Carrots are easy . . . and hard to grow. We say this because you must make some decision and do your homework before you even plant. You need to determine how you intend to use your carrots (the reason) and when to grow them (the season).
Purchase the Right Carrots for Your End Use
Have you ever wanted to make juice, grown or bought carrots and found that they produced very little liquid? Then you’ve grown or bought the wrong type of carrots. Eating carrots are usually dryer in texture and juicing carrots absorb more water while they’re growing and are sweeter. Juicing carrots can be used for fresh eating and cooking, but eating carrots are usually too dry to make juice.
The best type of carrots for juicing are the Nantes varieties that are cylindrical and have a blunt tip while eating carrots are usually longer and taper off into more of a pointed end. Best of all, most Nantes varieties love loose, fertile growing medium and grow to a length of 7” or less, making them perfect for your Square Foot Garden raised bed.
A few of the varieties that are great for juicing are: Bolera, Coreless Nantes, Nelson, Ingot, Nantes Half-Long, Scarlet Nantes and Touchon.
Consider the Growing Season
The second thing you need to consider is when you want to grow your carrots. Some varieties are best grown in early spring, some in early summer and some in early fall. By choosing the right varieties, you can have fresh carrots all year long in most areas. You can even use your raised bed like a refrigerator to let some of the late-season varieties overwinter in the ground.
Research Soil Preferences
The third thing to research is what growing medium different carrot varieties like to grow in.
Some need to be grown in loose, rich soil like Mel’s Mix™, some grow better in sandy soil and some even prefer soil with more clay in it. We don’t recommend adding other soils to your Mel’s Mix.
There are so many variables as to variety, season and soil type that it’s impossible for us to recommend the best variety for each situation. The best thing is to do an Internet search to find what you’re looking for, i.e., “best carrots to grow in spring,” “best carrot varieties for fertile soil,” “best carrots to grow in (your state),” “the best juicing carrots,” etc.
Growing Carrots in your Square Foot Garden
With Square Foot Gardening, we usually make our raised beds just 6” deep. There are several varieties that will grow well at that depth like most Nantes varieties we’ve talked about and round ball carrots.
If you’d like to grow longer carrots, you can build a “top hat,” a 1’x1’x6” bottomless raised bed that fits nicely on a single square. You fill that Top Hat with an additional 6” of Mel’s Mix growing medium for a total of 12”-perfect for taller carrots.
Build your own top hat, or purchase one from Certified Instructor Brian Fuder, who builds them in his Minnesota workshop.
- Carrots don’t like to be transplanted, so it’s best to direct sow seeds in the raised beds.
- It’s better to harvest your carrots when they’re smaller than when they become woody.
- Don’t wash carrots before storing. Wait until you are ready to use them.
- Eat the green tops! Chop them and use them like parsley. Use them like basil to make pesto. Stuff them into a chicken cavity to flavor the meat. Boil them along with other scraps to make vegetable or meat stock.