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  1. Seeds need consistent moisture from when you sow until they germinate. This is critical because if your soil dries out at any point, newly germinating seedlings may die. Keep soil evenly moist, but not wet.
  2. Carrots grow best in the ground, but you can be successful with the right container if you choose the right cultivar (see below for suggestions).
  3. Pesto is a great way to use up carrot tops. See our recipe below.
  4. Crooked carrots are caused by compacted soil or if they were sown too thickly and not thinned out.
  5. Experiment with sowing a small amount of radish seeds in with your carrot seeds. Radishes sprout and grow much faster than carrots, making it easier to see the row. Thin out or harvest the radishes before they compete with carrots.
  1. Carrots originated in modern day Afghanistan.
  2. By the 13th century, carrots were cultivated agriculturally in Germany and France and brought to the Americas by European settlers in 1565.
  3. Carrots were originally grown for their leaves and seeds as the taproot was bitter.
  4. As a distraction tactic, the Royal Air Force stated carrots improved the night vision of their fighter pilots to hide their new type of radar that helped them see enemy planes at night.
  5. A tobacco “carrot” is a historical term used when tobacco leaves are packaged into the shape of a carrot with linen and tied with cord. This “carrot” was traded regularly with indigenous people for use in pipe ceremonies.

Carrots are high in vitamins A, K, B6 and fibre. Check here for detailed information from the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference.

The Canadian Food Guide recommends that roughly half of the food on your plate should be fruits and vegetables.

Canada Food Guide: What's On Your Plate?

Growing outdoors

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Carrots prefer to grow in a sandy, sandy loam or loam soil and ideally in raised beds. In heavy clay soils, grow shorter varieties of carrots on raised beds of soil.

Since carrots are poor competitors, keep weeds pulled throughout the season. This is especially important when they are young. Do not plant in an especially weedy spot. See our articles on weed control to reduce weeds and weed seeds.

Carrots need full to partial sun for best growth. They are not suitable for partial shade or shady areas.

Carrots are best grown outdoors in the ground, either in raised beds or unraised/ground level gardens if the soil is suitable. They can also be grown outdoors or indoors in containers (details below). They are not typically suitable for most hydroponic, straw bale, or other alternative growing methods.

Carrots should be direct seeded. Transplants are not recommended.

The timing of planting should coincide with your frost-free dates. We've given suggested dates below, but you can adjust these to your local conditions. Carrots can tolerate cooler temperatures and can be sown 1 - 2 weeks before your last expected spring frost date if you choose.

  • Knowing the last expected spring frost date for your location will help you plan when to sow seeds. The date is based on averages and varies according to where you live – it is as early as mid-May for Saskatoon, Estevan and Swift Current, SK, while Yellowknife is May 30 and the Moosonee region in Manitoba is June 10. Find the date of the last spring frost at this link: Click on where you live on the map.

In general carrots take about 65 to 80 days from seed to harvest, depending on the cultivar. This is usually listed as "days to maturity" on the seed packet.

  • Saskatoon has around 130 frost-free days throughout the spring and summer for plants to grow. In Yellowknife, you can expect around 111 frost-free days. Check your seed package for your days to maturity or days to harvest information and compare it with your local average frost free days.
  • The frost-free season is the total number of days (on average) when there is no frost. It starts on the date of the last frost in spring and ends on the date of the first frost in fall. To find out the length of the frost-free season where you live, click on this link and find your location on the map: 
  • Note that these are current estimates and we expect our growing season to get warmer, longer, and drier as our climate continues to change.


  • Carrots must be planted from seed. The ideal soil temperature for seed germination is 20˚C (seeds germinate in 7 days).  It can take up to 17 days for carrot seeds to germinate at a soil temperature of 10˚C.
  • You can seed early to spread out your seeding workload, but be mindful of weeds.

