Are your carrots orange? Did you know that carrots come in a variety of natural colors including white, yellow and purple. All carrots (not just the orange ones) are rich in Vitamin A and Carotene which helps improve your eyesight! However, carrots are one of the vegetables with the highest sugar levels and this is where they got their Irish nickname “underground honey”.
Carrots are generally more tasty when they are small as all of their nutrients are saved in such a small space. Carrots grow best when they are in sandy soil, that is loose and tilled deeply to allow for the roots to spread. Another tip to help boost the carrots' growth is to add dried coffee grounds to the dirt when planting. Carrots prefer to have full sunlight, though they can tolerate partial shade, which gives you a few options for locations when choosing a planting spot. You’ll want to apply a light layer of mulch to the soil as you plant carrots to protect their roots from receiving direct sunlight, but still allowing for loose airy soil. You will want to ensure that you weed pretty rigorously in the first few weeks, but be sure not to damage the carrots shallow roots at this point.
Thinning carrots is a very important part of their successful growth. When plants are about 2 inches tall you'll want to thin out the center of the plant, and leave everything that is directly attached to the root. You’ll also want to thin out the crop half way through the summer (end of July) to ensure that the remaining carrots can grow to their full size. It is best to have a space of 2 inches between each carrot plant. If necessary, pull up some of the baby carrots to make room for growth.
You should begin watering your carrot plants 1 inch per week, and as their roots develop you can increase this to 2 inches per week. Keeping the carrots moist will ensure rapid growth, so we do not want the soil to ever dry out.
The biggest threats to carrots are the friendly little friends that decide to visit your backyard. It is best to inter plant crops to ensure the animals get distracted by something like mint - that you don't mind they nibble on.
Another pest that may look just like a regular house fly is called a “carrot rust fly”. They are green with yellow heads and red eyes and they love to lay their eggs near the roots that eventually dig down and destroy the carrot. You will know if you have carrot rust flies in your garden because the roots will turn red, and the leaves of your plant will turn black. These flies tend to come around in late spring, so it is suggested that you wait to plant you carrots outside until the early summer months to decrease the chances of infestation.
It is up to you when you want to harvest your carrots. They can be harvested as soon as they are big enough to eat, or you can leave them in the ground for the entire duration of their season. It is best to water the soil right before harvesting, as it loosens the dirt and makes it easier to remove the entire carrot from underground. Don’t be surprised if your carrots don't look as picturesque as the ones in the grocery store, they’ll be tasty no matter what their shape is. Their shape may be caused by impacted hard soil.
Do you ever buy those canned vegetables in the stores? Did you know that carrots were the first vegetable to ever be canned for sale?