Carrots are one of the most popular root vegetables to grow in home gardens. Carrots can be grown in containers or directly sown into garden beds. But exactly how long do they take to mature and be ready for harvesting? Let’s take a closer look at the carrot growing timeline.
When to Plant Carrots ?
Carrots are generally planted in early spring once the threat of hard frost has passed. The seeds need soil temperatures of at least 40 degrees Fahrenheit to germinate. Cooler spring temperatures are preferred for growing carrots, as hot weather can make the roots overly fibrous and bitter tasting.
In most climates, carrots can be planted as soon as the ground can be worked in March, April or May. For a continuous harvest throughout the season, plant a new batch of seeds every 2-3 weeks until early summer. Carrots are one of the few vegetables that can handle being planted in mid to late summer for a fall harvest.
Carrot seeds are very small and slow growing. It can take up to 3 weeks for the first delicate seedlings to emerge from the soil. Patience is required! To help speed germination, make sure the seeds are planted no more than 1⁄4 inch deep and keep the soil moist.
After emergence, the seedling’s first set of feathery true leaves will develop within 7-10 days. The first set appears opposite each other and additional leaves will alternate down the stem.
How Long For Carrots to Mature
From germination to maturity, growing carrots takes 2-3 months depending on the variety. Baby and fingerling type carrots can be harvested in as little as 30 days. Standard carrot varieties need around 68 days, about 10 weeks from seed to maturity.
So when planting in early spring, you can expect to start harvesting carrots by mid-summer. For late summer plantings, carrots should reach full size for harvesting in fall before the first hard freeze.
Here are some common carrot varieties and their maturity timeline:
- Baby and finger carrots – 30-60 days
- Nantes (semi-cylindrical) – 68 days
- Danvers (blocky) – 75 days
- Imperator (long and slender) – 75 days
- Chantenay (short and stout) – 60-70 days
The maturity timeline refers to when carrots are ready for their first harvest. You can still leave them in the ground beyond that point and harvest as needed well into fall. Just be sure to lift any remaining carrots before the ground freezes solid.
Tips for a Successful Crop
Choose an appropriate carrot variety for your climate and season. Prepare the planting bed well by loosening soil, removing rocks and weeds, and mixing in compost.
Consistent moisture is key. Carrots require about 1 inch of water per week.
Use row covers at planting time to maintain soil moisture and prevent insect pests.
Weed carefully and often once seedlings emerge. Carrots do not compete well with weeds.
Use mulch around the plants to retain moisture and prevent soil cracking.
When Are Carrots Ready to Pick?
Knowing when to harvest carrots takes some practice. You want to lift them once the roots reach their mature size, but before they get overly large and woody. Here are ways to check carrot readiness:
- Look at the parts protruding above ground. They should be around 1 inch wide when carrots are mature.
- Check days to maturity for the variety and watch the calendar.
- Look for mature coloring. Carrot tops and shoulders turn from bright to pale green when ready for picking.
- Use care when harvesting not to bruise or break the roots. Loosen the soil with a digging fork before gently lifting carrots up by their leafy tops.
Storing the Harvest
Freshly harvested carrots can be stored in the fridge for several weeks. Cut off the leafy tops and store carrots in plastic bags with a damp paper towel to retain moisture. For long term storage over winter, carrots can be kept refrigerated or in cold cellars for up to 5 months. Growing your own carrots is very rewarding but does require some patience and attentiveness.