How to Manage Pests

Pests in Gardens and Landscapes

Cultural Tips for Growing Carrot

In This Guide

Site selection

Plant your garden in a convenient location, where you can check it frequently. Choose an area near an abundant supply of water so you can water as needed easily. Vegetables do best if they receive full sunlight (at least 4 to 6 hours a day). Plant them in a well-exposed area in the garden, where they are not shaded by trees, fences, or walls. Try to plant away from areas that will be watered by lawn sprinklers.

Whenever possible, select a location that is not heavily infested with weeds, especially weeds such as field bindweed, nutsedge, and Bermudagrass that can be hard to control with hand weeding. Also avoid areas that have had previous disease problems.

Try to plant on level ground. Level ground is easier to work on than sloping ground. Vegetables will do well on a wide range of soils; they do best in well-drained soils. If your soil forms a clump when squeezed, then it is too wet; if the soil crumbles easily, it is a good soil to use. Damp soil surfaces encourage snails, slugs, sowbugs, and root diseases; fruit decay and leaf spot diseases may also increase. Soil amendments can make clay and sandy soils easier to work with, and correct soil preparation can improve poor soil.

Adding organic matter (compost, peat moss, manure, sawdust, ground bark) makes clay and sandy soils easier to work with. The soil should be kept at a pH level of 6.0 to 6.5. Lime or gypsum can be added to soils low in calcium.

Soil recommendation

Deep loose fertile soils; sandy loam or soils with high organic content; avoid rocky soils; if soil is less than ideal, build up raised beds with sifted compost and soil; half-length or short varieties should be used in heavy or shallow soils.

Soil improvement

Any type of soil can be improved with soil amendments. Heavy clay or sandy soils can be improved by adding organic material such as compost, manure, or leaf mold. Texture is an important consideration when choosing an amendment. An amendment that is granular and fine grained is important for container mixes. For gardens, a more coarse-grained amendment can improve drainage and aeration. Work amendments into soil by rototilling, raking, or double-digging.

Soil preparation

The preparation of your soil is just as important as adding fertilizer and soil amendments. Before working the soil, make sure it is moist but not thoroughly wet.

  1. Use a shovel, rototiller, metal bow rake, or all of them together to loosen the top 1 to 2 inches of soil. Rake the area to remove weeds and old crop debris. Be sure to dig out roots.
  2. Irrigate the plot deeply to encourage the germination of weed seeds.
  3. In a week or two, after a substantial number of weeds have germinated, work the area again to kill the weed seedlings. Be sure to break up the clods in the soil, as seeds planted in cloddy soil will germinate poorly and won't live long because the soil dries too quickly.
  4. Form soil into beds if desired, and plant while soil is still wet.

Time to plant

Carrots are hardy and can tolerate light frost. Because of that, they can be sown several weeks prior to the last frost date if the soil is warm enough. The ideal soil temperature is around 72° F with germination in 6 to 14 days. Avoid planting where young plants are exposed to long periods of cold temperatures, which favors bolting.

In a suitable climate, carrots can be planted more than once a year for a continuous harvest.

Planting Dates for Carrots in California*
North and North Coast
Monterey County north
January – May
July – August
South Coast
San Luis Obispo County south
January – September
Interior Valleys
Sacramento, San Joaquin valleys
August – September
February – August
Desert Valleys
Imperial and Coachella valleys
September – mid December
*Areas are large, so planting dates are only approximate, as the climate may vary even in small sections of the state. Contact your local UC Master Gardener program and experiment on your own to find more precise dates.

