ground into a fine powder. A rule of thumb is to mix in a half teaspoon of egg shells for every carrot.
A fine-rose watering can may be used to water your carrots. Water as required, enough to keep the top 3 inches of soil fairly moist for most of the time.
Caring for carrots
As the carrots continue to grow, maintain your crop as necessary. You can wait until the roots are large enough to be eaten before thinning them, but we recommend trimming them when they are about 4 inches high, keeping a 2 inch gap/space per plant. Depending on your taste, you may want to harvest them sooner, and indeed some people prefer baby carrots. As they get bigger trim them to about 4 inches apart.
You can also scratch the soil around the carrot roots from time to time, to prevent lumping or crusting, which can lead to malformed carrots. Inspect your carrot crop from time to time and remove any carrots that appear yellowish or stunted. Thinning is sometimes complicated by the presence of weeds that look similar to the carrot seedlings, but with a little practice, you should be able to tell them apart. Carrot seedlings have a fern-like or feathery appearance, while weeds look coarser.
Harvesting your carrots
The general harvesting time frame for carrots is about 70-80 days (depending on variety) after planting, although you could harvest them sooner if you wish. Baby carrots are more sweet and juicy, while mature carrots contain more nutrients and sugar content. However, if the carrots are left too long in the soil, then they start losing their flavor, moisture, and turn fibrous. When the roots are between 1 and 1.5 inches in diameter, the carrots can be pulled out from the soil. To check if the carrots are ready for harvest, simply brush off the soil at the shoulder and examine how wide they are. Gradually loosen the soil around the carrot with a spade to prevent the carrot from breaking while harvesting them.
Companion planting for carrots
Plants that are good companions for carrots include radish, chives, beans, tomatoes, onions, cucumber, and lettuce. Radishes are often planted alongside with carrots. The radish sprout first, breaking the surface of the soil and helping to make things easier for the carrots later on. Do note though, that the radish matures sooner than the carrots, and should be harvested earlier.
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