Growing carrots at home offers many more options than the usual store-bought carrots.
Carrots are one of those vegetables every gardener it seems has to try growing at least once.
They are also one of those vegetables that offer so many more options when you grow from seed than the store offers. There must be every size and shape combination of carrot available out there, from the short and fat to long and skinny with color choices of purple, orange or yellow.
Carrots are a great way to fill space in your cool-season garden bed.
The wild carrot, Daucus carota, is native to Europe and Southwest Asia. The wild version of carrots can be quite bitter, especially if grown near apples as strange as that might sound. Another name for wild carrot is Queen Anne's Lace.
Carrots form a lacy florencese familiar to other members of the Apiaceae family, like parsley and hemlock.
Fortunately, carrots have been cultivated for thousands of year, probably originally in Persia (present day Iran and Afghanistan). Over the years the bitterness and some of the toughness have been bred out.
How to Grow Carrots
Carrots are a cool season crop. They can be sown as seeds while the weather is still warm, but can become too tough to eat if allowed to develop in heat. Carrots have a very fine seed that should be planted lightly near the surface.
As a root vegetable, carrots do best in very light, well draining soils. Like other root vegetables, they may suffer from rot if left to soak in water. Since they form as a long taproot, they need a soft, sandy soil to be able to easily push through and grow large.
Raised bed gardens can provide an ideal environment for carrots. Regardless of where you grow carrots, you should make sure the soil is as clear of rocks as possible, since they will easily deform the carrot if there is a collision.
Carrots should be ready to harvest in about 60-80 days. If left in the ground for too long they can become tough. Carrots will typically start to emerge slightly from the soil as they grow. You can use their protruding "shoulders" to judge whether they have reached a sufficient size. They should be about 3/4 to a full inch across.
If the shoulders aren't popping out, you won't do any harm to the root if you push the soil above it out of the way.
Use caution when pulling carrots so you don't damage the roots of any surrounding vegetables that you do not intend to pull out.