Carrots are a cool weather crop, meaning that they won’t do well if you plant the seeds in the late spring (just in time to catch the hot weather). Instead, sow carrot seeds in early spring, as early as February, or in late summer or early fall, around August or September. Carrots are very frost hardy, so don’t worry about cold hurting the seeds.
The seeds are tiny, and because they remain viable for three to five years, it’s not necessary to plant an entire packet at once. Whatever you don’t use can be stored in a mason jar in the fridge. That way they stay cool until needed.
Your carrot bed should be deeply worked, so that the soil is even and friable. Leaving clumps of clay soil or stones in the bed can cause the carrots to become contorted or stunted as they try to grow around the impediments. They can take a measure of sand worked in with the rich organic materials.
I broadcast my seeds in an oval bed rather than putting them into rows. Believe it or not, once carrot seeds have sprouted you can take advantage of wet weather to separate any little seedlings that are growing too close together and then replant them nearby with more space. I find this is a good way to handle the little seeds: sow first, then separate and transplant while they are still very small.
Give developing carrots plenty of water. They need a steady supply of moisture to develop their plump, flavorful roots. Keep the carrot bed weeded so there’s no competition, and mulch with straw if you like.
Harvest as needed and leave the rest in the ground for a while longer. Your homegrown carrots may not attain the giant size of store-bought carrots, but they will be delicious when picked small and tender. Try them dipped in a nice creamy sauce, or cook gently and add butter and mint. Yum!
Written by Sow True Seed Garden Ambassador for WNC, Nan Chase:
Nan Chase gardens in Asheville, N.C., specializing in perennial herbs, alliums of all sorts, greens, and sweet crabapples. She is the author of Eat Your Yard! and co-author of Drink the Harvest. Follow her @drinktheharvest