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Growing Carrots

Growing Carrots in West Virginia

Colorful Carrots

Carrots are nutritious and their sweet flavor makes them a favorite among those that claim not to like vegetables. They grow best in cool seasons and prefer deep, fertile and well-drained soil. Carrots (Daucus carota) come in an assortment of shapes and colors and store well for several months. When mulched, some varieties can be left in the soil throughout cold months to harvest in winter. The carrot is in the Apiaceae or Umbelliferae family, which will produce a rosette of eight to 12 leaves above ground and a taproot below and small purple, red or white flowers shaped like umbrellas (hence the name). They are related to parsnips and celery as well as herbs such as dill, caraway, fennel and parsley. Technically, carrots are an edible biennial herb. However, as most home gardeners are generally only concerned about the root, the portion treated as edible, carrots are grown as annuals and the plants are harvested before seed production occurs.


Carrots need loose soil at least 8 inches deep to allow full root expansion and an optimal soil pH of 6.0 to 6.8. Work the soil by adding compost and fertilizer based upon soil test recommendations.  Free soil testing is available to West Virginia residents from the WVU Soil Testing Lab. Excessive nitrogen may increase vegetative growth but prevent root growth and cause splitting. Weed control is also important until carrot seedlings are established, but it is essential to pull weeds or cultivate carefully so that the new seedlings root system is not disturbed. Allowing weeds to germinate and then tilling them under before seeding carrots can decrease weeds which will be able to emerge later. Straw or other mulch can reduce weeds, maintain soil temperature and retain moisture, but it is essential that it comes from a clean source to ensure that it is herbicide free.   


Carrots are always directly seeded as transplanting would damage the tender root structure. Consider pelletized seed rather than raw seed as it is easier to handle and can prevent wasted seed. Seeds should be lightly sown on surface and gently covered; carrot seeds should be planted about 1/8 to 1/4  inches deep. In West Virginia, carrots can be planted in both spring and fall. Sow seeds in the spring around April 12, when the soil reaches 40 F, approximately four weeks before the last frost date. As a general guideline, fall seeds should be planted around September 1 to avoid the hottest days of summer. Carrot seeds can be chilled in the refrigerator prior to seeding to increase germination in hot soil for August seeding. Carrots grow best in a temperature range of 55 F to 75 F. Established plants can survive a frost or freeze, but seedlings with less than four to six leaves should be protected. Temperatures that are too cold for young plants can affect the color, flavor and growth rate of carrots. Additionally, temperatures that are too high can be damaging to seedlings and hot weather can over stress plants and cause a bitter flavor. Drought stress due to high temperatures or lack of watering can also cause splitting cracks, excessive formation of small secondary roots, and decreased overall growth. It is important to plant carrots during appropriate seasons and protect carrots from temperature extremes as much as possible. Temperature extremes can also lead to bolting where the carrot will shift energy to premature flower production. 

After seeding in either spring or fall, seeds take two to three weeks to germinate; seeds will not germinate if the soil is too warm or too dry. After their vegetation reaches about 3 inches tall, thin carrots to 2 to 3 inches apart. Not allowing enough space between carrots will prevent carrot root growth. 


Adequate water is essential for proper carrot development, and it is the most essential cultural practice for carrot production. Moisture is essential for seeds to sprout and after seeding, the seedbed should be watered evenly throughout the growing season to provide uniform growth of carrots. Dry soil will make it difficult for the root to expand and necessary growth for vegetation and photosynthesis. Drought stress later in the season will cause irregular growth, splitting and a bitter flavor. The soil needs to be moistened frequently until seedlings reach at least one inch high. Then, plants should be watered at least twice a week unless the garden receives at least one inch of rainfall per week. When watering, the soil should be soaked thoroughly for the water to reach the roots below. When carrots are near their mature size, watering too much at once or allowing carrots to get too dry and then watering can cause splitting, so consistent watering is essential.  

