I have been growing carrots on my allotment for over 25 years now, it’s a process I repeat every year without fail. For the last 5 years, I have been growing carrots for show – this takes growing to the next level but can get rather complicated to a novice grower.
First, carrots are biennial plants, which means carrot plants take two years for a whole cycle to complete.
The carrot roots develop in the first year, growing the plant into a mature one. It then enters into the production of foliage and storage of sugar as a major part of its life cycle. It will later produce seeds when the right time comes.
So, if you are considering growing carrots, you need to understand all these stages. From the time you sow carrot seeds to the harvest, a lot takes place. Patience will take you through the cycles.
In this guide, we shall be discussing carrots growing stages. You will also know everything about planting carrots and caring for them until they are ready for harvest.
Carrot Growth Stages
Carrot growth can be divided into five stages, each with specific features. Early spring is the best time to sow carrot seeds. If you miss that, late summer should be the most convenient alternative. During this period, the soil is cold, and it will take about two weeks for germination to start.
The carrot plant produces leaves, roots, and stems during the first three stages. It’s called vegetative growth. From here, it enters the reproductive stage, where the carrot plant starts to flower and produce seeds.
Here are details of the four main stages.
Stage 1: Planting stage
Most carrots are planted when soil temperatures are lower. This is because carrot is considered an excellent season vegetable.
Choosing the right soil temperature is, therefore, very crucial. Early summer is not the best time to plant carrots.
Consider planting during early spring so that you can harvest in early summer. Or you can go for a fall harvest by planting later.
For those who want an autumn harvest, consider planting during mid to late summer. This may give the soil just enough temperature to allow for proper root growth.
If you want to have a continuous flow of fresh carrots, sow your seeds every three weeks in late spring. You will always have something to harvest.
Root growth in a carrot crop occurs best when you always keep the soil moist. Soon you will see baby carrots emerging are the remaining plants emerge stronger from the ground in the next stages.
Stage 2: Germination
After sowing the carrot seedling, expect germination to start during the first few weeks. The carrot seed absorbs water and swells, letting the seed coat break open. The carrot plant starts to grow a root system upwards to meet sunlight.
Stage 3: Growing Seedling
After the seeds germinate, the primary root emerges. Growth is a slow and steady process that is apparent when the carrots are planted and develop the first true leaves.
The carrot root continues to grow longer and thicker. At the same time, small secondary roots develop from the main one. The carrot is still dependent on the seed for food at this stage.
Understand the growth stage is very delicate. It’s important for the soil to retain moisture since the cellular growth processes depend on it.
Stage 4: Vegetation Stages of Growing Carrots
Third, in the stages of carrots growth is vegetative growth. The plant continues in further growth, developing more leaves and rising in height.
It is also during this stage that photosynthesis begins to fuel faster growth. This is another good time to check the soil moisture in your vegetable garden. You need to give your carrots the best conditions to grow.
The root continues to expand and elongate during the next few weeks, giving you fresh carrots. You can see the shoulders emerging above the soil surface.
Ideally, a large central root forms when the carrot begins to grow. The vegetative stage brings out the maturity of this root. That means it’s ripe for harvesting at this stage. Although, you will have to wait until near the end of the phase.
Stage 5: Reproduction
Forth in carrots’ growth stages is the reproductive stage. As the name suggests, this stage determines whether you will have a healthy harvest or not. It comes after the vegetative growth stages.
This stage does not require any special attention. It happens when you don’t harvest carrots during the previous stage, forcing them dormancy to go through frosty conditions.
Growth stops, and new shoots appear with a flowering stem. Since carrots are root crops, the rapid upsurge in growth when temperatures rise in spring cause bolting. In other words, the flowers will bloom in an umbrella shape.
New plant seeds emerge, ending their lifecycle. And that is the last growth stage.
Best Conditions for Growing Carrots
Here are some of the best conditions for growing your carrots.
If you are looking for a summer harvest, plant your carrots during winter. Alternatively, planting new seeds every 10 weeks before autumn assures a continuous harvest.
Loose, deep, and well-drained soil is the best for carrots. Prepare your clay soil early enough if that is all you have. You can add some nitrogen fertilizer or organic material, which will help the soil retain moisture, keeping it cooler when hot temperatures come.
Avoid over-enriched, compacted soil as it can cause misshapen carrots. And that means choosing your planting seasons very carefully.
A carrot is a root vegetable that depends on maximum sunlight to grow. Therefore, consider planting in an area that offers at least 6 hours of daily sunlight.
If you want a healthy harvest, give your carrots about an inch of water every week. This may vary depending on the growth stages. Your root crops may require more frequent watering in some stages in less in others.
If you plant your seed heads in mid-summer, expect an autumn harvest. Your plants will have gone through a full cycle. Leave them to grow beyond, and the plant produces flowers and seeds.
Now that you understand the growth cycle, you should have a better chance of getting the best from your crop. Just be sure to keep pests like carrot fly away and also find the best way to store carrots after harvest.
Brian Sheridan has an allotment in Edgbaston and is a competitive grower. Brian is also a keen photographer and loves cooking. Brian and his wife Mary will also be running a stall at Edgebaston artisan market this year, selling products made from the allotment, including his award-winning relish!