- Author: Alissa Bright
- Editor: Noni Todd
By Alissa Bright UCCE Master Gardener
Planting Area: USDA zones 3-11, all Sunset zones
Size: 6-18” root with up to 12” tall, 8” wide leafy crowns
Bloom Season: Fall-Spring
Exposure: Full sun
Pruning needs: When seedlings are 1-2” high, thin carrot plants to stand 1” apart
Water Needs: Maintain even uniform moisture at 1” per week throughout growing period
Snapshot: Add color to your harvest & phytonutrients to your plate with nutrient-dense rainbow carrots. Selecting a rainbow variety seed packet over a run-of-the-mill orange carrot seed packet is an effortless upgrade to your garden, rewarding gardeners with slightly different nutritional benefits and subtly varied taste & sweetness in each color. While all carrots are rich in fiber, potassium, vitamin C, & vitamin K, each individual rainbow carrot color contains a bonus set of phytonutrients (antioxidants). Standard orange carrots offer a boost of alpha- and beta-carotene. “Cosmic purple” contain anthocyanins. “Solar yellow” offer lutein. “Atomic red” add lycopene. “Lunar white” contain phytochemicals; arguably the least nutritious but sweetest tasting of the rainbow bunch.
Carrots grow best in cool temperatures, which makes them an ideal fall & winter vegetable.
Prepare garden beds for carrots by loosening 18” of soil & removing any rocks that could disturb root growth. Sow seeds directly into the garden, as they do not transplant well, and add 1/2” of soil over seeds. Regular, shallow watering will keep your rainbow guests thriving, but be patient, as carrots are notoriously slow to germinate. It can take weeks for seedlings to appear.
As carrots mature, attentive gardeners can cover carrot “shoulders”, which push up through the soil, with mulch or soil to prevent greening (which can cause a bitter taste).
Harvest baby carrots 30 to 40 days after sowing, mature carrots 50 to 80 days after sowing. Pull one to check quality before harvesting the lot. To harvest, loosen the soil around the roots and pull by hand. Carrots can patiently wait in the ground up to an additional four weeks. Trim the green tops to store.
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