Carrots: History and Cultivation

By on August 29, 2014

Rainbow of carrots!

In our recent video, Growing Carrots, Tricia guides us through the step-by-step process of planting, growing and harvesting carrots. So now let’s delve a little deeper into the carrot from its history, common shapes and varieties, cultural requirements and some troubleshooting guidelines.

Carrot History

picture of diversity of carrots

Humans have been consuming carrots, at least Wild Carrots (Daucus carota, var. carota), for thousands of years. The first documented cultivation of carrots was prior to 900 AD in the Iranian Plateau (Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan), and domestication or breeding of the carrot began.

The first domesticated carrots were divided into two sub-groups: Eastern/Asiatic carrots, (var. altorubens) and Western carrots ( var. sativus).1 The Western group is the common orange-colored carrots that we think of today. The group is sub-divided into short, medium and long rooted carrots with variations in color from white, orange to red.

Carrot Selection and Cultivation

shapes of common carrot varieties

Carrots come in all shapes, sizes and colors from small Parisienne to long red Dragon. The size you choose is important, especially if your soil is heavy, or if you want to grow it in a container. The rainbow mixes are great and fun for kids to grow and they taste good too!

Carrots are typically easy to grow, but there are a few things to consider:

  • Carrots don’t like growing in strongly acidic soil, pH 6-6.8 is just right. If you don’t know what your pH is, try a soil test kit like the La Motte pH Test Kit.
  • Carrots require regular moisture and are not drought tolerant. Avoid excess moisture near the time of harvest, it can cause the carrots to crack.
  • Carrots require high levels of potassium and phosphorus, and not excess nitrogen.
  • Remove stones and hard dirt clumps, this can cause the carrots to fork.

Troubleshooting Your Carrots

Carrots are typically easy to grow and trouble free. But from time to time you may encounter some problems with your crop. Some typical problems are forked roots, failure to emerge, small roots, twisted roots or really hairy and mis-shaped roots. For more information on troubleshooting carrot problems check out the article Carrot and Parsnip Growing Problems: Troubleshooting.

Carrots are a great addition to the garden and fun for the whole family. Now is the time to plant (or the spring too), so pick up some seeds today. Enjoy them fresh as a nutritious snack, or cooked, as a great addition to your winter soup.


  Comments (3)


Love all your articles. Been gardening for over 45 years and can always find something of interest in your material. I have always grown carrots and canned many quarts of them. These past 2 years though I’ve come under atack by what i’m told are root magots. Any sugestions on how to handle these pests naturaly?

Posted by David Martin on Sep. 01, 2014 at 10:12:36 AM

I can’ make any suggestions but I can direct you to a fantastic web site that will give you a lot of information about carrots and its enemies, The site is jam packed full of information, not only for vegetables but edible trees, shrubs, lawns ... Hope it helps!

Posted by Suzanne at Peaceful Valley on Sep. 04, 2014 at 5:19:04 PM


I too have been gardening all of my life and help teach a ‘Growing Groceries’ class but still learn something every time I check your site.
Re. preventing carrot rust fly larvae i.e. root maggot dmage; I have found that rotating the crop combined with using floating row cover to be very effective (make sure there are no opening in the cover.

Posted by Diane Decker-Ihle on Jan. 20, 2015 at 11:06:06 AM

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