When should I start harvesting carrots?
A new gardener just asked me this question about carrots: "How do you know when it's time to start harvesting carrots? Are there any surefire signs?" The answer is yes! Read this article to learn what they are.
You might think that the look of the carrot tops will give you an idea of when it's time to start harvesting carrots. But looks can be deceiving. Small, underdeveloped carrots might be hiding underneath the bushiest of carrot tops, and vice versa. Try looking at the carrot instead. The best way to know when the time is right is probably to keep track of when you sowed them in the first place.
Start harvesting carrots after 3 months
You can start harvesting a regular summer carrot variety after about three months if you sow the carrots in spring. So, if you sow the carrots in the beginning of April, you can start harvesting carrots in July. You could of course start earlier too if you're curious about what the tiny little summer carrots might taste like!
My wintersown carrots I grow in the pallet collars or polytunnels are ready in May-June here in zone 3 where I live.
Winter and fall carrots take longer to grow. They start looking large enough in August/September, but I try to wait even longer if possible. We try to eat the summer carrots as long as we can instead. The winter and fall carrots can stay in the ground for a long time without going bad.
Look underneath the carrot tops
The best way to find out if the carrots are ready is to simply take a look at the top of the carrot that emerges from the soil. If the carrot looks to be the width of your finger, you can pull it out and take a closer look at it.
I sowed the carrots here in my polytunnel in January. They have been growing a bit unevenly since. Some are ready and a few others need some more time. Looking at the width of the carrot is like I said one way of knowing when the time's right. I also try to look at where the carrot top connects to the carrot. This part of the carrot top is often a bit thicker on carrots that are more firmly rooted in the ground, which is a good sign that the carrot is ready.
Don't get stressed about accidentally picking carrots that aren't quite ready yet, that's just what happens early in the season. You might want to sow a new row of carrots as soon as you are done harvesting your first batch. Sowing new carrots all June and July and some in August is a good trick to always have access to fresh summer carrots in fall and early winter.
Practice makes perfect and you'll soon learn what signs to look for when you want to start harvesting carrots. The information on the seeds packets says that you should thin out the rows while the carrots are growing, but I actually don't do that. Harvesting individual carrots as soon as they are ready is my way of doing this instead. The carrots I leave in the soil will grow large enough with some more time in the ground.
I hope this gave you an idea about how you know when it's time to start harvesting carrots in your own garden. Good luck!