Planting Carrots

Carrots are suitable for a small garden if compact varieties are grown. Carrots should not be transplanted; it does too much damage to the root. They must be direct seeded in the garden. Carrot seeds are very small. They should be planted on raised beds made by adding large amounts of sifted compost or other soil amendments so that a bed is established above the previous level of soil. Plant seeds about 0.75 to 1 inch apart in the row with the rows being about 12 to 16 inches apart. At each place a plant is desired, scatter six to eight seeds on moist soil. Plant a greater stand than necessary so as to make up for any losses from insects such as cutworms. Plant shallowly, less than 0.25-inch deep. Keep the soil surface moist, and don't allow it to crust during seedling emergence. Do not sprinkle the soil unless using a hose-end fogger; use a drip tube instead. Seedlings are weak and if disturbed, don't recover well. Some gardeners cover the seed row with silica sand to ensure good soil contact. Once emerged, thin seedlings to 0.75 inch to 2 inches apart depending upon root size. You may need to thin successively, over a period of several weeks, until your row has evenly spaced plants. Carrots may also be intercropped with lettuce and parsley.


Most vegetables require fertilizer for growth. Organic materials, such as manures and compost, and inorganic materials, such as chemicals, can be used to fertilize plants. Using both types of materials usually provides the best growth. Manures and compost can be used to increase soil fertility. They are usually applied at 1 pound per 4 or 5 square feet. These materials should be worked into the soil several weeks before planting in order to allow it to decompose. Manure that contains straw, sawdust, or similar materials should be applied with a commercial nitrogen fertilizer. Generally, if the soil has been properly amended with compost or manures or other organic materials, the only nutrient needed is nitrogen, if anything. Some commercial nitrogen fertilizers available are urea, ammonium sulfate, calcium nitrate, and ammonium nitrate. Apply these fertilizers at rates of 0.5 to 1 pound of nitrogen per 100 feet of row.

If manure and other organic material has not been used, apply fertilizer that contains both nitrogen and phosphorus before planting. All commercial fertilizers are labeled by the percentages of N-P-K; nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K). Some common mixed fertilizers are 5-10-5, 5-10-10, 8-16-16, and 12-12-12. Apply these fertilizers at rates of 1 - 2 pounds per 100 feet of row. After plants are 3 to 4 inches tall, sidedress nitrogen in narrow bands or furrows and water thoroughly after application, or apply through the drip system. Consider light but frequent applications of nitrogen fertilizer every 3 to 4 weeks. Avoid letting the fertilizer come into contact with the plant stems to avoid burning.

Application tips

Inorganic fertilizers can be sidedressed. Manures are more difficult to use as a side dressing and must be tilled into the soil.

Banding: Make a small groove 1 or 2 inches deep on both shoulders of the bed, 4 to 6 inches from the plant row and band in the fertilizer. Replace the soil and irrigate.

Broadcasting: Fertilizers can be scattered along the bed shoulders. Work into the soil soon after. This is less efficient than the banding method but will be more practical when the plants are so large that the bed shoulders are inaccessible for banding.

Where sprinklers are used, fertilizer may be scattered on the soil surface between rows before irrigating. Where drip or trickle tubes are used, apply fertilizer on the soil surface near the drip tube.

Watering Carrots

Examine your soil visually and with your hands to determine the need for additional water. Carrots need to be kept moist throughout the root zone for the best quality straight roots. Dry soils or crusting, especially in the seedling stages, will impair root growth.

Proper watering with either drip or furrow irrigation will keep your plants vigorous and help protect them from insect damage and sunburn.

Harvesting Carrots

Carrots are usually ready for harvest in about 90 days after seeding. Harvest when roots are of good size but still tender. Carrots can be stored in the ground during the winter months unless the soil freezes. If carrots are allowed to stay too long in the soil, however, they may become over mature, tough, and may crack.

To determine if carrots are ready to harvest, check the roots by digging the soil back around the carrot top. Don't pull carrots up by the foliage because the roots will usually break off. Dig them out with a garden fork or trowel and gently ease them out.

Carrots taste best when eaten just after harvest. Young carrots can also be canned, frozen, or dried.

Harvested carrots.

Harvested carrots.

Seed bed preparation.

Seed bed preparation.

Amending soil to prepare for planting.

Amending soil to prepare for planting.

Bag of fertilizer.

Bag of fertilizer.

Irrigation shut off valve.

Irrigation shut off valve.

Harvesting carrots.

Harvesting carrots.

Statewide IPM Program, Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California
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