Harvest and Storage

Maturity date and size will depend upon the variety planted; most full maturity dates range from 55 to 75 days. However, carrots can be harvested at any stage of maturity. Baby sized carrots are ¼ to 1.2 inches in diameter, harvested approximately 40 days after seeding. Fall plantings can be left in the garden after a light frost; however, they should be mulched with straw before a freeze. If properly covered, they can be overwintered in the garden for later use. Some varieties get sweeter if allowed to remain in the ground until after a frost. 

When pulling the carrot, firmly grasp it near the junction of the foliage and the root. Carefully wiggle the carrot side to side to loosen it from the soil before pulling it up from the ground. If you would prefer to store carrots for a few months, remove the tops and they can be stored in a cool area just above freezing (35 F to 40 F) for a few months. Do not wash carrots until you are ready to consume them as doing so will decrease their storage life. 


Days to Maturity
65 days Medium dark orange 
F1 Hybrid, stores well, 6 to 7 inches long and performs well in rocky or shallow soils where longer carrots can be more difficult to grow

36 (baby) days

54 (full) days

Medium orange
F1 hybrid, early maturing, slender 5 ½  to 6 ½ inches long (called pencil carrots), high sugar that hold sweetness even in hot weather
Sugarsnax 54 
68 days Dark orange
F1 hybrid, tapered roots, sweet tender and smooth, 9 to 10 inches long, high in beta-carotene, high resistance to Alternaria blight
58 days (summer), longer in cold weather
Light orange
F1 variety is great for overwintering. Ideal for sowing in the fall for winter harvest as it maintains a sweet even in colder weather. It takes longer to reach maturity in cold weather but can be left open or covered with a fabric row cover depending upon weather severity. Can reach 7 inches in length with long, semi blunt roots
75 days Medium dark orange 
F1 hybrid, high resistance to Alternaria blight and powdery mildew; and intermediate resistance to cavity spot, bacterial blight and Cercosporin blight, 7 to 8 inches long, thick blunt tip
67 days Orange, Purple, Yellow
F1 hybrid, tender, sweet flavorful, 7 to 9 inches, may mature uniformly, great for kids as they may enjoy the novelty of colors, different seed companies may use the “rainbow” designation for a mix of different variations
Purple Haze 
73 days Purple and Orange 
Excellent flavor, 7 to 8 inches, skin is purple with orange interior (purple color will fade when cooked), thick tapered carrot


Carrots nutrition label

Carrots are crunchy, naturally sweet and nutritious. Like many vegetables, they have a high-water content (85% to 90%) and a high fiber content, with approximately 2 grams in a whole carrot or 4 grams in a cup of chopped carrots. A cup of cooked carrots has around 5 grams of fiber which is enough to classify them as a “high fiber” food. They contain vitamin K1, which is used for blood clotting, and other forms of potassium (needed for blood pressure, nutrient movement, muscle contractions and neural functions). Carrots are especially high in beta carotene (vitamin A) which is an antioxidant and protects cells from damage and is essential for eyesight.

The color of the carrot is indicative of many of the nutrients it contains. Beta carotene is responsible for giving carrots an orange color and is the highest in orange carrots. For instance, one cup of orange carrots has over 400% of one’s daily requirement for vitamin A whereas purple carrots only have 67%. Red carrots provide a higher proportion of the antioxidant lycopene. Yellow carrots have a higher proportion of lutein which is also important for eye health. White carrots do not have pigment-giving antioxidants. 

Cooking and Preserving

Carrots do not need to be peeled for consumption as the skin contains vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Cleaning with a vegetable brush or careful rinsing is sufficient for roasting or cooking. Carrots are delicious glazed or grilled and make an excellent addition to pasta or stir fry. While raw carrots are a favorite of many children that otherwise avoid vegetables, there are many other ways to utilize them. Carrot juice and or pulp can be added to smoothies, soups and stews to add nutrition without dramatically altering the flavor. Carrots can also be pulped to the consistency of apple sauce and then frozen for later use in breads, muffins and cakes. Cooking is not necessary to pulp unless your blender isn’t strong enough to yield a smooth consistency from raw carrots.   

