If you want to harvest long, sweet and juicy carrots, you’ll need to provide them with the right conditions to thrive.
If you’re not familiar with growing carrots, this guide will cover all the basics.
Appearance and characteristics
Carrots are a member of the Apiaceae family and the genus Daucus. They are perennials that are grown as annuals and are suitable for most climates around Australia.
Carrots are grown for their edible roots, which are long, cylindrical and orange in colour.
The plant grows up to 50cm tall and produces umbels of white flowers that bloom from late spring through early summer.
Carrots have been cultivated for centuries, with wild carrots thought to have originated in Afghanistan.
When to plant carrots in Australia
Carrots are one of the easiest vegetables to grow and they will grow year-round in most of the country.
But if you want to get the best yield and the best flavour, you’ll want to plant them at certain times of the year based on your local climate.
Here’s the general guidance:
Hot climates e.g. Queensland
Plant carrots in Autumn, Winter, or Spring.
Temperate climates e.g. Sydney, Melbourne
Plant carrots in Spring, Summer, or Autumn.
Wherever you live, try to avoid planting carrots in extreme hot or cold temperatures.
How to grow carrots from seeds
So you want to grow some tasty carrots?
First, you’ll need to prepare the soil. Carrots like well-drained soil with compost added.
The pH range should be between 6 and 7, so if your soil is too acidic or alkaline, you might need to make some amendments:
- If it is too alkaline, you can add leaf litter, mulch, compost, or manure.
- If it is too acidic, you can add lime, sulphur, baking soda, or peat moss.
Next, plant your seeds! Place them 2cm deep in rows about 2cm apart.
Once they sprout, thin to leave each seedling with enough space to grow. Spacing needs will differ based on the variety so check on the seed packet.
Water your carrots regularly to keep the soil moist, but take care not to over-water as this can lead to fungal diseases.
Carrots prefer full sun but can tolerate partial shade. Feeding isn’t necessary but may benefit from a low nitrogen fertiliser once a month or so during the growing season.
Grow Guide: Carrots
|Plant type: Perennial grown as annual|
|Height: Up to 50cm|
|Climate: Suitable for most climates|
|How to plant carrots|
|Soil: Well-drained soil with compost|
|Soil pH range: 6 to 7|
|Soil temperature: 21°C – 27°C|
|Spacing needs: 2cm between seeds then thin once seedlings have sprouted (spacing needs will differ based on the variety)|
|Seed depth: 2cm|
|Germination days: 10 days|
|When to sow: Autumn to Spring in hot climates, Spring to Autumn in temperate climates|
|Caring for carrots|
|Sun: Full sun|
|Water: Water regularly to keep soil moist (but be careful not to over-water)|
|Feeding: Not necessary but may benefit from a low nitrogen fertiliser|
|Time to harvest: 8 to 12 weeks for small, sweet carrots (max 16 to 18 weeks).|
|When to harvest: The top of the carrot should start to poke out of the ground when it’s ready for harvest. The top of the carrot should be 1.9 – 2.5cm in diameter.|
How long do carrots take to grow?
It takes around 8 to 12 weeks to grow carrots, depending on the variety.
Here’s a table of the most common carrot varieties in Australia and their approximate time to harvest:
|Carrot variety||Weeks to harvest|
|All Seasons||9 – 11|
|Purple Dragon||9 – 13|
|Red-Core Chantenay||10 – 11|
The most flavourful carrots come from young plants, harvested before they reach maturity.
That’s when they have a sweet flavour but haven’t started producing starch in their root systems.
If you wait until the carrots are mature (around 16 weeks old), they will still be edible, but they will have less sweetness and may develop an unpleasant woody texture.
When to harvest carrots
While it’s important to keep track of how many weeks have passed since you planted your carrots, here are a few other signs of when it’s time to harvest them:
- Once the carrot begins poking out of the ground it is usually ready for harvest.
- The top of the carrot should be about 2.0 – 2.5cm in diameter, although this will vary based on the specific carrot variety.
How to harvest carrots
Harvesting carrots is pretty straightforward.
The first step to harvesting carrots is to loosen the soil around the carrot with a trowel or garden fork.
Then, carefully pull up the carrot and remove it from the soil, making sure to keep your garden tools away from the carrot so that you don’t damage it.
How to grow carrots in a pot
Carrots can grow well in containers as long as you choose pots that are deep enough to accommodate their roots.
Pots or containers that don’t provide enough space will lead to carrots with stunted growth, instead of being long and slender.
Here are some important things to keep in mind:
- Use high-quality potting soil specifically designed for vegetable growing
- Plant your seeds with at least a few cm of space on each side and then thin them out when seedlings emerge.
- Place your pots in a position where they will receive at least 6 hours of direct sun per day.
- Water well after planting to start the germination process.
Diseases can impact either the leaf or the root of a carrot.
The most common diseases impacting carrots in Australia include:
- Leaf blight – a quick-spreading fungal infection that appears as rapidly growing brown spots on the leaves. It can be treated with a fungicide spray.
- Sclerotinia – a common fungal disease that causes carrots to become soft and slimy before a white fungus develops. The best prevention against Sclerotinia is by practising crop rotation or growing fungus-resistant varieties.
Other common carrot diseases include damping off, root forking, root knot nematode, cavity spot, and black root rot.
Carrot companion plants
Companion plants are the perfect addition to your carrot patch. They can help your carrots grow better, faster, and more healthily by deterring pests and attracting beneficial insects.
Carrot companion plants include:
How long does it take for carrots to grow?
Carrots take around 8 to 12 weeks to grow. The best flavour develops in young plants, which should be harvested before they fully mature.
Do carrots need full sun?
Carrots are a vegetable that can tolerate partial shade, but they prefer full sun.