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Carrot Harvest Time – How And When To Pick Carrots In The Garden

Carrot Harvest Time – How And When To Pick Carrots In The Garden


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 half-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, 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 (6-12 mm.) 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. Don’t store carrots near apples or pears. These fruits produce a gas that causes carrots to become bitter. Carrots can also be canned, frozen or pickled for longer storage.

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How to Tell When Carrots Are Finished Growing

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When you harvest carrots (​Daucus​ ​carota​ var. ​sativus​), you never know quite what you're going to get after easing them from the soil. The final size of the bright orange, or sometimes yellow or purple, roots is a bit of a mystery while they're in the ground. The good news is, you can harvest carrots as soon as they're large enough to eat, and you don't have to wait for them to finish growing. In fact, if you leave carrots to grow too large, they can turn woody and lose their sweetness.


When to Harvest Carrots

Three great ways to know when to harvest your carrot crop.

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Harvested Carrots

When to harvest carrots really depends on the variety that you are growing. It is important to look at the harvest dates when buying your seeds packets. Some carrots can be harvested at 58 days while others are in the 75 to 100 day time period. After planting your seeds, make a reminder on your calendar or phone for the days stated on the seed pack when they are ready to be harvested. This will serve as one way of knowing when to harvest your carrot crop.

Photo by: Shutterstock/Iakov Filimonov

When to harvest carrots really depends on the variety that you are growing. It is important to look at the harvest dates when buying your seeds packets. Some carrots can be harvested at 58 days while others are in the 75 to 100 day time period. After planting your seeds, make a reminder on your calendar or phone for the days stated on the seed pack when they are ready to be harvested. This will serve as one way of knowing when to harvest your carrot crop.

Pulling some “test” carrots can also be a way of finding out if the carrots are at the size that is ready to harvest. Again each variety will vary in shape and size – so ideally keeping your seed packet is best. Organizing them in a binder works well to keep track of when to harvest, what size the end product should be and what varieties worked well in your garden for future reference.

Another way of telling that your carrots are ready to harvest is by looking at the diameter of the carrot. If it is between ¾ to an inch in circumference, they are ready to pull. Some gardeners like pulling the carrots when they are immature as well for roasting or adding whole to garnish salads. However, when carrots are fully grown and deepest in color they are their sweetest and best in flavor.

How to harvest carrots is quite simple. Gently pull at the top of the carrot that has emerged from the soil (not the leaves, but the root). This will help it to give and loosen from the soil surrounding it. This can also be quickly done by using a garden fork or spade to loosen the soil around the carrots being careful not to pierce any of the vegetables. Once the soil is loosed, grab the carrot by the greens or at the top of the carrot if exposed, firmly pulling the carrot it should remove easily. Once free from the soil, shake off any excess dirt.

Carrots can be harvested well into the fall. However, it is important to pull all carrots before the ground freezes. In some climates, were the ground does not freeze solid and the temperature stays above freezing (32 degrees), carrots can be grown and harvested in the winter months. Insulating with straw around the crop is necessary to keep the crop growing. It is important to keep in mind, that during the spring this biennial that we treat as an annual will bolt in the spring. The bolting (or flowering) will ruin the flavor and texture of the taproot, but it will be wonderful for beneficial insects in the garden. Most gardeners will plant in the spring months for harvest in summer.


How to Harvest Collards

  • Harvest leaves from low on the stem first and work your way up the stalk. Pick leaves from the outside of the plant and work inward. Be careful not to damage the stem where new leaves emerge.
  • Leaves will come away from the stem with a sharp downward pull. You can also use a sharp knife.
  • Leave at least four leaves at the top of the plant (the growing crown) that will allow the plant to grow new leaves for future harvest.
  • Regular harvest and even watering will keep the plant producing new tender leaves.

Store collard leaves for several days to a week in the refrigerator.


Harvesting Carrots

There's no mystery to harvesting carrots, although a lot of people pick them too early, or leave them in the field until they get woody because they're not sure when to harvest carrots.

Carrots mature 60-70 days after sowing, as long as they're thinned properly and get plenty of water. The growth rate is slower in cooler temperatures, faster in the warmest summer months.

When the carrot tops are 4-6” (10-15cm) high, you can start harvesting “baby” carrots. This is around the time you'll want to thin them to their final spacing–about 3" (7cm)–so the remaining carrots can size up properly. The carrots should be 3-4” (7-10cm) long at this stage.

After this final thinning, leave them in the ground for another 3-4 weeks. Give them plenty of water during the last month of growth.

Unless you know the variety, it's hard telling if the carrots are ready to harvest just by looking at the tops. Some carrots have very tall leaves, while others have leaves half as high at maturity.

The easiest way to tell if a carrot is ready to harvest is to use your index finger to circle the top of the carrot, to feel how big it is. Most carrots are ready to harvest when the tops are about 1" (2.5cm) in diameter, but Chantenay and Imperator carrots grow larger.

Once they've reached this diameter at the top, pull a couple carrots out of the ground to check their length.

Most carrot varieties can hold in the ground for a 2-3 weeks after maturity, without getting woody or fibrous. Some storage varieties can hold considerably longer, especially in cooler temperatures.

In warm-winter areas where the ground doesn’t freeze solid, late-season carrots can be left in the ground and harvested as needed.

Where the ground freezes solid, dig carrots after the first snowfall, but before the ground freezes. The cold will make the carrots sweeter. Store in damp sand in a root cellar or basement.


How to Store Carrots

Store carrots in a perforated plastic bag in the vegetable drawer of the refrigerator. That will keep carrots cold and moist (32°-40°F/0°-4°C and 95 percent relative humidity). A refrigerator provides the cold, but will also have dry air. Placing carrots in a perforated plastic bag in the refrigerator creates a cold and moist environment.

Carrots can be stored for winter use several ways:

  • Store carrots in the ground during cool winter months unless a freeze is expected if frost is predicted and the roots can’t be protected, dig them up and store them elsewhere. If carrots stay in the ground all winter, harvest them before new top growth starts in spring. Roots stored in the ground through winter should be eaten very soon after harvest they will not keep well.
  • Store carrots in the ground where the soil freezes if the ground can be insulated from freezing cold. Keep the soil at 35° to 40°F by putting a 10- to a 12-inch-thick layer of hay, leaves, or straw mulch over the rows extend the mulch on both sides of each row by another 18 inches or more. This should protect roots even beneath two feet of snow. Dig roots through the winter as needed.
  • Store carrots in a root cellar or basement or in a garage where the temperature is about 32°-38°F during the winter store roots in a bucket or wooden box filled with either sand, peat moss, or sawdust pack the roots so that they are standing upright or vertical and insulated and covered and do not touch one another some moist air must be able to circulate so don’t completely seal the container. Before storing the carrots, allow the skins to cure or dry a few days before storing them in the root cellar. Do not wash the carrots before storing simply brush away any soil.

Carrots stored in cold moist conditions will keep for 4 to 6 months.

Carrots exposed to very cold temperatures will become bitter tasting. Carrots left in the ground too long will be touch, woody, and may crack.

Check roots during storage and remove those that begin to deteriorate.


Watch the video: The Garden Minute: When to Harvest Carrots