Cool soil temperatures bring out the sweet flavor and crisp texture of home grown carrots, so the tastiest carrots of the year mature after the first frosts of fall. Fall-grown carrots also need less weeding than spring crops, and once the plants are up and growing, they need less watering, too.
The biggest challenge is getting slow-sprouting carrot seeds to germinate under hot summer conditions, but these simple techniques can help ensure healthy seedlings. Why not try two or three varieties in different shapes and colors?
Orange carrots tend to be the sweetest, but varieties with purple skins or yellow flesh are great fun to grow from midsummer to fall.
Grow a Fall Crop of Crisp Carrots:
- Prepare a bed for carrots by using a digging fork to cultivate the soil 12″ deep. Spread a 2″ layer of compost over the surface along with a light application of a balanced organic vegetable fertilizer, and dig through the bed again. Rake out any rocks or roots, and thoroughly water the bed.
- Wait until rain is predicted to plant carrots. The night before planting seeds, place them in a strainer and rinse with lukewarm water. Spread wet seeds on a paper towel and place in an airtight container. The next day, shake the seeds onto a dry paper towel and allow them to air-dry for about an hour.
- Make ¼″-deep planting trench for your carrot seeds in the prepared garden bed. Carrots are easiest to maintain when planted in double or triple rows, spaced 8″ apart. Drop seeds 1″ apart into the row and cover with loose soil. Gently pat in place. Water thoroughly but gently.
- Cover new planting with a sheet, folded in half, or a double thickness of garden row cover to maintain soil moisture.
- Water as needed to keep the soil lightly moist, at least once a day in dry weather.
- Thin carrot seedlings to 3″ apart about a month after planting.
Tip: Most full-size carrots are ready to harvest in about 75 days when the shoulders are ½-3/4” in diameter, but this depends on variety. Expect your carrots to plump up in early October.