Carrots are the new tomato. People wax poetic about how much more delicious homegrown tomatoes are than the ones from grocery bins, and the same is true of carrots. Try it for yourself: Do a taste test with a store-bought carrot and a homegrown carrot, freshly dug, with the dirt washed off. The one that was in the ground just a few minutes ago will have a sweet flavor and a tender, pliant texture. In comparison, the one from the store will taste watery and bland.
Luckily, you can conjure this crazy-good version of carrots in your own garden. These root vegetables aren’t difficult to grow, they don’t take up much room and they mature in less than three months. Plus, you can almost taste the health boost you get from the beta-carotene in carrots: your body turns it into vitamin A, which is good for your eyes and immune system. Spread the word: orange is the new red.
Common name: Carrot
Botanical name: Daucus carota var. sativum
Plant type: Herbaceous biennial
Zones: Grow as annual
Matures: From 70 to 80 days, depending on variety
- Sun: Full sun or part shade
- Soil: Well-drained, light, loose
- Moisture: Average to moist
- Mulch to keep roots moist and help control weeds.
- Pruning: None needed
- Fertilizer: None needed. In fact, excess nitrogen can lead to forking.
Pests and diseases
- Can be vulnerable to blights and carrot yellows.
- Aphids, carrot rust fly and wireworms can be problems.
- To figure out what type of carrots to plant in your garden, match the shape to the soil you’ve got. Short, blocky or ball-type (like ‘Paris Market’ and ‘Atlas’) go into heavy, rocky or shallow soil; long, classic Nantes types go in loam or sand that’s loose and rock-free.
- For best results, invest a lot of time with your carrot patch early in the season—prepare the ground by digging out rocks and adding compost or other organic material; keep the soil consistently moist after you plant the seeds; thin seedlings when they’re about 1 inch high; and cover up any exposed shoulders.
Later in the season you won’t have much to do, except water, weed and harvest.
- The carrot and several of its relatives are host plants for the black swallowtail butterfly. If you see a caterpillar chomping on your carrot leaves, let it be.
All in the family
- Carrots are a member of Apiaceae—commonly called the carrot or parsley family. Many other familiar edibles are members of this family, including anise, caraway, celery, cilantro, cumin, dill, fennel, parsley and parsnips.
- Queen Anne’s lace, golden Alexander and sea holly are also Apiaceae members.