As you’re waiting for winter weather to break, think about what to plant in your spring garden. Carrots are nutritious, delicious and one of the more kid-friendly vegetables around.
Plant carrot seeds at anytime when soil temperatures fall in the 45 to 85 F range. Direct seeding works best; transplanted carrots often grow crooked roots. Cover seeds with 1/4 inch of soil in a sunny location. Keep the soil consistantly moist. While the seeds are germinating, use a sheet of cheesecloth to water through to prevent dislodging the seeds. Thin seedlings to provide 2 inches of space between plants.
Carrots grow best in nutrient-rich soil, so prepare the bed with 8 to 12 inches of ripe compost. You can even plant them in a raised bed with compost alone. Don’t use fresh manure, however. The nitrogen in manure tends to produce hairy roots. When carrots are planted in a compost-rich soil, they generally do not need extra fertilizer. If planting in unamended soil, fertilize with a fish emulsion solution every two weeks.
There are dozens of carrot varieties, including a number of sizes, shapes and colors. Baby carrots grow quickest, averaging 70 days from germination to maturity. Carrots can enjoy a long growing season, so consider succession planting every three weeks or so. Harvest carrots when they are bright orange and in the correct length range for their variety. Pull larger carrots first to give the smaller ones more time to develop.