Growing Carrots in East Tennessee

I’ve been told you can’t grow a decent carrot in East Tennessee but that’s simply not true! Yes, it is true that clay and rock are not carrot friendly growing conditions but there are ways around that.

Raised beds and grow bags are one option. These vessels should be filled with at least 12” of a good growing blend such as topsoil and compost with a little sand blended in for drainage.  With these two methods you can grow just about any variety of carrot you chose!

But what if you’re planting directly in your garden? There are a few tips that may help you grow a bountiful crop even in East Tennessee soil.

First, we need to be realistic about choosing a variety. It would be difficult for most gardeners to amend their existing soil a foot deep without a heavy duty tiller, especially if your soil is loaded with rocks. The best option is to grow a shorter carrot!

There are five types of carrots, Danvers, Nantes, Imperator, Chantenay and Mini. Let’s take a look at each to help decide which is right for your garden.

Danvers carrots are long, skinny and taper to a point. They are more tolerant to poor soil and can be harvested early as shorter carrots and still retain their sweet taste. Most Danvers varieties are orange but there are a few other colors including yellow!

Nantes includes 40 different varieties but, the most popular is the Scarlett Nantes which is also the best choice for poorer soils. This variety can be harvested when it’s only 4” long and has a sweet flavor and great crunch! 

Imperator is the carrot found in most grocery stores. It’s exceptionally long and think with a very sweet flavor that reaches it peak around 8” long. This won’t be a good variety for direct sowing in the garden but it’s perfect for a raised bed or grow bag!

Chantenay carrots were developed to plant in heavy or rocky soil. They typically only reach to 6” long making them very short and broad. It’s important to harvest these at the length recommended as they will become woody and tasteless if left too long in the garden. ‘

Ball or Mini carrots include varieties that are shaped like radishes or miniature carrots. At only 3-4” they are perfect for smaller containers and rocky soil!

Once you select the best variety for your garden we want to share a few tips for success!

  • Carrots have a long germination period ranging from 10 to 20 days. It’s best to sow seeds directly in the ground, and keeping the seed bed consistently moist is key for good germination. A great idea is to cover them with burlap or a 1×4 board to help keep the soil moist. Check on the seeds daily and remove the covering after two weeks or once the seedlings have emerged. 
  • Overseeding will help ensure a good crop but thinning to 2-4” is a must to allow carrots enough room to spread out.
  • Sow carrot seeds beginning mid April, and continue to plant every 3 weeks through mid summer.
  • Carrots grow well with salad greens and root crops like radishes!
  • Onions and chives make good companions in the garden repel the carrot rust fly. 
  • Marigolds, nasturtiums, chamomile and calendula planted nearby will attract beneficial insects. 
  • Avoid planting carrots and tomatoes near each other. Their roots excrete a chemical that can stunt the carrots growth.

I hope we have dispelled the myth that you can’t grow carrots in East Tennessee! By selecting the right carrot for the right area, anyone can have a bumper carrot crop this season!