Growing Great Carrots

Simple soil amendments and careful cultivar selection will boost your roots to their finest form.


Photo by Getty Images/Teamjackson

Many gardeners dream of growing perfect carrots. The seeds are sown shortly after the first catalog arrives, and flawlessly grow into rows of sweet, crunchy perfection with feathery tops that wave in the breeze. With tops firmly attached, each golden-orange root slides effortlessly from the ground, never snapping. The roots are always straight and smooth; they never fork or have any odd-looking bumps, and there aren’t any splits, root maggots, or rodent teeth marks. Only a quick rinse with a garden hose is needed before you’re enjoying the sweetest, snappiest carrots ever tasted, without a hint of bitterness, soapiness, or woody texture.

Unfortunately, more often than not, these heavenly carrots grow strictly in the imaginations of cabin-fevered gardeners. The reality of growing carrots can be sobering and more than a bit disappointing — at least at first. It’s not the carrots’ or the gardener’s fault; carrots are just more challenging than most veggies. Oftentimes, carrot troubles stem from growing the wrong cultivar in the wrong soil conditions — something Bugs Bunny never had to deal with.

Carrot Cultivation

Carrots (Daucus carota) are biennial members of the parsley family. They have a two-year life span, during which they grow and store energy in their roots the first year, and then flower and produce seeds the next. Wild carrots produce a thin, white or purple root that’s tough, bitter, and soapy tasting. They’re practically unrecognizable as a garden carrot. For all of their sophistication, though, the familiar garden-variety carrots are barely domesticated and will quickly escape to the wild given the chance. You’ve likely seen the descendants of escaped carrots in the form of Queen Anne’s lace. Only in the perfect conditions of a well-tended garden does a carrot show its full potential.

Photo by Adobe Stock/juliedeshaies



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