Whoever said good things come to those who wait had probably grown more than his fair share of carrots. First we wait for carrots to germinate, and then we wait for signs that good things are, in fact, forming underground. Because all the root growth happens off stage, so to speak, the waiting can naturally lead to some anxiety or impatience in home gardeners.
Let’s discuss how long these root veggies take to sprout and grow so you’ll have a better idea of how long is too long in your own garden space. We’ll cover some fixes for things that might be preventing seeds from germinating or stunting your carrot growth, though in most cases, you’ll just have to plant more seeds and try again.
Don’t be discouraged if carrot growth isn’t happening as fast as you’d like. Once you pull your first homegrown carrots from the soil, you’ll see they were worth the wait!
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HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE CARROTS TO GERMINATE FROM SEED?
Carrot seeds can take anywhere from 14 to 21 days to sprout. In the vegetable garden world, this is a relatively long germination time. You’re not going to get the almost-instant gratification of a bean sprout bursting through the soil or anything, so you do have to practice a little patience.
There are also three things to take into consideration when sowing carrot seeds that can affect your germination time.
One: Soil Temperature
Carrots germinate best when the soil temperature is between 55°F and 65°F. Even though carrot seeds can germinate in soil as low as 40°F, this is a little too cold for them, so they’ll delay sprouting. On the opposite end of the temperature spectrum, soil temps above 65°F will make carrots think it’s too warm for them to grow, so they’ll have poor germination rates.
Two: Soil Moisture
Keeping the soil moist but not soaking while you’re waiting for carrot seeds to sprout is super important. If the soil gets too dry, the carrot seeds might dry out or have trouble bursting through the hardened soil surface. If the soil gets too wet, the carrot seeds might rot before they ever sprout. (This is a common problem with seeds that take a longer time to germinate.) You’ll want to gently water the seeds right after you’ve sown them to encourage them to sprout. You’ll likely need to add more water every day (possible twice a day) for the next couple of weeks to maintain moist soil.
Three: Planting Depth
Carrot seeds are teeny tiny. A general rule of thumb is you should only plant a seed to a depth that’s about twice the width of the seed. For carrots, that means you’re only planting them 1/4″ deep. If you’ve buried your carrot seeds too far down, they’ll spend all their energy just trying to make it to the soil surface and then they’ll die. So make sure to sow carrot seeds very shallowly.
WHY ARE MY CARROT SEEDS NOT GERMINATING?
If you’ve passed a three-week period since you planted carrot seeds and still don’t see any green tops popping up, your carrots likely haven’t germinated due to one of these common reasons:
The soil is too dry.
Your carrot seeds have dried out before ever sprouting, or they sprouted but were then unable to poke through the dry soil surface. Make sure to keep the soil moist while you’re waiting on carrots to grow.
The air temperature is above 80°F.
The soil temperature will rise correspondingly, so carrots will consider it a bad time to grow. (Try using a shade cloth to keep the soil cooler.)
The seeds were planted too deep.
Carrots need to be planted very shallow (just 1/4″ deep at most). Plants that struggle to reach the soil surface wear themselves out before they’re ever able to find sunlight.
The seeds are old.
Seeds don’t exactly expire or go “bad”, but they do age. With every passing year, the expected carrot germination rate decreases.
The soil is poor.
Soil type really matters with root crops. Carrots prefer a nice, loose soil; heavy soils can lead to bad germination. Before sowing the next round of carrot seeds, loosen the soil in your raised bed, container, or in-ground bed down to 12 inches.
Remove stones or debris so that carrot roots don’t encounter any obstacles. Add some compost to the top, and then level the surface of the soil with the palm of your hand. You don’t want carrot seeds playing Chutes and Ladders in uneven soil instead of getting settled and growing.
WHAT ARE THE BEST TRICKS FOR PLANTING CARROT SEEDS?
If you’ve struggled to get carrot seeds to germinate before, you’re not alone. Here are my tricks to plant carrot seeds:
- Use a soil thermometer to make sure the soil temp is right for planting.
- Check the weather forecast. Wait to plant your carrots until after a heavy rain. But if you know it will be a slow mist or rain then this is a great time to plant.
- Mix an all purpose organic fertilizer into the soil before planting.
- Instead of digging hundreds of tiny planting holes, use the tip of your trowel to make a shallow trench in the soil.
- Take some seeds between your thumb and pointer finger and sprinkle them evenly down the line you’ve made. Do the best you can to distribute them—perfect spacing is not required.
