Honestly, I find carrots boring. They are good fresh, and possibly in mixed vegetables, carrot cakes, and slaws, but not much else. That being said, they're one of a select group of vegetables that are much tastier from a garden than from a supermarket, so I grow a lot of them.
Planting Time: Mid APR - Mid JUN (in central Maryland)
Harvest Time: JUN-JUL (in central Maryland)
Spacing: 2-3", rows 12-18" apart
Carrots need deep, well drained soil. I found this out my first year with a garden, when my carrot attempt failed miserably. In fact, Jim Crockett notes that you should more or less forget about growing the long, slender carrots you buy at the market - they require soil too soft and deep for us 'normal people' to grow. I combat this by growing them in a raised bed, and have gotten soem fairly large carrots in return.
I lightly broadcast a bunch of carrot seeds in a small trench, and come back to thin them out later. They really do need thinned out too - I'd suggest that there should be about one carrot per 3" or so. I don't start them this far apart because the seeds are very small and tough to space correctly.
Don't wait to harvest until they're big - I think they taste best when they're relatively small still. They lose sweetness and start to become bitter as they age in the ground. Some people disagree with this and prefer the biggest ones, so perhaps try some early and some late and try for yourself.
I haven't collected a lot of information on carrot fertilization yet. Here's what I do have:
- 5 lb. 5-10-5 per 100 sq. ft. before planting, then a handful of 5-10-5 per 5 feet of row when they're 3 inches tall and 6 inches tall. (Crockett's Victory Garden)
Carrots can be frozen after blanching - the carrots should be chopped, then thrown into boiling water for 2-5 minutes. Afterwards, drop these into ice water until cooled down, then strain in a colander until reasonably dry. Finally, put into freezer bags, remove air, and put into the freezer.
Don't can them, don't dry them. If you want longer-term storage, freeze them.
They'll keep a couple weeks in the fridge or in a root cellar, just don't wash them first. brush off some dirt, and put them in a bag. That's all that's really needed.
Matt's Garden Notes:
Matt's 2013 Map
2011: Carrots failed miserably, but this was in un-amended clay soil with poor drainage and sun.
2012: Much better performance, enough to freeze a few bags.
2013: Gangbusters. Planted about 3-4 8-foot rows, every 3 weeks or so from Mid-APR to mid-JUN (3 times). Only the first sowing didn't do so well, so I'd suggest not trying to put out too early - it might not help. Otherwise, we had more than we needed and froze 5+ bags in addition to those we ate fresh. In the fall, I planted another 12 feet of row in the same raised bed (farthest south, bottom two rows). Planted on July 28.
Recipes using Carrots:
Chicago Style Giardiniera