How Far Apart Should You Plant Carrot Seeds?
Trying to figure out how far apaart you need to plant your carrot seeds in your garden or in your raised beds? Proper carrot spacing will help ensure that they have enough room to grow. In this article, gardening expert Melissa Strauss shares exactly how far apart your carrots should be spaced out when planting from seed.
Carrots are a favorite vegetable around my house. There are very few vegetables that I can serve that everyone will gobble up without any grumbling or coaxing, and it’s not difficult to imagine why. They have many uses in cuisine, and are just as tasty when eaten fresh.
As root vegetables, how you plant your carrots will influence the success of your crop. The type of carrot you grow will also be a factor in seed spacing, as not all carrots are the same size, and some need more space, while others are quite small.
Let’s talk about how to plant carrots from seed and ensure they are spaced properly for optimum growth.
When it comes to planting carrots, most gardeners opt to seed them directly into their garden. But there are a few different options available that you can choose from if you decide direct seeding isn’t something you’d like to wait for.
Because carrots are root vegetables, direct sowing is the preferred method of planting. There are two methods of direct sowing, in organized rows or by scattering.
Carrot seeds are very tiny, so they do not need to be sown deeply, they will more or less root where they land, but we will get to that in a moment.
Direct sowing should be done 2-3 weeks before the last anticipated frost. The soil should be kept moist throughout the seeds’ relatively long germination period. Soaking the seeds may speed up the germination process.
When direct sowing seeds, make sure each seed is at least 1 inch apart. Later in the spring, you’ll be able to start thinning them out, so you have at least 2 to 3 inches in between plants.
The more organized and traditional gardener may favor the orderly appearance of feathery carrot tops growing in straight rows. This is a perfectly good way to plant carrots, so we will address it first.
Begin by moistening the soil to prevent tiny seeds from blowing away in the breeze. Seeds can be planted in a raised row, making it easier to identify where you can expect those sprouts to appear. Rows should be 6”-8” apart.
If you are very careful about spacing, you will save time later when it comes time to thin them out. Make a very small indention with a finger or pencil and drop one to two seeds into the hole. Seeds should be covered lightly with no more than ¼”-1/2” of soil.
Keep the soil moist consistently until the seeds germinate, as it will be difficult for carrots to break through soil that is dry and crusted. If the soil temperature is near 75°, germination should occur in about a week. In colder temperatures, this process can take up to three weeks.
If you’ve been careful to sow sparingly, you might not need to thin them out. If your seedlings pop up too close together, not to worry, simply follow the same process of thinning them by removing the smallest plants, to leave 2” of space between each plant.
This method requires very little time on the front end but will make up for it when the time comes to thin out your carrots. Broadcast sowing is also known as scatter sowing, a name that explains the process a bit better. In broadcast sowing, the seeds are gently sprinkled around the bed.
Now, it’s not a great idea to just toss a handful of seeds into a garden bed. You don’t want to end up with concentrated areas that need a lot of thinning out. Rather, sprinkle the seeds by hand in small areas, working to get the seeds as evenly distributed as possible.
Make sure to sow into moist soil, to help prevent the seeds from blowing around while you are working. After you’ve spread the seeds evenly around your bed, using the same sprinkling method, lightly cover your seeds with potting soil.
Keep your soil moist during the germination process, and afterward as well. Once the tops get to that 4” mark, go back through and thin out your carrots, leaving about 2” of space between them. You may have more thinning to do with this method, as you will probably spread more seeds than you would when planting in rows.
First, let’s start off by saying that most carrot varieties don’t transplant well. That doesn’t mean you can’t start them indoors and move them outside, but it means you should expect mixed to poor results when compared to direct seeding.
Some vegetables get a better start when they are started indoors and transplanted once they have had time to put on some weight. Because carrots are root vegetables, transplanting can disrupt and damage the formation of the root, and thus, the carrots themselves. So, while you “can” do it, I’d caution against it.
If you decide to germinate your seeds indoors and then transplant them into the garden, be mindful of the delicate nature of those first bits of root. Remove them very gently from their containers and try to keep as much of the starter potting mix intact. This will give you nicer-looking carrots as they will be straighter.
Most carrots will need about 2 inches of space from their neighbors. Once the tops have reached about 4” tall, it’s time to thin them out so that they have room to grow.
Determine which plants are the biggest and strongest, and which ones are not living up to their potential. Leave about 2” between plants and remove the weaker plants.
Why Avoid Overcrowding
I’ve seen some funny-shaped carrots in my time, and the reason they don’t grow as nice and straight as the ones we buy in grocery stores is overcrowding.
The reason we thin out our seedlings while they are still small is that, if left too close together, they will impede each other’s growth.
When this happens, we end up with carrots that are stunted and misshapen. While the shape isn’t always the main concern, you want your carrots to grow to their full potential.
Types of Carrots
Before you get started planting let’s go over the different types you can choose from. Not all carrots are alike, and not all are even orange. I recall being absolutely delighted at the discovery of purple carrots. I think multi-colored carrots can really elevate a meal.
That said, my family loves a good, hearty beef stew and that commands a carrot with the same constitution. There are 4 basic types of carrots, with different varieties within those categories, but we will stick to the basics.
These carrots are deep orange in color and can be on the stubby side. Usually, they are about 6”-8” long, although they will grow longer in loose soil.
Danvers are sweet, but the core is fibrous. This makes them great for cooking as they will maintain their shape well. This characteristic makes them less desirable for eating raw though.
Danvers is a great beginner carrot, as they can handle dense soil, and they come out of the ground easily. These rank among the most flavorful of carrots. If they are pulled young, they will be a bit more tender.
These are the carrots you are most likely to come across at the grocery store. They are long, deep orange, and tapered at the end. Imperator stores well and longer than most types, so it is the obvious choice for large retailers.
The Imperator is not as sweet as the Danvers carrot, it has a lower sugar content. They are high in beta-carotene and are firm carrots that are good for cooking or eating raw.
Most of the baby carrots that you will find are Imperator. Loose soil is preferred by them when growing. They are not as thick as the Danvers so they will not break through dense soil as well.
Chantenay carrots are short, stubby little root vegetables with a firm and snappy texture. Coming in around 4” long, these are the shortest type, but they are stout and flavorful.
The flavor is sweet and earthy and stands up well to cooking. They mature early and are best if not harvested too late. They can become fibrous when they are past maturity.
The Red Cored Chantenay Carrot is a very popular variety. As the name implies, the center of the carrot is deep red. This variety is very sweet and looks beautiful when it is sliced to reveal its pretty core.
This is the type of carrot that you will find in a rainbow of colors, there are red, yellow, white, and purple varieties in addition to the classic orange Nantes. Purple carrots are particularly healthy, as they provide about nine times the number of antioxidants as their orange counterparts.
These heirloom carrots originated in France, where they remain very popular in fine cuisine. They are medium-sized and have a nice cylindrical shape.
Nantes are delicate and take extra care in harvesting, which explains why they cost more and are less common in retail stores. They are, however, very popular with home gardeners because of their pretty colors and delicate flavor.
Carrots are an easy crop to plant and tend. Spacing them is likely the most time-consuming part of the process, but it is worth the work to pull up those nice straight carrots. With so many hybrid varieties available, carrots can be a wonderfully colorful dish on your dinner table.
Once you’ve got the basics under control, all that is left to do is wait for your crop to mature, harvest, and start snacking on some delicious, crunchy carrots!