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Pile of carrots in assorted colours.
Carrots are one of nature’s surprise packages. Above ground, you get a beautiful spray of attractive foliage; below ground, a colourful, crunchy, tasty and nutritious treat.
 

What you need to know about carrots

Name: carrot (Daucus carota subsp. sativus).

Plant type: tuberous root vegetable. Technically a biennial, but most often grown as an annual.

Height: to around 50cm

Foliage: attractive, bright green, feathery and fern-like, arising in a central spray from the storage root.

Climate: cool and warm temperate—grown in late winter to early summer. Tropical and sub-tropical—grown in the cooler months.

Soil: must have a very loose and open soil for the large storage root to develop well.

Position: prefers full sun and will tolerate moderate amounts of wind.

Flowering and fruiting: if grown for flowers and seed, these will be seen in the second year, after which the storage root will die off.

Feeding: add a controlled-release fertiliser to the surface as the plants start to develop. Occasional liquid applications of organic or seaweed-based products are beneficial.

Watering: likes reliable moisture, but will not tolerate being wet.

Appearance and characteristics of carrots

The carrot is one of those vegie staples. It can be eaten fresh and raw, or cooked, baked, boiled or steamed in all manner of sweet or savoury recipes. With the right position and soil preparation, it is also very easy to grow. Carrot is great to grow with kids. It’s relatively quick from seed to harvest—7 weeks or less, depending on the variety and the size you want your carrots to reach. It also grows extremely well in pots, although if you’re looking for a good crop, troughs may be a better option.

Carrots make an ornamental addition to the vegie, or even general, garden. The foliage is distinctly fern-like, and aromatic if crushed. It forms dense, fountain-like sprays and is a very attractive rich green. Carrots are biennials, so if you don’t pull a carrot after the normal season, it will grow into its second year to flower and then seed. The flowers themselves are tiny and white, but they are held in a large group, with a flattened top called an umbel.

You’ve likely seen some rather odd-shaped carrots. This has to do with an interesting characteristic of the plant, which likes very open soil and good levels of nutrients. If the soil is too hard for the carrot, its growth may be stunted or the roots can split two ways or head off in odd directions. It also responds to nutrients in the soil that are too dense. If manure or compost hasn’t been adequately broken down and blended in, carrots will grow away from the lumps. Either or both of these can lead to weird and wacky two-legged carrots.

Close up of carrots in soil.

Uses for carrots

Carrots can be planted as an easy-to-grow root crop, or as an ornamental plant.

How to plant and grow carrots

Carrots prefer full sun positions, protected from serious cold or heat. They are tolerant of wind and coastal locations.

Soil must be very open and free-draining to a depth of at least 20cm. Avoid heavy soils. In pots, use a premium organic mix, or one blended for edibles. Carrots like reliable moisture, but will not tolerate being wet, as rot will follow.

Carrots are very reactive to temperature—if it’s too hot, the root won’t develop well. Cooler temperatures make for thinner and lighter-coloured carrots, while moderate warmth will increase colour. It’s important to plant carrots at the right time for your region to get the most from your crop.

Planting carrots

Carrots are almost always grown from seed, and should be sown where they will be grown, as they do not transplant well. This means that the growing bed must be very well prepared at seed sowing time.

Carrot seeds can be sown from January to May in Australia, when soil temperatures range between 8 and 30°C.

How to plant carrots

  1. Turn soil over to a depth of 20cm, thoroughly breaking up any lumps.
  2. Blend through quality, well-broken-down and fine compost or manure. Ensure there are no large lumps.
  3. Make rows or furrows a couple of centimetres deep and evenly spread the seed. Tip: mixing seed with clean, fine sand may make this easier, as the seeds are very small.
  4. Cover seed lightly and keep moist, not wet, until it germinates.
  5. To harvest over a longer season, plant smaller crops, spaced around a week apart.
  6. When growing carrot in pots, consider planting in troughs, as this will make it easier to plant rows and will maximise growing space.

Caring for carrots

Follow these tips to care for your carrots:

  • As young plants grow, thin them out to leave the strongest plants, aiming to leave strong plants spaced around 10cm apart.
  • As the carrots grow, their tops can push out of the soil. Mound soil around them to keep them from going green on top.
  • If growing for “baby” carrots, these can be harvested by just pulling them gently straight up. If grown to full-size, the carrots will need to be carefully dug up to avoid snapping.

When to harvest carrots

Carrots can be harvested 12–18 weeks after sowing.

How to harvest carrots

  1. Loosen the soil with a garden fork.
  2. Carefully pull the carrot out of the soil.

How to store carrots

  • Harvested carrots can be stored for weeks, even months, in a cool, dark, moderately humid location such as a cupboard or fridge.
  • If storing for an extended time, remove all of the leaves. The leaves can be left on, but this will dramatically reduce the carrots’ storage life.

Leftover carrots can be left in the ground for an additional four weeks, as long as the soil doesn’t freeze to solid.

Diseases and pests

Carrots are generally quite pest free, however, a fly called carrot fly can cause problems. This can be minimised by rotating carrots to different beds every year.

If you like this then try

Herbs: expand your culinary options with herbs.

Cucumber: easy to grow and super productive, cucumber makes a fantastic addition to the vegie plot.

Kale: one of nature’s superfoods, kale can be as ornamental as it is edible.

Start planting today

Check out our huge range of plants now and get your garden growing!

 

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Health & Safety

Please make sure you use all equipment appropriately and safely when following the advice in these D.I.Y. videos. You need to be familiar with how to use equipment safely and follow the instructions that came with the equipment. If you are unsure, you may feel it is safest to consult an expert, such as the manufacturer or an expert Bunnings Team Member.

Grave health hazards are linked to asbestos, which may be in homes built up to 1990. Health hazards may result from exposure to lead-based paints in older materials and copper chromium arsenic (CCA) treated timber. For information on the dangers of asbestos, lead-based paint and CCA treated timber and tips for dealing with these materials contact your local council's Environmental Health Officer. You can also use a simple test kit from Bunnings to indicate the presence of lead-based paint.