CROP FOCUS: Winter Carrots

How would you like to pull fresh carrots from the ground all winter? Even if there is snow on the ground.

The best thing about harvesting carrots in the winter, besides the fact that it’s totally bad ass, is that they taste absolutely fucking amazing! They are so much sweeter than carrots from any other time of the year, and part of that reason is that when temperatures drop to below freezing, a chemical reaction occurs in which starches turn to sugars. In fact, this also happens for spinach and kale as well. I’ll tell you about those another time.

There are two things you’re going to need if you want carrots all winter.

The first is, some kind of cover over your garden bed, much like a mini greenhouse. I use a poly low tunnel that I have fashioned out of greenhouse plastic. The main purpose for this is to keep the fall and winter precipitation off the carrot bed. If your carrot bed gets too wet in the fall, by the time it freezes, your carrots will freeze, and then turn to mush as soon as it thaws, and you can forget about harvesting them. A lot of people say that you can do winter carrots with straw, and that may work if you don’t get below freezing temperatures. In my climate, we get down to -20c in the winter for some periods, and this still works even then.

The other thing you’ll need is a pitch fork to harvest your carrots with. Not much to explain here. Go get a pitch fork.

Ok, now tell me how I can do this!

If you want to have carrots ready for when the winter starts, that means they need to be fully mature before it gets cold. This is because nothing will grow when it’s cold. When the days are short and night time temperatures drop below freezing, nothing will grow. However, some things will stay alive! Carrots are one of those things. You need to look at how many days your average carrot needs to mature, take that number, and count days backwards from the first cold day. For my climate, it starts to get cold here by October 20. The average carrots matures in 70 days, so, I will count backwards from Oct 20 for 70 days or 10 weeks. This takes me all the way to Aug 11. So, that would be the latest I would plant. The first week of August is generally the best time, because once we pass the fall equinox, the days start to get exponentially shorter, and growth slows. So basically, pant your carrots on the first week of August.

Make sure they stay well watered from this date until early October, and at this point, they should be mostly mature, and you need to stop watering them. Here is when you’re going to cover up your bed with some greenhouse poly. And, you’ll keep that poly cover on all winter.

Harvesting your carrots.

Choose a day that is really warm and sunny if possible. I’ve done this at -10c, but only when sunny. If it’s too cold, it’ll be hard to fork into the ground. So, you may want to look at your forecast for the next week or so, and pick a warm day. If you see a lot of cold days coming, you’ll want to get out there and harvest a bunch to tide you over until it’s warm enough again to harvest more. Once you’ve got a nice day to harvest, go ahead and open up your poly tunnel. Make sure to brush off any and all snow first, so that once you open the tunnel, it doesn’t fall into your bed. Now, you take your fork, and gently push it into the ground, about an inch or two from your first outer row. Loosen up a few feet of row, and then tease them out gently. The greens may break off, so if that happens, you’ll need to push your fork in the ground to open up a wider chasm along the carrot row, then use your hands to pull out the carrots. Grab as deep as you can, so they don’t break. Winter carrots have a tendency to be a bit more fragile. Once you’ve forked out the first outer row, work into the next one. The basic idea here is to start on the outer rows first, so that you don’t do any damage to the carrots on the inner rows as you leverage your fork to open up the ground. I usually just go out and harvest 5 feet of a row at a time. I prefer to keep them in the ground all winter, as it’s a better form of storage them bringing them inside, even if they’re in the fridge.

Once you’ve harvested, make sure to cover up your bed with your poly, and keep it down tight, so snow pack or wind doesn’t mess with it.

So, that’s basically it. Now go and eat your carrots! I’m not going to bother and give you any recipes for carrots, because I’m a farmer not a chef, go search for that yourself!

Peace.

Curtis.

4 replies
  1. Tracey Mardon says:

    Exactly the info I needed for carrots. I harvested, roasted and froze my beets last fall and they’ve been wonderful but the carrots just went soft.
    Many thanks!

  2. Geralyn Devereaux says:

    Hey Curtis! We are in the midst of a horrible drought in N Georgia US so this may just be for my files 🙁 Ground so dry so deep that seeding in ground is almost not possible. Watched the “winter focus carrots” and I was thrilled to see the possibility to plant carrots as thick as you have and them still be full sized and so orange! We are juicing here as a cancer therapy and the organic carrots that I have tried this year taste like dirt and serious! gave me a stomach ache within a half hour of juicing. I settled on a brand from California (not organic) based on the taste, very good! I am wondering what if any nutrients you add to your soil for carrot growth? I will look at your basics for soil as well. Thanks so much as this appears to be a long-term project and I need to make them the best and thickly growing carrot beds I can do.

Comments are closed.