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Carrots Seed Starting Tips

Seedling Carrots

Carrots are a cool-season crop; they are best grown in spring and fall. Carrots are commonly grown in spring, fall, and winter in warm-winter regions. Carrots can be grown through the summer in mild to cool summer regions and a surplus can be stored for winter.

Carrots may be seeded as early in spring as the ground can be worked. Make successive sowings of carrots at intervals of about 3 weeks in order to have a continuous supply of tender carrots throughout the season.

Grow carrots and other root crops in light-textured soil free of pebbles and stones. This will ensure roots do not split or become malformed. Carrots will grow on almost any type of soil as long as it is moist, humus-rich, loose, and free from clods and stones. Sandy loams and peats are the best.

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Cover carrot seed about ½ inch on moist soils; less, usually about ¼ inch, on heavy soils.

With care in seeding, carrots will require little thinning. Carrots can stand some crowding, especially in loose soils. However, carrots should grow no thicker than 10 to 15 plants per foot of row.

Standard carrots are Chantenay, Nantes, and Imperator.

Carrots should be harvested and stored before the first hard frost occurs; the roots may be injured by cold.

Sowing carrot seed
Sowing carrot seed

Plant carrots for winter harvest and storage in late spring or early summer when you plant tomatoes; they will mature in cooling autumn soil. Carrots that mature in cool soil are the most flavorful.

Quick-maturing carrots are a good choice for planting in spring; they will come to harvest before warm summer weather arrives.

There are many varieties of carrots to grow; miniature carrots have round or short blunt roots; some long-root varieties have blunt roots; some have long tapered roots. Carrots are always orange on the inside but the color outside can be orange, white, yellow, and even purple.

Carrots mature in 50 to 100 days depending on the variety.

Carrot seed tape
Soluble seed tape can be used to sow carrots seeds that are very small. Each seed is encased in a bit of starter fertilizer.

Carrot planting details

  • Sowing depth: ¼ -½ inch (.6-1.2cm)
  • Space between plant after thinning: 1-3 inches (2.5-7cm)
  • Days to sprout: 12
  • Days to harvest: 70-85
  • Storage period: 2-3 weeks
  • Seeds per 100-row feet: ½ ounce (14g)
  • Yield per 100-row feet: 100 pounds (45 kilos)
  • Suggested Varieties: Chantenay, Nantes, Imperator, Touchon
  • Notes: Store where not too dry

Carrot sowing and planting tips

  • Carrot seed is viable for 3 years.
  • Direct-sow carrot seed in the garden 4 to 2 weeks before the last spring frost; moisten the soil before planting so that the tiny, light seeds do not blow away.
  • Lay the seed on the seedbed then cover it with ¼ inch of fine soil; then sprinkle the soil gently with a fine spray of water trying as best you can to avoid disturbing the seed. Cover the seed with no more than ½ inch (1 cm) of fine, loose soil.
  • Sow seeds 2 inches (5 cm) apart or plan to thin seedlings 2 to 3 inches apart.
  • Planting carrots on a raised row is a good way to know exactly where you’ve planted; rake loose soil into a raised 8-inch wide mound and then sow atop the raised flattened row and cover with soil.
  • Space rows 6 to 8 inches (15-20 cm) apart; space 3 rows in a 30-inch-wide (0.75cm) bed and 4 rows in a 36-inch (0.9m) bed.
  • Perhaps the easiest way to not over-sow is to simply and carefully sow just one or two seeds at a time; this will take time, but you will likely not need to thin seedlings later.
  • Keep the soil evenly moist until the seeds germinate. Avoid creating crusted soil; carrot seeds will struggle to emerge through crusted soil.
  • Germination will come in about 6 days if the soil temperature is at or near 75°F (24°C)—but sometimes seeds can take up to 3 weeks to germinate if the soil is cold. Germination will not occur in soil chillier than 45°F (7°C).
  • A good time to sow carrots is about the time you sow pole beans or set out tomato transplants.
  • It’s easy to over-sow carrot seeds; to avoid over-seeding mix seed with sand, vermiculite, or dry used coffee grounds—that way you can see where you sow. Pelleted carrot seeds or seed tapes are an even easier way to sow carrots.
  • If started indoors and transplanted out, allow carrots two additional weeks to maturity as a result of root insult at transplanting; nip off the long thread tip of the carrot root when transplanting.
  • To improve germination sow seed at dusk or on a cool, cloudy day.
  • Add aged compost to planting beds in advance of sowing; compost will feed the soil and aid moisture retention.
  • Make additional sowings at 3-week intervals for a continuous harvest, but time your seed sowing so that crops do not mature in hot weather.
  • Carrots grow best when daytime temperatures are in the 60s°F.
  • Carrots prefer a pH range of at least 5.5 to 6.5, optimal above 6.0.
  • Grow carrots in full sun for best yield; carrots tolerate partial shade.
  • Avoid planting carrots where celery, dill, fennel, parsley, or parsnips have grown recently.
  • Fertilize with an organic fertilizer such as fish emulsion at half strength.
  • Carrots don’t have significant pest problems, but young carrots will suffer if forced to compete with weeds. Carrot flies can attack maturing carrots; carrot flies are repelled by sage and scorzonera.
Carrots and onions

