Growing Carrots Along the Front Range

Let’s talk carrots! They germinate in soil temps between 45-85 degrees, but their sweet spot is 60-65. The best practice is to sow them outside (they don’t transplant well) about 4 weeks before the last frost date. (I tend to push that a bit and will start sowing mine in early April if we have had a warm spring. I’ll resow if necessary.) I like to use row covers for up to 3 weeks while they are germinating and getting started. This is a type of thin fleecy fabric that you can buy at your local nursery which helps keep moisture in, pests out, and can help just a little bit with keeping the soil warm. In fact, one of the biggest keys to growing beautiful carrots is the soil. Be sure and sift it to remove rocks and add compost before planting which will act as a season-long fertilizer. Don’t use too much nitrogen or they will be all flashy on top with a small root beneath and who has time for that? When they are about 4 inches tall, thin them to about 3 inches apart and use them as micro greens, in salad or blend them into soup. One of my favorite things about carrots is that they can grow in partial shade! Who doesn’t love that in a vegetable?! They are ready for harvest between 55 - 75 days but make sure to pull them when they are under 1.5 inches in diameter or they will be really bitter.

My personal view is that we should go after all the crazy colors because we can buy organic orange carrots almost cheaper than we can grow them. Growing colored carrots with children is so fun and the opportunity to roast unusual varieties to serve with a special dinner is so exciting. Yesterday, I pulled these Malbec and Yellowstone carrots out of the raised bed where they have overwintered and I was thrilled to see how few I lost in the freezing temps. The key for me is to mulch them well until I’m ready to harvest. I find that the frost makes them so sweet! These are on the small side because they were the last succession planting before their greens died off. This year I am growing Black Nebulas and Lobbericher yellow carrots from Baker creek seeds. What varieties are you interested in growing?

Christina Manning Lebek