Tips For Fall Carrots In the North and the South
Tips For Fall Carrots In the North and the South
Should I reap or should I sow carrots in the fall? That depends on where you are growing. Gardeners in the far south can once again begin to sow carrot seeds in fall for a winter harvest. Northern gardeners will have to start their fall carrot planting in midsummer in order to harvest delicious roots in the fall and early winter. The beauty of growing carrots is that there are many planting and harvest windows to keep these nutritious roots on our plate throughout the year!
Check out our comprehensive video guide to growing great carrots, seed to harvest!
When Should Southern Gardeners Sow Carrots?
After the intense heat of the summer has passed and fall is on the horizon, it is time for southern gardeners to plant carrot seeds! Southern gardeners with a warm or mild winter can sow carrot seed in early fall, usually September, to harvest throughout the winter and into spring.
Carrots can reliably be sown outdoors in fall without protection from about South Carolina down to Florida and on the west coast, from about Sacramento south (some cold microclimates excluded). Florida and Southern California gardeners can sow carrots throughout the fall and winter months as the winter is the best time to grow good carrots there.
If you are unsure about your specific region, be sure to check your state university’s monthly planting calendar, which will give you guidance on when carrots can still be reliably sown in your area.
Helpful Carrot Tips for Southern Gardeners:
- Gardeners in the Deep South (Florida, South Texas, Southern California and similar climates) will find that carrots actively and happily grow during the winter months and several successions can be sown throughout the fall and into winter. Aim to harvest carrots in the coolest part of the winter, as these roots will have the sweetest flavor.
- Gardeners in the upper South (Carolinas to Georgia, southern Arkansas, Sacramento, Calif. and similar climates) can sow carrots in late August and into September. The planting window may be a bit shorter than the Deep South, as late September is generally the cut off in the upper south for carrot planting; however, the (relatively) cooler winter temperatures will make for super sweet carrot harvests!
- Often the best way to store carrot roots is to leave them in the ground and harvest as needed. This is great for cold and mild weather, but if your weather is seriously warming up and you are expecting very hot days, pull those mature carrots for storage in the root cellar or other cool, dark dry place. Very hot weather will only make the roots bitter or cause the plants to bolt.
- Consider adding a shade cloth to the carrot bed until the plants become established, this will help to conserve moisture and cool soil temperature, you can remove the shade cloth if/when the winter weather cools off.
When Should Northern Gardeners Sow Carrots?
Fall carrots are an exquisite delicacy in the north. The roots take on a delicious sweet flavor when exposed to cold weather and light frosts. Keep in mind that to grow a great fall carrot crop, you will need to sow your carrot seed in mid- to late summer for a fall/winter harvest.
Over the past decade or so, northern market farmers and gardeners have really perfected the art of season extension for carrots, and the results have been delicious! Season extension techniques like mulching and the use of low tunnels and high tunnels are a popular way for northern gardeners to push the possibilities of just how late or early to sow those carrot seeds. While these methods are incredibly effective, keep in mind that these techniques are used to extend the harvest period, not the growing period. These methods keep carrots in the ground, ready to harvest as needed over the winter, when the roots would otherwise die from extreme cold.
The beauty of carrots is that they are quite cold hardy when mature and can be harvested after a frost. They also boast a long storage life when kept properly. Choosing a cold- hardy variety with a good storage quality is best for northern fall carrots.
Helpful Carrot Tips for Northern Gardeners:
- Remember that carrot seeds dry out very easily. They prefer consistently moist, well-drained soil, so be sure to keep the seedbed from drying out or getting too hot. Since you are starting seeds in the heat of summer, this can be tricky. Try covering your freshly planted seeds with a wooden board until germinated. That will help to trap moisture and keep the seeds cool. Remove the board once the seeds germinate.
- Baby the carrot seedlings in the summer, keeping the young, tender plants as cool and consistently watered as possible until they establish. Once the mild weather sets in, they will grow beautifully, and will be delicious by first light frost for harvest.
- Succession sowing is the method of sowing seeds every few weeks within a crop’s planting window for a longer harvest. This method helps us to enjoy quality carrots for a longer season. Carrots can be sown at three-week intervals within your region's planting window. For example, a gardener in Rhode Island can sow fall carrots every three weeks between early July and early August.
What Are the Best Carrot Varieties To Sow In Fall?
Just about any carrot variety will thrive when sown in fall if given the right conditions. However, there are specific varieties that really sing.
Kyoto Red is a Japanese heirloom that is ideal when sown in early fall and harvested just in time for New Year’s celebrations. This silky red carrot makes a long taproot that is incredibly sweet, especially after a bit of frost exposure. The brilliant red color is an indication of the presence of the health-promoting antioxidant lycopene, also found in tomatoes.
Amarillo Carrot is a vibrant yellow variety that has consistently performed well over the winter in Shannie McCabe’s garden in central Florida. This luminous heirloom is a rich and readily available source of the antioxidants lutein and carotene, both known to aid in macular (eye) health.
The New Kuroda carrot is an excellent choice as it is both tolerant of harsh growing conditions and highly refined and delicious. A blunt, broad-shouldered orange carrot, New Kuroda is super sweet and thrives as a fall planted variety, but is also suited for spring.