To freeze carrots whole or in pieces, first clean and peel. Boil whole carrots for 6 minutes (or slices up to ¼ inch thick for three minutes), then blanch in ice water. Dry pack in containers designed for freezing, leaving the headspace recommended for the container. If you prefer to use small amounts at a time, you can blanch carrot pieces then lay them on a tray and place in a freezer just long enough to freeze firmly. Then pack in freezer-safe container with headspace. This will allow carrot pieces to stay loose so you can remove small quantities at a time. Do not leave pieces in the freezer uncovered longer than necessary as they will dry out and get freezer burn. 

If you would prefer to can carrots, they must be pressure canned; it is not safe to process carrots by a water bath canning method. Carrots can be processed by hot pack or raw pack. Wash, peel, rewash and slice carrots. For raw method, fill jars with carrots then cover with liquid, leaving one-inch headspace. For hot pack, pour in saucepan, cover with water and boil for five minutes. Then pour carrots in jars, covering with cooking liquid. Leave one-inch headspace. For either method, process pints for 25 minutes or quarts for 30 minutes at 12 pounds for a dial gauge or 15 pounds for a weighted gauge.

Pests, Diseases and Other Issues

There are numerous pests, diseases and disorders that are possible in carrots but not for West Virginia home gardeners. Good Integrated Pest Management (IPM) practices such as choosing appropriate varieties, crop rotation, weed management, monitoring often for pests and diseases, addressing problems when necessary, and other practices to maintain plant vigor can help minimize issues. Several pesticides are approved for use on carrots. They should be avoided unless necessary and should not be applied to the portions of the plant intended for consumption. Spinosad is a pesticide whose active ingredient is a natural substance made by a soil bacterium that can be toxic to insects. Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) is an insecticide made from a bacterium of the same name which only affects insects consuming that target plant. Therefore, it is safe for use around pollinators. Contact your local Extension office for pest and disease identification and recommendation of appropriate pesticides for your situation. 
Pest Disease or Issue
Carrot root flies
Fly maggots feed on roots destroying them

Harvest plant when ready 

Do not apply insecticides to edible plant parts

Carrot weevils
Grayish brown adult weevils feed on leaves, larvae feed on root tissue just below the soil surface

Hand pick adult weevils or exclude with floating row covers  

Crop rotation can be helpful as it can exclude alternate host species such as wild carrot and water hemlock.

Aster yellows

Virus spread by leafhoppers (plant sucking insects)  

Signs include yellow or purple plant tops and hairy roots

Aster yellows is generally not a significant concern for home gardeners 
Small thin grubs chew s-shaped holes in roots

Rotate crops, avoid planting in areas that have previously had carrots, turnips, potatoes or sweet potatoes 

Turn under soil deeply to encourage decomposition of plant matter

Damage plants by sucking sap

Insecticides are approved but should be avoided if possible 

Spray plants with hard water spray 

Insecticidal soap or horticultural oil can control aphids 

Destroy infected plants so eggs don’t overwinter

Flea beetles 
Tiny black insects chew small irregular holes throughout leaf, often described as a “shotgun” pattern

Use row covers as seedlings are growing 

Remove old plant material so flea beetles cannot overwinter 

Small roots
Can be normal foliage production but little root development or stunted development all over

Can be the result of many causes 

Prevent by providing proper nutrients and soil requirements, thinning plants to proper spacing and proper planting time to avoid temperature extremes 

Green areas on top of root (normally orange, white, etc.)
Prevent by ensuring root is covered by soil, mounding it around the top of root if necessary
Forked root
Soil that was inadequately cultivated or is rocky or compacted
Prevent by cultivating soil at least 2 inches deeper than the eventual length of the carrot variety, removing rocks and adding organic matter if needed

Carrot nutrition label from 

USDA carrot nutrient information   

Vegetable Varieties Recommended for West Virginia 

Freezing Vegetables from Colorado State University Extension  

We Can Vegetables Food Preservation WVU Extension Service  

Author: Jodi Richmond, WVU Extension Agent – Mercer County

Last Reviewed: January 2024