Planting, Growing, & Harvesting Rainbow Carrots in Your Garden

Carrots are an absolute garden treasure. They’re fun to grow and I love the surprise shapes they take on in the soil. Not all carrots are perfectly straight! This year my goal is to grow a spectrum of rainbow carrots because they’re pretty to look at and my kids will enjoy eating the vibrant colors.

dog and purple carrots

Last year I grew purple carrots and they were gorgeous! They kept their deep color through the cooking and make dinner that much more exciting.

Here are the carrots I’m growing this year.

Preparing the Soil for Carrots

Carrots and other root vegetables need light and fluffy soil. Since they send down a main root into the ground the soil needs to be broken, tilled, or loosened in order for them to grow well. I put down fresh compost so the soil was perfectly loose for the carrots this year. Next year after it compacts a bit I will definitely need to break it up before planting.

Carrots seeds are VERY small. Many times after they drop into the soil I can’t see them anymore unless I really look hard for them. To help keep my eyes focused on where I’m planting, I create very shallow lines in the soil to provide myself a planting guide.

planting rainbow carrots - make rowsplanting rainbow carrots - rows highlighted

I’ve highlighted the rows below since it’s a little hard to see from the picture (like I said, they’re very shallow!).

Planting Carrot Seeds

I used to drive myself crazy with carrot seeds. I tried to perfectly space them out in the soil so I wouldn’t waste any. But it takes way too long to do that. I’ve found the best way to plant is to pinch 5-7 seeds and roll them between my fingers as I run my hand along the row. I try to release one every inch or so.

Inevitably, I will drop 3 or 4 in the same spot on occasion. I’ll go back and pick some out and move them somewhere else. Carrots compete for space and if they’re too close together it will stunt their growth.

planting carrot seeds

One of the cooler tips I’ve read: Let the seeds fall where they may, allow young carrots to establish themselves, wait until the tops are 6-8 inches, then thin them out.

Thinning carrots means selecting and removing carrots that are growing too close together. The idea it to remove the smaller weaker ones so that the bigger, established ones have an opportunity to get even bigger.

If you wait to thin them out and give the small carrots a fighting chance, instead of thinning and throwing them away, you can end up with a small preliminary harvest of baby carrots! I thought that was the BEST idea ever. So I’m going to give that a shot this spring and see what happens!

planting carrots - pinch the rows shut

After you’ve dropped the seeds in the shallow rows it’s time to pinch them shut. Most carrots are meant to be sown on the surface or 1/4 of an inch below soil. That’s not very deep, which is why my small soil impression method works!

planting carrots - water them after sowing

The last step is to give them a good watering! Don’t drown them, but don’t be afraid to soak them in for their first water.

It’s important to use a gentle spray on your hose. The seeds are not very deep and you want to make sure they’re wet, but you also don’t want to wash them away.

Wait about 12-15 days and you should see some happy green sprouts come up!

Growing Carrots

Carrots need moderate sun and about 1 inch of water every week. Don’t over water. Since they’re a root vegetable they will rot if they’re planted in soil that’s not well draining.

Covering their area with straw will also help repel weeds and help the soil retain some moisture.

Harvesting Carrots

Carrots typically mature in about 50 days. If you want to thin some small ones out early to get a baby carrot harvest, very gently wiggle the carrots free without disturbing other carrots near by.

You can succession plant carrots, meaning waiting a few weeks to plant additional carrots. This way you can harvest them later and have a consistent carrot crop through spring, summer, and fall!

As soon as you harvest carrots remove the stems. The leaves will continue to pull energy and flavor from the carrots after they’re harvested. This will make your carrots wilt and get soft and limp faster.

Save the greens! They can be used as a replacement for parsley in any dish.

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