- Cover the carrot seeds with 1/4″ of sifted compost.
- Water the seeds in gently to avoid disrupting them.
- Cover the planting area with burlap or a light-weight row cover to help keep moisture in and drying winds out. The material will also prevent strong rains or over-enthusiastic watering from washing all those tiny seeds away. You can water right over the fabric to keep your garden bed moist. (Remove burlap once carrots have sprouted. A row cover can stay on to protect your growing carrots from pests.)
Follow these tips, and you’re sure to end up with lots of little green carrot tops in a couple weeks.
IS THERE A WAY TO SPEED UP CARROT GERMINATION?
Let’s say you’re desperate to get your carrots growing as quickly as possible because the weather’s about to change. Here’s how to germinate carrot seeds fast:
- Soak you carrot seeds in water for a couple hours.
- Spread out soaked carrot seeds on a damp, wrung-out paper towel or coffee filter.
- Place paper towel in an air-tight container for 3 days.
- Plant carrot seeds following the tips above.
You may have guessed from the long soak and the wet paper towel that water is what can speed up carrot seed germination. If you’re planting in the spring, you probably don’t need to soak carrot seeds in advance because there’s typically more moisture in the air. This extra step is more helpful in the fall, when the temps are warmer and the soil tends to be drier.
If your carrot seeds have been around a long time (more than three years or so), you can also soak them and try to sprout them in a wet paper towel to test their germination rate. If only a couple sprout, you’ll know to sow them more thickly in your garden than you normally would. Or you might save yourself some disappointment later by buying a new seed packet.
WHY DO CARROTS TAKE SO LONG TO GERMINATE?
Even though they’re so small, carrot seeds actually have a pretty thick seed coat. The thicker the seed coat, the longer it takes for moisture to get inside the seed and tell it to germinate.
Something else to consider: Carrots are technically biennials, even though most of us grow them as annuals. Parsley, another biennial in the carrot family, can also take up to three weeks to sprout, so carrots aren’t the odd-plant-out by any means.
WHAT ARE OTHER TIPS & TRICKS TO GROW CARROTS?
- Carrots are a cool-season crop, so the best time to grow them is when the temps are under 75°F during the day. Plant them in the spring a couple weeks before your last frost date. You can plant a fall crop in late summer or early fall.
- Plant carrots where they’ll receive full sun, or 6 to 8 hours of sunlight a day. Too much shade can stunt root development.
- Don’t start carrot seeds indoors or buy carrot starts from the store. Carrot seedlings don’t transplant well.
- Plant more carrot seeds after a couple of weeks to have continuous harvests.
- For best results, avoid nitrogen-heavy fertilizers in your carrot bed, which can cause carrots to focus on their lush green tops instead of juicy taproots.
- Thin carrots to one every two finger widths once carrot seedlings are a couple inches tall.
Keep your carrots covered with garden mesh or row covers to protect them from pests like carrot weevils, carrot flies, and aster leafhoppers.
Use shade cloth to give spring-planted carrots more time to mature if you’re expecting hot weather.
For more tips and tricks to grow carrots here in Central Texas, check out our carrot growing guide.
HOW LONG DO CARROTS TAKE TO GROW?
Carrots take anywhere from 60 to 90 days to reach maturity after planting, though most fall within a tighter window of 70 to 80 days under ideal conditions. The time to harvest will depend on not only the variety of carrots you’re growing, but also the weather.
If sunlight and temperature are not optimal, carrots can sometimes just stall in the ground. This happens in my garden a lot over Texas winters. My carrots typically start to grow again once the days grow a little longer and the soil warms up a bit in early spring.
If you’re growing carrots in the fall and a frost is in the forecast, don’t worry. Carrots can not only handle frost, it actually improves their flavor.
HOW DO YOU KNOW WHEN CARROTS ARE FINALLY READY TO HARVEST?
Keep in mind that the time to harvest on the back of your seed packet assumes your carrots have been grown under optimal conditions.
You’ll know carrots are ready to be harvested when their shoulders (the part where root meets leafy tops) are between 1/2″ and 1″ in diameter and are beginning to push themselves above ground. You can gently brush soil away from carrot shoulders whenever you want to check on them; just push some soil or compost back around them if they’re not quite ready.
Don’t wait too long to harvest because smaller carrots are typically more flavorful.
We hope this guide helps you figure out your timeline for growing carrots. With the right planning and, of course, some patience, fresh carrots will be on their way!