When to harvest carrots – to get the most from this easy-to-grow crop

Find out when to harvest carrots for the crunchiest, freshest produce

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Not sure when to harvest carrots? Well, there are few tell-tale signs to look out for that are easy to spot. We’ve rounded up the best tips from the experts so you can enjoy the tastiest and most nutritious home-grown crop. 

Having discovered exactly how to grow carrots and being amazed at just how easy this root veg is to cultivate, the next step is to confidently recognize when to reap your rewards. Get your timing right and you will be enjoying fresh and tasty produce that far surpasses any bought in-store.

'Carrots should be in every vegetable garden,’ says Kelly Funk, President at Park Seed (opens in new tab). ‘They’re easy to grow from seed and directly sown in the soil. If you’re worried about growing seed, try seed tape. Simply lay it onto the soil and it does the rest.’ 

When to harvest carrots

Knowing exactly when to gather in your crop is just as important as knowing when to plant carrots. It can be a little baffling at first, but with some expert know-how it is possible to time it right.

Root size

‘Foliage growth is misleading,’ advises Funk, ‘so don’t use that as an indication of root size. Loosen the soil around the top of the carrot, and if the roots are finger-sized or larger, they’re ready to eat.’

Taste

Emily Pence, Field Coordinator at Fedco Seeds (opens in new tab) agrees, and offers this advice, ‘The best way to tell if the carrots in your garden are ready is to pull a few and check to see if they are filled out at the tip, and if they taste good. Sometimes, if the soil is loose enough, you can harvest carrots by simply pulling gently at the base of the of the top. If the tops are breaking off, you will need to use a pitchfork to loosen the carrot roots. Make sure to insert the pitchfork far enough away from the roots to avoid puncturing them.’

How do you know when carrots are ready to pick?

You know carrots are ready to pick when the carrot root tops are a lovely orange and around an inch in diameter; you may have to push the soil back a little to check this, though it's very likely the carrot tops will be poking out of the soil. This will be around 12 to 16 weeks after seeds have been sown.

When to harvest carrots for storing

You know carrots are ready to pick when the carrot root tops are a lovely orange and around an inch in diameter; you may have to push the soil back a little to check this, though it's very likely the carrot tops will be poking out of the soil. This will be around nine to 12 weeks after seeds have been sowed.

Can you leave carrots in the ground too long?

Carrots dislike cold, wet conditions so if left in the ground for too long they will develop a bitter taste. They also have a habit of becoming tough and woody in texture. Once this happens there is little you can do but pull the crop up and add it to the compost heap. 

Can you harvest carrots too early?

If you pick carrots early, they will likely be baby carrots that make a sweet snack, but don't give you the bulky you might want from your crop. So if you have planted carrots in early spring, you can start picking them as baby carrots from the summer months; leave them longer and they will grow into a fatter fall harvest. Or sow a whole bed of carrot seeds and enjoy a varied crop throughout the summer and fall. 

Jill Morgan
Jill Morgan

Jill Morgan has spent the last 20 years writing for Interior and Gardening magazines both in print and online. Titles she has been lucky enough to work on include House Beautiful, The English

Home, Ideal Home, Modern Gardens and Gardeningetc.com. Although much of her career has involved commissioning and writing about reader homes and home improvement projects, her

everlasting passion is for gardens and outdoor living, which is what she writes about for Homes & Gardens.