Carrots are a fun and rewarding crop to grow in the vegetable garden. Tiny seeds produce brightly colored root vegetables packed with beta carotene and vitamin A. Varieties from your garden can be flavorful, colorful, and provide a satisfying crunch.
Carrots are traditionally orange in hue, but colors can vary from red to yellow to vibrant purple, adding a rainbow of color and vitamins to the dinner plate. They are a hardy and popular root vegetable that can be grown successfully in almost any climate and can be eaten fresh or cooked in various ways, including in soups and stews.
Carrots produce a showy green plant that adds a unique texture to the garden bed, but since the crop is formed below the soil line, it can be tricky to gauge when to harvest carrots. While a young carrot can make a lovely garnish or addition to a salad, there is nothing quite like the intense flavor of a fully developed carrot.
Follow our guide to learn when to harvest carrots so that you can enjoy the bounty of crunchy, vitamin-rich goodness that carrots bring from garden to table.
When to Harvest Carrots
Before you start growing carrots it’s important to answer the question, how long do carrots take to grow? Traditionally, carrots have a maturation period of 55 to 100 days, depending on the variety. You can expect baby carrots to be ready in about half of the time, ranging from 30 to 50 days. Carrots come in an array of sizes, and different varieties of carrots have different time frames before they reach full maturity. Consult the back of the seed packet for the best guidelines on when to harvest carrots at their peak of ripeness.
Signs that Carrots are Ready to Harvest
So how do you know when to pick carrots? In addition to estimated maturation periods, some visual signs can cue gardeners to when their carrots are prime for picking. When carrots are fully grown, they peek out of the soil a bit underneath their fernlike fountain of leaves. You will notice what is called the ‘taproot’ of the crop emerging from the soil. Inspect the carrot’s size, and if it is about an inch in circumference, it is ready to pull.
How to Harvest Carrots
- Harvest your carrots according to the estimated maturation dates on their seed packets.
- Look closely at the base of the green growth of your carrot plant. You should see a bulge of carrot, known as the taproot, peeking out of the soil. This likely means that the carrot has outgrown its space in the garden, and it is ready for pulling.
- Do a test and harvest one or two carrots first to check their growth.
- Harvest the carrots by taking hold of the top of the root and jostling it to loosen it from the soil.
- Pull the carrot straight up and out of the soil and rinse it thoroughly before eating.
- If the carrot is still difficult to remove from the soil, gently loosen the ground around the carrot with a garden spade.
Carrot Companion Plants
Companion planting helps create an ideal growing environment by attracting beneficial pollinators such as bees and butterflies, enriching the soil, and repelling damaging insects. It can also significantly improve the overall health of your garden and increase the size of your harvest.
Carrot Growing Tips
You can extend your gardening season and the growth of your carrot crops earlier into the spring or later into the fall by using protective gardening devices such as row covers, greenhouses, or cold frames. It is also beneficial to add a robust layer of mulch around your carrots to overwinter the crop in many planting zones.
Unlike many garden vegetables, carrots can be left in the soil for storage until you are ready to use them, provided that there isn’t a deep freeze. Mulch plants well if using this method.
Carrots store very well. Trim greens to about one inch and keep them in a refrigerator for two to three months or blanch them and freeze your harvest for several months.
Recommended Carrot Varieties
- ‘Caracas‘ and ‘Short and Sweet‘ are great options that produce shorter carrots that don’t have to grow as deep into the soil. Consider these flavorful compact varieties in containers and raised beds where planting depth is a concern.
- ‘Little Fingers‘ are early to mature in the garden, making them a very rewarding early season favorite. Since they are small and slender, they can be planted together more closely in the garden, making them a great space-saving variety.
- ‘Deep Purple Hybrid,’ ‘Purple Dragon‘ and ‘Kaleidoscope‘ varieties will add tons of color to your plates.
- ‘Hercules,’ ‘Nelson,’ and ‘Tendersweet‘ are great classic carrot varieties.