One of the things we’re starting to feel like we’re really getting the hang of as far as gardening goes is garden carrots. Carrots are super easy to grow and maintain, and as such, we’ve always gotten a pretty good yield from our garden carrots. We do eat them fresh, but mostly we peel, blanch and freeze them in a variety of sizes for later use. Here are some of the things you might want to know about growing garden carrots and how to preserve them for later use.
Garden Carrots: Lesson #1
The biggest thing we’ve learned about growing garden carrots is that you absolutely have to thin them out if you’ve got several plants growing close together. I used to hate thinning the carrots out (pulling out plants that are too close to other plants for the purpose of helping the remaining plants to thrive) because it felt wasteful to me to rip those perfectly healthy plants out of the ground. However, there’s a very good reason for thinning your carrots plants out.
A healthy carrot, when it’s pulled, will look like these guys:
A carrot or carrots, however, that haven’t been thinned out, run the risk of doing this:
When the carrots aren’t thinned out and are allowed to grow to maturity even though the plants are too close together, you drastically reduce the yield and the “usability” of the carrot(s), as the carrots fight for attention and space, which in essence, drains them of the ability to reach their full potential. Even with these goofy looking guys, we still peel and chop them best as we can, but it’s a whole lot more of a pain in the tail than it is with regular carrots.
Storing and Freezing Your Carrots
When prepping the carrots to freeze, we cut them in a variety of ways. We slice them (for soups and such), leave them whole and cut them into large pieces(for pot roasts), chop them into smaller pieces (for casseroles and homemade pot pies) and grate them (for carrot cake and such). All four of these methods of prepping the carrots will allow for freezing, and we suggest using a FoodSaver Food Vacuum V3240 type of a system, as this eliminates the most air from the bags, seals them properly, allowing for longer lasting veggies and reduces freezer burn.
Carrots will also last a good long time in a root cellar if you have one. There are a variety of ways to build a root cellar that are easy and can work in nearly any yard. We suggest getting this book on root cellaring to learn of the many creative options for having a root cellar in your yard or home.
Those Pesky Garden Pests
Depending on where you live, you might have trouble with rabbits and other pests getting at your garden carrots. Most bugs, such as the carrot weevil, can be deterred by simple crop rotation, but sometimes sprays and dusts will help if needed.
When it comes to rodents and live pests, there are a number of options. Several readers have sworn by the use of those shiny silver pinwheels in their gardens to ward off rabbits, raccoons and other pests. We’ve used pinwheels for two years now and find they work well for keeping animals out, even though we don’t currently fence our garden. A large chicken-wire fence is another option. Friends of ours have put up 6 foot chicken wire walls (held together by strategically placed 2×4’s) complete with an entrance door to protect their large and abundant garden. It works well for keeping out the many animals they see on their property, including bears. Other options for animal control in your garden: try sprinkling bloodmeal or pepper on or around your plants. And if necessary, set live traps to trap animals, release them in some far away unpopulated area.
Carrots grow best when planted near green beans (bush or pole), lettuce, onion, peas, radish, sage and tomatoes. The only plant carrots don’t do well with is strawberry plants.
Carrots, because they’re so rich in Vitamin A, are a must-have in your garden and in your food preservation supply. Bonus: home-grown garden carrots are much sweeter and richer than store bought carrots, adding to the flavor in your meals.
Have you ever planted carrots in your garden? What’s your favorite carrot-containing recipe?
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Hey Laurie, we sure had our share of your second picture! 🙂 Those carrot seeds were always too tiny to space very well and we ended up thinning the plants instead. Must have missed some. We always had more than we could eat ourselves so usually a bushel basket full went to Hubby’s parents, along with a basket full of potatoes. Carrots weren’t our favorite so we canned a few jars and that was it. Just cooked them, added a little butter and sometimes a little brown sugar and that was it.
Yeah, our kids aren’t huge fans of cooked carrots either, but they’ll eat them in a soup, in a pot roast, or in carrot cake, of course, so we try and stay with what works. 🙂
Hello Laurie, I started gardening for the first time this summer and thinning carrots was one of the first lessons I learned. It was a hard task- seemed like such a waste- but we had a great carrot yield, all of which were big and straight-ish.
How long do carrots last in the freezer for (without the vacuum packaging)?
I like my carrots in stews. I usually pick out the carrots and leave the meat 🙂
Thanks for the tips. Will you be providing more for other plants? Please do!
Good for you guys, Emily!!! Without the vacuum pack, I’m guessing a month in a typical freezer and 2-4 months in a deep freezer. I would definitely consider the vacuum pack, though.
First year planting them and I felt the same way about thinning them out. I grew them in containers and outside in my garden and they came out pretty good. I use my carrots for soups and when making rice and beans. I love the taste of fresh carrots. Gardening was the best thing I ever did. 🙂
Love your idea of putting them in rice and beans, Brit! I’ll have to try that.
I always feel terrible thinning them, but you’re right that you end up with a bunch of stubby Frankencarrots, if you don’t!
LOL, “Frankencarrots”. That’s funny. 🙂
Carrots are one of my favorite vegetables! We grew a few but I was the one who didn’t want to thin them … lol! You’ve convinced me to thin next year!
You’ll have a much better yield of your favorite, Jayleen, if you do. 🙂
This is so helpful, Laurie! We yielded a ton of carrots, but they weren’t very big. It’s amazing the taste difference too!
If the small carrots weren’t b/c you didn’t thin out the plants, have your soil checked, Kara. We had the same issue with potatoes and a friend of ours, a skilled gardener, says it’s because the soil is lacking nutrients. We’re going to follow his advice and see what happens with next year’s potatoes.
I never tried planting carrots in our garden but I always buy it in the market. I love carrots because it’s good for the kidney and since I have kidney infection I always eat it.
Good for you, Clarisse! Carrots are great for the eyes too.
Gorgeous carrots, Laurie! I didn’t know about thinning, so thank you for sharing.
Yes, it’s a vital part of gardening success!
You provide such value in your posts, Laurie. I didn’t know about the art of carrot-ing! Who knew carrots could grow and not be “thinned out”.
Tell me!!! We are learning, albeit slowly, along the way. 🙂
I’m so glad you posted this! We planted carrots for the first time this year and every one we pulled out was tiny! We wondered what we were doing wrong. I guess they were too close together.
Or, check your soil, Robin. Might be nutrient deficient.
Nice job on your carrots. I grow carrots every year and use the food saver to freeze them as well. What a great product. Have you tried storing your carrots in sand? They will last longer in a root cellar or basement.
LOVE that idea, FF!! I’ll have to try that. We don’t have a root cellar (yet), but the basement stays pretty cool.
I love carrots and buy a TON of them from the farmers market (they are pretty cheap) to use in all sorts of dishes but we tried to grow them last year and we only got a few good carrots. The rest didn’t grow very big. Thanks for the tips!
Check your soil, Daisy: it might be nutrient deficient.
Wow! I didn’t even know that carrots could be grown in our own background. That might be because I don’t know about much growing carrots and those pesticides needed. I’d definitely try “carroting” and to grow some in my own backyard. Thanks for the tips!
We didn’t do any pesticides this year on ours, Jayson. You might be able to get away with going pesticide free.
The carrots look super yummy. I bet their perfect for some home-made carrot cake or cupcake!
My favorite! 🙂
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