The Definitive Guide to Growing Carrots in Zone 7b
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Carrots are a crop that seems straightforward, but many people have a surprising amount of trouble with them! For years, I grew teeny tiny, mishappen carrots that often tasted more like dirt than carrot (even when washed), and I’ve seen many other gardeners do the same thing year after year. Carrots are supposed to be big, thick, and sweet, and you CAN grow them that way!
After 5 years of trial and error, I am happy to present to you: The Definitive Guide to Growing Sweet Carrots in Zone 7b! (Modify for your growing zone).
Plant at the end of summer:
Despite what the internet tells you, carrots do NOT like heat and so should NOT be planted in the spring in zone 7b. When carrots are planted in the spring, the summer heat makes the plant put more energy into the leaves and eventual flower instead of the root. 7b is a HOT zone! So hot in fact, that many tropical plants like luffas thrive in our sticky hot summers! Carrots are cold tolerant and produce a much sweeter vegetable if grown in the colder months. The cold forces the plant to put its energy into the roots so it will survive the winter (and hopefully make it to summer where it can flower and spread seeds to reproduce…the goal of all plants).
That being said, plant carrots in the middle of August. The late summer heat helps them sprout and then just as they’re getting big, the weather cools down and forces the energy of the plant into the root.
Choose a good variety:
Now I know, it can be VERY tempting to grow the rainbow carrots that you saw at the hardware store. And while I always encourage experimentation in gardening, know that usually, these do not do as well as other varieties. Instead of just picking up whatever variety of seeds your local hardware or feed store has in stock, do a bit of research first. What are your carrot-growing goals? Do you want sweet carrots, carrots that store well for months and months, extra-large carrots, purple carrots, or just carrots that are easy to grow? A quick internet search will steer you in the right direction.
I’ll help you out a bit here:
A good variety of sweet carrots (these also store very well): Danvers carrots
Storage carrots (and carrots that grow extra long): Imperator carrots
Purple carrots: Purple Haze Carrots
Easy carrots to grow: Nantes carrots
As you can see, there are lots of options out there! And odds are, it will take a bit of trial and error to find the varieties that you like and that grow well in your garden. If you’re really good, grow a few different varieties, label them, and then keep track of what does well in your space and what you like.
Thin your carrots:
This is NOT a fun step in growing carrots, but one that is absolutely necessary! I always delay thinning my carrots because it seems like such a waste, but it just has to be done. After your carrots are a few weeks old, comb through them and pull up seedlings so that you’re left with one seedling about every 3 inches. This ensures that each plant has plenty of room to grow large. When carrot seedlings are not thinned, their growth is restricted and you’re left with small, crowded carrots. Again, not a fun step, but don’t skip it.
If you follow these steps, you should have a beautiful healthy carrot harvest in early winter! I harvest my best carrots in December.
A few other tips and tricks:
Be sure your soil is healthy and free of rocks or other obstructions.
Anything blocking carrots’ roots’ downward growth will either stunt it or deform it. Be sure to till your soil well. See my post here for 5 Ways to Ammend Poor Soil in the Garden
Make sure pests cannot eat your carrots or carrot greens.
I find that pests are less of a problem when planted in the fall as many insects die off with the first frost. However, a layer of mulch will help prevent beetles from munching on your carrots. Cats and chickens are my personal worst pests. Cats can easily kill a huge portion of freshly planted carrots when they see the freshly tilled soil as a litter box. Chickens LOVE carrot greens and will eat the greens down to the carrot top, stunting the carrot’s growth. To keep cats from using the garden bed as a litter box, I like to lay down a piece of wire fencing or chicken wire so that they can’t dig. To keep chickens out, I built a fence around my garden.
See my post here for how I built a garden fence on a budget.
And see my post here for how I keep chickens from destroying my garden
My last tip is to not leave carrots in the ground too long.
When the roots have been in the ground too long, they may either begin to get mushy and decay OR they get really tough and inedible. I’ve made both of these mistakes. Some sources say carrots are ready for harvest 2-3 months after planting, but I’ve found that my carrots take a bit longer to be ready. Keep an eye on your carrots' growth by digging around the base of the stems to expose the carrot tops. When the carrot tops are about an inch in diameter, you’re ready for harvest. And know that some carrots, despite your best efforts will remain tiny while others grow big.
And that’s it! My guide to growing big, delicious carrots in zone 7b! This guide can be easily modified for different growing zones. For example, if you live in a colder environment, you can likely plant carrots in the spring and they will do great in the summer months!
I’ve learned to grow carrots (and most other plants) through trial and error, and even when I do all the things right, some years I still might get a dud harvest. So be patient, and if a crop fails, just try again next year!
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