The modern carrot (Daucus carota) started as a wild root in the Middle East. As biennials, carrots grow in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 4 through 10, although you pick them the first year, before they flower. Instead of buying carrots, try growing them at home for a tasty, healthy treat for you and your family. When it comes to root crops like carrots, irrigating the plants properly and maintaining the right level of soil drainage and moisture are key.
1. Soil Preparation
Preparing your carrot garden's soil before planting is critical for ensuring proper watering. Carrots do best in soil that is loose and well-draining. Compacted, hard soil means smaller carrots, and when you do irrigate the soil, the water doesn't get to the carrots. To enhance soil structure and improve drainage, mix a 4-inch layer of compost into the top 8 inches of soil. At the same time, mix in 2 cups of 10-10-10 fertilizer for every 100 square feet of gardening space. The fertilizer boost ensures your carrots have all the nutrients they need to get started.
2. Watering After Sowing
Carrots take a long time to germinate -- up to three weeks after sowing -- and require constant moisture throughout the germination period. After sowing the carrot seeds, water the area lightly once or twice a day to keep the top 1 inch of soil moist. Spreading a 1/4- to 1/2-inch-thick layer of vermiculite or compost over the soil surface can help trap moisture into the soil and enhance germination.
3. Standard Carrot Irrigation
After your carrots have germinated, you can reduce watering to once every couple of days when the soil in the carrot's root zone has dried out. Avoid shallow, surface watering, and instead irrigate deeply to encourage longer carrot root growth. Use enough water to soak the carrots in their root zone, which is generally 8 inches deep.
Mulch helps because it conserves soil moisture by reducing water loss due to evaporation. Mulch helps keep the soil around your carrots moist and also helps the top of the carrot root from turning bitter and green. Spread a 2-inch layer of mulch -- example mulching materials include shredded leaves and compost -- around the base of your carrots once the plants are 3 to 4 inches tall.