While carrots are certainly the veggie at the grocery store, most families eat a lot of them. In fact, carrots are among the most popular vegetables in the world. They are also a staple crop for many home gardeners. While we have already written about the nuances of growing straight carrot roots and the importance of thinning carrot seedlings, we’ve never shared information on when to harvest carrots for peak flavor and shelf life. This article will teach you when to harvest carrots based on both how you plan to use them and when they were planted.
Growing carrots is an exercise in patience. Going from tiny seed to thick root when you can’t see what’s happening beneath the soil can seem daunting, especially for new gardeners. Carrot seeds take a long time to germinate, and the fragile seedlings sometimes fall prey , rabbits, and other garden critters. But, if you care for them properly by making sure they receive enough water and sunlight (and you manage to protect them from those critters), your carrot crop will soon be ready to harvest.
There are several ways you can figure out when to harvest carrots. The first is based on the planting date and the number of days it takes each different carrot variety to mature. The second is based on visual cues. In the next two sections, I’ll share more about how each of those two methods works. Then, we’ll discuss the subtle differences between harvesting carrots for immediate eating and harvesting carrots that you intend to store for later consumption.
When to harvest carrots based on the days
Just like tomatoes or peppers, each carrot variety are at a slightly different rate. The “days ” noted in the seed catalog or on the seed packet is how many days it will take that particular variety to go from seed sowing to full-size root.
Some carrot varieties, like ‘Napoli’ and ‘Mokum’, are ready to pick in 55 days, while others, like ‘Danvers’, take 65 days. Long-maturing carrot plants, like ‘Merida’ and ‘Mignon’, take 80+ days. Though you might think it’s , the days of each variety has little to do with the size of the fully grown carrot. There are some small carrots that take a long time, just as there are some big carrots that relatively quickly. If you have a short growing season and want carrots that grow quickly, be sure to choose a variety that requires a shorter number of days. If you plan to leave your carrots in the ground for fall and/or winter harvest, a selection with a longer number of days to may be best.
Picking carrots at the right stage of growth
The good news is that, unlike tomatoes and peppers, carrots are very forgiving. They can sit in the ground for weeks beyond their date with little to no ill effects, even if they are d to a frost or freeze. Yes, sometimes carrots left in the ground way too long will split open, but this isn’t the norm. For carrots, the number of days to maturity is more of a suggestion.
One of the perks of growing carrots is that you can pick them at pretty much any stage. If you want slender baby carrots for a gourmet meal in the early spring, you can tug them from the soil in as little as 30 or 40 days. But if you want full-size roots, wait until you hit the days to maturity noted on the seed packet or even a few weeks beyond that. It would be easy to make note of carrot-planting day on your calendar or in a garden journal so you can keep track of when it’s time to start thinking about making the harvest.
The best time of day to dig carrots
If possible, harvest your carrots with a garden fork first thing in the morning, when the plant is of the day. This is particularly important if you plan to store your carrots long-term. You want them to have the highest internal moisture content possible so they are less likely to during storage. However, if you will be eating your carrots within a few days, the time of day that you make the harvest as much. That being said, there are a few more factors to consider when it comes to harvesting carrots for use.