Notes on planting carrots

I’ve not had a lot of luck growing carrots in the past. When they grow, they are wonderful…but I have a really hard time getting them to sprout. Here are my thoughts on what works and what doesn’t. Please feel free to add your own tips!

  • Carrot seeds don’t remain viable for many years. Whereas I get about a 95% sprout rate on 6 year-old kale seeds, carrots can’t really be relied upon the year after you buy them.  This is especially true of pelleted seed. I like pelleted seeds because they can mean less weeding, but they will not grow the second year. Maybe if I stored them in the freezer…?
  • Don’t ever let them dry out once you put them in the ground. I find a light covering of straw (~60% of the dirt covered) works pretty well. Critters tend to dig burrows under my floating row cover.
  • Better to seed thickly and thin than to seed at a rate that doesn’t need thinning. Too bad; I hate thinning! If you’re using pelleted seed, though, you can space them 1″ apart and remove every other one or every third one, which is easier than thinning clumps of them out.
  • Water them every day – a good long soaking with a hose – until they have a couple true leaves.
  • Varieties: I do like Danvers and Nelson – have grown well for me, good flavor, easy to pull. Chantenay-type taste good and grow well, but are a thick wedge shape that we find difficult to use (we eat a lot of carrots out of hand, and these must be cut to be eaten). Japanese Imperial Long carrots are *too* long – hard to pull and not very thick. Have tended to prefer F1 hybrids rather than heirloom varieties (bad tree hugger! bad tree hugger!) but I figure I’ll probably never save carrot seed, so I’m less concerned about it. And, I can get Danvers seed for $2/oz in bulk at my garden store. Do you know how many carrot seeds there are in an ounce?? It gives me lots of room to plant and re-plant.

I’ve harvested most of the carrots (and beets) I planted at the end of April already. The fall crop went in late – Aug. 12 or so. We’ll see what happens; at least I know I can sprout carrots in the middle of a drought!



  1. Leasmom said,

    August 21, 2008 at 10:46 pm

    Good information. I wonder if the seeds I had bought three times this year from two different places were last years seeds. Cause I just barely got one little carrot to sprout!!!

  2. Jen in MI said,

    August 22, 2008 at 9:23 am

    I wouldn’t have success due to our local deer population!

  3. Trevor said,

    August 22, 2008 at 4:15 pm

    I just started reading your blog – beautiful layout/graphics, great information and insights. Plus food and gardening!

    Homegrown carrots are so good. I especially like the bright resin-y flavour of midsummer carrots before the cool weather sweetens them up.

    Good growing tips. Thnx. Another tip is to “pre-soak” the spot where you are planting the carrots a day or two before sowing so there is a nice moist spot for them to germinate. I find watering them right at planting seems to compress the soil a bit much. I agree, gentle daily watering is critical. Also for parsley and parsnips too. Dill and coriander seed seem to be more vigorous. My favorites are Nantes, Danvers, Chantenay Half-longs, and Dragon (purple/magenta skin, orange interiors and bright green cores!).

    If you a uncertain about the viability of you seed, you can do a test germination on a damp cloth or paper towel. Its a good way to gauge the percentage of germination you should expect.

    In the last couple of years carrot root flys have moved into our long established garden…suggestions for dealing with those?


  4. Karen said,

    August 24, 2008 at 8:38 am

    Great blog, worth checking in often!
    I’ve had excellent success germinating carrots by placing burlap over our wide rows for the first week to 10 days. Then you don’t need to water so often. You can peek under the fabric to check on progress…

  5. Maggie said,

    August 24, 2008 at 10:33 pm

    I absolutely hate to thin seedlings. But then I hate when I sow thinly and I get holes in rows too. OCD issues and gardening do not mix.

    I just found your site. You have a great blog!

  6. gardenxing said,

    February 9, 2010 at 8:46 pm

    Yeah, pelleted seed is primed, meaning that the seed is exposed to moisture and allowed to swell just before it breaks the seed coat, then it’s quickly dried and pelleted. That’s why pelleted seed won’t save. Great blog!

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