Image by Nick Saltmarsh
By Jackie Carroll
Carrots are easy to grow in a garden with deep, loose soil; and as you may have guessed from the name, they are packed with beta carotene. A 1/2 cup serving gives you four times the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of vitamin A in the form of beta carotene. Growing and harvesting carrots is a great way to take advantage of their nutritional benefits.
In mild climates you can grow this nutritious crop almost year-round by planting successive crops and using heavy mulch to protect the carrots from winter temperatures. If your soil is hard or heavy, grow short varieties to get the most come carrot harvest time.
How to Tell When Carrots Are Ready to Harvest
Knowing how to tell when carrots are ready to harvest is important for getting a good crop. First, consult your seed packet to see how many days it takes your chosen variety of carrots to mature.
Baby carrots are usually ready to harvest 50 to 60 days from the planting date. Mature carrots need a few more weeks, and are usually ready in about 75 days. Most carrots are ready to harvest when the shoulders are 1/2 to 3/4 inch in diameter, but again, there is much variation depending on the variety.
How to Harvest Carrots
Now that you know when to pick carrots, you’ll want to know the best procedure for how to harvest carrots from the garden. Grabbing the foliage and giving it a pull often results in a handful of foliage with no carrot attached. It helps to loosen the soil with a garden fork before harvesting carrots. Cut off the green tops 1/4 to 1/2 inch from the top of the carrot and rinse and dry the roots before storage.
When deciding when to pick carrots, consider how much you can use in a two- to four-week period of time. Carrots can be left in the ground for an additional four weeks or even longer in winter. Make sure you harvest the last of the carrots before the ground freezes solid.
When carrot harvest time arrives, have a storage plan in mind. Store clean carrots with the green tops removed in the vegetable bin of the refrigerator for two to four weeks. They will keep in a bucket of sand in a cool cellar for several months. Do not store carrots near apples or pears. These fruit produce a gas that causes carrots to become bitter. Carrots can also be canned, frozen or pickled for longer storage.