Planting instructions

  • Carrots need good soil contact and consistently moist but not wet soil throughout germination. Seeds will germinate faster in warmer weather, but they will also dry out faster. There are several ways to keep your seeds moist throughout germination. 
    • Plant your seeds according to the seed package (likely about 1 cm deep) and water often enough to keep your soil moist but not wet. Depending on your soil and weather, water once or twice daily.
    • Or: Sow your seed on top of the soil and then cover the seed with moist vermiculite. Cover this with a layer or two of damp newspaper, damp burlap or a light board to help conserve the surface soil moisture.  Monitor the covers and remove them as soon as seeds germinate (ie: when you see a green plant) to allow emerging seedlings to grow. See our video on carrot germination below to view young carrots.
    • Or: Pelleted seed refers to seed that is covered with an inert clay material.  Pelleted seed is slightly larger in size than bare seed, making it easier to handle.  The clay material around the seed also helps to retain moisture during seed germination. Seed tape is seed that has been sandwiched between sheets of thin paper. You can buy seed tape or make your own. See: Make your own seed tape. Seed tape is easier to plant and the paper does hold some, but not a lot, of moisture. Whether you're using pelleted seed or seed tape, you still need to keep your soil moist using either option above.
  • The ideal layout for carrots depends on your gardening method and cultivar. In general, we suggest:
    • Typical yield, low intensity. Planting in rows and harvest once: Typically done where there is not ample water or high-quality soil. These are probably similar to the directions on your seed package. Plant your seeds about 2 cm apart. Once plants germinate, thin to about 8 cm apart. If you're planting your whole garden in rows with walking paths between each row, remember that carrots are relatively thin so you can probably plant two rows of carrots about 8 cm apart per row. Either way, mulch your pathways. Harvest full-size carrots in the fall.
    • Higher yield, lower intensity. Plant in a grid and harvest once: Typically done in raised beds with high quality, loamy soil and good water access. Sow your seeds in a grid pattern, each seed about 7-8 cm apart. This works out to about 16 plants per square foot. For a large garden, you can include mulched walking paths between a row of grids for accessibility. In smaller spaces, you can constrain your beds to be about 1 to 1.5 metres wide so you can reach from either direction. Harvest full-size carrots in the fall.
    • Higher yield, higher intensity. Planting in rows and harvest throughout the season: Only use this method if you have adequate water, good soil quality, and intend to harvest continually or you will not be successful. The goal of this method is to harvest in series throughout the season, always ensuring to keep about a carrot's worth of space in between each plant. When you begin, plant your carrots thickly. You may wish to have two or three rows parallel to each other, 7-8 cm apart. Once your seeds germinate, thin each row to about a finger width apart. The growth rate will depend on your temperature, soil and watering habits. Once the carrots are about as thick as a fat pencil, pull out every second carrot in each row and eat them as baby carrots. Now your plants are about two finger widths apart. Let these grow. Carrots will thicken as they grow and appear closer together. Once they have grown to be about a carrot width apart, harvest every second carrot again. Enjoy these as baby carrots and leave the remaining carrots to grow. Monitor your carrots and continue to harvest every second carrot as necessary. Depending on their growth rate, you may harvest baby carrots three or four times throughout the season. Since this is an intensive process, make sure to protect your soil health by mulching walkways, rotating crops, and adding compost when necessary.

Don't forget to label what you planted. It's also helpful to draw a map to help you track planting locations and success each year. This information is critical if you're rotating your crops to help prevent insect and disease issues.


Types of carrots and their characteristics

  • Imperator
    • Shape: long and tapered typically found in the grocery store
    • Storage: excellent for longer term storage
    • Flavour: average to poor
    • Recommended cultivars: 'Arrowhead', 'Bremen', 'Eagle', 'Enterprise'
  • Nantes
    • Shape: medium length with blunt rounded top
    • Storage: average
    • Flavour: excellent, recommended for juicing
    • Recommended cultivars: 'YaYa', 'Napoli', 'Bolero'
    • Other: shorter roots make them better suited to less than ideal loamy soil
  • Danvers
    • Shape: short and tapered
    • Storage: good
    • Flavour: variable, younger carrots are more flavourful but older carrots tend to oversize resulting in a dry, woody texture
    • Recommended cultivars: 'Achieve', 'Big Sur', 'Cordoba', 'Danvers Half Long'
    • Other: shorter roots make them better suited to less than ideal loamy soil; fast emerging carrots that produce robust seedlings with a big top which makes them better able to compete with weeds

Cultivar recommendations:

