We planted carrot seeds in early August, and this week, we got to taste the fruit of our labor. We harvested the carrots pictured in late November, and they measure about six inches. Carrots are a very satisfying crop. With a little planning and patience, you can be enjoying home-grown carrots in 2013. In Zone 6, where we are, you can start seeds in mid-March for late June harvest. They take up to 3 weeks to germinate, so be patient, and keep the bed well watered until they germinate. Sow thinly, three inches apart, with rows several inches apart. We have had some success with the six-row seeder available at Johnny's Seeds. The six-row seeder helps alleviate the hassle of spacing out the seeds very thinly, but next year we will be trying other seeders to see which works best for us. Thin to three inches apart after about 30 days. THINNING IS MANDATORY. It may seem like a waste, but carrots need room to grow, and if you don’t thin, your carrots will BE thin. Make sure your soil is loose, fine, and free of stones. Too much organic matter can create multi-legged or hairy carrots, so go easy, but organic matter does help you get bigger carrots. Ensure that the carrots have one inch of water per week. Be adventurous with different types of seeds. We have used Napoli, Purple Haze, and Cream Delite, all with good results. Keep your bed weeded. Harvest after 70-80 days, when carrots are one half inch or more in diameter. Scrub, trim the tops off, and store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. They will keep several weeks.
If you want to grow winter carrots for your family next year, count back 75 to 80 days before your first winter frost. We use October 5 to 10 as a first frost date, and therefore, plant carrot seeds at the end of July to the beginning of August for harvest in November through January. Once the weather turns cold, that is, freezing temperatures for prolonged periods, cover the carrots plants with ground cover fabric like agribon or use leaf mulch or straw mulch to protect the plants. Carrots develop spectacular sweetness after going through a frost, and our winter carrots taste like candy. Once the carrots reach maturity, they can be left in the ground until you are ready to harvest. In Zone 6, we take them out before February, or they become stringy. We serve winter carrots raw and plain as a treat at our Christmas gatherings. They are that good.