Interplanting: Interplant carrots with English peas, lettuce, members of the onion family, tomatoes, sage, and rosemary.

Container Growing Carrots: Choose a container at least 10-12 inches (25-30) wide and deep.

Carrot planting calendar

Spring planting carrots for spring and summer harvest:

  • 10-12 weeks before the last frost in spring: direct-sow in a plastic tunnel or cold frame for a spring harvest.
  • 2-4 weeks before the last frost in spring: direct-sow in the garden if the minimum soil temperature is 40°
  • Every 10 days sow succession crops; time last harvest before the summer heat.

Planting carrots for fall and winter harvest:

  • 12-10 weeks before the first frost in fall: direct-sow in the garden for fall and winter harvest.
  • 12-8 weeks before the first frost in fall: direct-sow in a plastic tunnel or cold frame for fall and winter harvest; when freezing weather arrives put a layer of leaves of straw covered with a floating row cover over the crop; uncover roots in winter as needed.

Planting dates for spring and summer harvest

(These dates are for the Northern Hemisphere)

Average date of the last frostPlanting dates
Jan. 30Jan. 1-Mar.1
Feb. 8Jan. 1-Mar.1
Feb. 18Jan. 15-Mar.1
Feb. 28Feb. 1-Mar. 1
Mar. 10Feb. 10-Mar. 15
Mar. 20Feb. 15-Mar. 20
Mar. 30Mar. 1-Apr. 10
Apr. 10Mar. 10-Apr. 20
Apr. 20Apr. 1- May 15
Apr. 30Apr. 10-June 1
May 10Apr. 20-June 15
May 20May 1-June 1
May 30May 1-June 1
June 10May 10-June 1
June 10May 20-June 1
Carrot seedlings
Carrot seedlings
  • Baby carrots or Mini carrots are small carrots with a range of shapes, usually round or blunt—baby carrot varieties include ‘Amsdor’, ‘Minicore’, ‘Parmex’, and ‘Thumbelina’.
  • ‘Chantenay’ is a group of all-purpose carrots—varieties include ‘Chantenay Imperial’, ‘Chantenay Red-Cored’, and ‘Chantenay Royal’.
  • ‘Danvers’ is a group of carrots similar to ‘Chantenay’ but with longer roots—varieties include ‘Danvers Half-Long’, and ‘Danvers Red-Cored’.
  • ‘Nantes’ is sweet and crisp, cylindrical and blunt-tipped—varieties including ‘Bolero’, ‘Mokum’, ‘Napoli’, ‘Nelson’, ‘Sweetness II’, and ‘Scarlet Nantes’.
  • ‘Imperator’ is a group of long, taper-rooted carrots—they are less flavorful than many other carrots.

Botanical Name: Daucus carota var. sativus

Carrots are a member of the Apiaceae also called the Umbelliferae family, other members of this family include celery, dill, fennel, parsley, and parsnips.

Also of interest:

How to Grow Carrots

How to Grow Carrots Any Time of the Year in 5 Steps

Growing Carrots for Flavor

Garden Planning Books at Amazon:

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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