  1. Here are cultivar recommendations from the North Dakota State University Cultivar Trials, as they share a similar prairie climate and soils. You may download their list here: North Dakota State University Vegetable Cultivar Recommendations for 2021
    • Orange Carrots:
      • Baltimore
      • Bolero
      • Candysnax
      • Cupar
      • Goldfinger
      • Hercules
      • Imperator 58
      • Laguna
      • Mokum
      • Napoli
      • Naval
      • Negovia
      • New Kuroda
      • Scarlet Nantes
    • Other colours:
      • Chablis Yellow
      • Purple Haze
  2. The following cultivars are recommendations from the University of Saskatchewan vegetable program field trials which were conducted from 1989 through 2016. 
    1. Nantes style:
      • Evora
      • Forto Selection – exceptional yields, strong flavor.
      • Mokum
      • Nantes Coreless
      • Nantes Half Long
      • Nantes Improved
      • Navarino – high yielding, sweet and juicy
      • Nelson
      • Vitana
      • Ya Ya – good stand and vigor, yields and stores well.
    2. Danvers style:
      • Achieve – good yields, taste and sweetness.
      • Cordoba – good yield and taste, moist, juicy and crunchy.
      • Fontana
      • Ideal
      • Royal Chantenay
    3. Imperator Nantes:
      • Enterprise
      • Tendersnax
      • Imperator style:
      • Apache
      • Arrowhead
      • Autumn King
      • Magnum
      • Sugarsnax
      • Sweet Bites
      • Uppercut
    4. Other colours:
      • Dragons
      • Rainbow
  • Carrots compete poorly with weeds especially in younger stages, so stay on top of weeding and consider mulch for pathways. Besides weeding, carrots are typically low maintenance plants.
  • Providing you have enough moisture during the germination phase, carrots can be grown successfully most years without additional water though you can expect smaller carrots as a result. Water will affect yields, so if you're using more intensive growing methods you will need to water.
  • Actively growing carrots prefer 2.5 cm moisture/week in well-drained soils.
  • Excessive soil moisture will promote root rot.

Carrots can sometimes be successfully fall seeded on the prairies, although results vary due to their slow germination rates, sensitivity to inconsistent moisture, and inability to compete well with weeds when young.

See: Fall seeding


Because carrots can be harvested young, the days to maturity (65 - 80 days) is less important.

A good way to grow larger carrots in the far north is to prepare a raised bed, which is simply a mound of soil higher than the natural grade, which may be framed or unframed. Raised beds tend to warm up faster than level ground in spring which enables you to sow seeds earlier.

Once the snow has melted, lay a sheet of clear plastic on top of the soil to warm the soil. Studies show that clear plastic works better than black plastic to warm soil. Be sure to anchor the edges so the plastic does not blow away. Remove the plastic before planting.


Forgot what you planted? Not sure if it's a weed? Germination in carrots

See our preservation section for more videos.

Growing in containers and indoors

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Carrots can be grown in a container outdoors or indoors.

Select a large, very deep container with drainage holes in the bottom. Carrots need lots of space for the smaller feeder roots that grow out of the main edible root, so make sure your container is deep.  A 5-gallon pail is ideal. Fill with a soilless potting mix. Sow seeds according to the instructions on the seed packet. Keep seeds moist until they germinate. Thin seedlings as they grow.

See: Vegetable container gardening

Growing indoors in a container is possible, but not very practical. Since carrots need lots of sunlight, supplemental lighting would be needed. 

See our Growing indoors page for detailed growing advice.

For containers, choose a shorter carrot like a Danvers or Nantes type.

New, smaller, spherical cultivars are coming on the market like 'Thumbelina' and 'Parisian Market" but may be harder to source.

Saving seeds

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Seeds are expected to be shelf-stable for one year from date of sale if purchased from a reputable retailer. If you wish to save your seeds beyond that, you should store them in the fridge in a sealed jar. Seeds lose viability quickly if they dry out too much or get too warm. The life expectancy of carrot seed stored under favourable conditions is about three years.

Seeds stored under less favourable conditions will show poor germination after just a single year of storage. Beyond this, you can expect your germination rates to go down (ie. not all of your seeds will grow, but some might). To test your seeds, you can do a simple germination test. Follow the link for instructions. If you are still getting some seeds germinating, seed more thickly and thin any extra.

We do not recommend saving seeds from carrots. Carrots are biennials. This means that their first year's growth does not produce flowers. Instead, carrots will collect energy in the form of natural sugars and store it in their taproot during the first year's growing season. This is why carrots are usually harvested during the first year. In climates where carrots can successfully overwinter, carrots will use the energy stored in their tap root to produce flowers and set seed in their second year. This means that second-year carrots don't taste as good nor do they store well. In some pockets of the prairies, with sufficient winter protection, a few carrots left behind may set seed the second year though this is increasingly unlikely as you move further north. As our climate continues to change, this may become a viable option for prairie gardeners in the future.


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  • Carrots can be harvested at any time. Tiny sweet carrots can be harvested at 3-4 inches (7.5-10 cm) long. Young carrots are very tender but the best flavour takes time to develop.
  • The remainder can be allowed to grow to about 1 inch (2.5 cm) in diameter. Once the carrots reach 1 1/2 inches (4 cm) or larger, they usually begin to lost their flavour though optimal size does depend on which cultivar you grow.
  • Oversize and overmature carrots are prone to splitting and generally taste woody and dry.
  • Maturity time from seed to harvest is 65-80 days depending on the carrot variety and environmental conditions such as weather.
  • Mature carrots with tops intact can be left in the soil as long as the soil remains unfrozen (-1˚C or warmer). This means you can probably harvest carrots into October depending on the year, or into November with season-extending options.
  • A light frost can help sweeten carrots and improve their storage quality.

In loose soils or containers, you should be able to grasp the carrot by the carrot top and, with some wiggling, it should pull from the soil. In firmer soils, you may need to use a garden fork to loosen the soil near the carrots and then pull the carrot from the loosened soil. It may help to water two days before harvesting to soften firmer soil.

The skin of vegetables protects it from bacteria. If you intend to store your carrots, store only the ones that have not been damaged during harvest and eat or cook those that were cut or heavily scuffed.

Once harvested, you can knock the soil off of your carrots for long term storage. Don't scrub the carrots as the soil will scratch the protective coating. For long term cold storage, you can store carrots "dirty". If you want to store them in the fridge, soak your carrots in the sink until you can gently rub off the dirt.

Carrots don't have a particularly high respiration rate. While it is important to keep them cool during harvest, as it is with most vegetables, it isn't critical.


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Carrots can be stored in plastic bags in the refrigerator for several months. If you're hoping to store them longer than a couple of months, check the long term storage information.

  • Ideal storage conditions for carrots are near 0˚C with high humidity. Your fridge is likely a few degrees warmer than this, but that's fine. As they age, your carrots will give off extra moisture. To maintain adequate but not excessive humidity either poke a few holes in your bag (ok), or use a plastic bag meant for vegetables (better), or keep a few sheets of paper towel in the bag with them and switch the paper towels for new ones once they become too moist (best).
  • Remove tops and excess soil before storage. If you must wash carrots before storage, wash gently:  new wounds will encourage bacterial rots. If you're only storing for a few weeks to a few months, you can likely wash your carrots. We do not recommend cutting the carrots at all as damage to the skin will encourage bacterial growth. This is why it is best practice to leave carrots unwashed for longer storage.
  • Do not store apples in the same location as carrots.  Ethylene from apples will cause bitter flavours in carrots.

You may be able to store carrots longer than a couple of months following the short term suggestions, however, it's more likely that your carrots will spoil.

Leave about 2 cm (1 inch) of greens on your carrots to prevent shriveling. Gently brush off excess soil. Place vegetables in a single layer on cardboard or newspaper. Set them in a cool dry and dark place to cure or dry for a day or two. Brush off any remaining excess soil and get ready to store.

Washing is not necessary, in fact it’s better not to wash. Washing can damage the outer skin of the vegetable which can lead to rot and encourage disease like sclerotinia. Some like to wash root vegetables with cold water to remove the soil. If you do this, make sure that the vegetables are completely dry before you store them to avoid rot. They still need to be cured for a day or two before storing.

To decrease spoilage:

  • Ideal storage conditions for carrots are 0˚C, 95-100% humidity.
  • See our cold storage page for detailed advice on finding a suitable storage location and choosing storage methods

Other preservation methods we recommend include freezing, fermenting, dehydrating (drying) or canning.

Cooking and preserving

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Preservation methods we recommend include freezing, fermenting, dehydrating (drying) or canning.



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Carrots are relatively low maintenance. Providing their water, light and soil needs are managed they don't tend to get a lot of issues. Ensuring you don't overplant your carrots and maintain healthy soil with adequate organic matter will go a long way towards preventing most issues.

Leafhoppers are the most common carrot pest. They impact yields and vector disease. If they are a problem, avoid growing carrots near plants that attract leafhoppers (ex. weeds and forage legumes such as clover or alfalfa). You may also want to use row covers as passive insect control.

See the Common problems tab on this page for advice on other specific carrot issues.

All carrot problems



Common questions

Answer 1

Answer 2

Answer 3

Research and student activities

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