Carrot seed is virtually impossible to plant evenly spaced due to the minuscule size of the seeds. The process of thinning the carrot seedlings will ensure that the carrots have plenty of room to grow and can mature evenly. Thinning carrots and not wasting those precious seedlings can be accomplished with a few simple tips, time, & effort.
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WHAT IS CARROT THINNING?
Thinning carrots is the task of removing the smaller (aka, weaker) seedlings to allow room & space for the larger (stronger) seedlings to mature. Thinning also allows nutrient content in the soil to be directed to the maturing carrot. Many find this task tedious and don’t get me wrong, I have to be in the mood to thin or I find it tedious as well! When in the mood, however, I find it rather meditative and enjoyable.
You may be wondering, why do you plant so many seeds in the first place if it’s necessary to thin them after they germinate? It’s a size issue! The size of the seeds are extremely small and it’s nearly impossible to space individual seeds apart. Unless using a seed tape when planting, it is standard practice to overseed. Not only does this improve the germination rate, but it also saves time when planting.
THINNING CARROT OPTIONS
There are several options when choosing how to thin your carrot crop. Know that thinning, unfortunately, is not a one time process. Ideally, you will need to thin at least twice during the growing season. I wait to thin the first time until the carrot tops are at least 2-4 inches tall. This will allow for easy removal as the root is beginning to become established. Approximately 3-4 weeks later, a second thinning is normally needed as more may start to germinate or pop up. There are always the strays that have been missed.
Snip, Snip, Snip
Many will simply snip or cut at the base of the carrot green, leaving the remaining root in the soil. NO WASTE TIP: This is not a preferred method, why waste the tap root as well? It takes no extra time or effort to pull the entire seedling from the soil and use its entirety. Consider washing these thinnings, add them to salads or soups, make a delicious pesto, or feed them to your chickens for no waste. As a last option, add to your compost pile for future nutrient use in the garden. Be sure to bury the thinnings if doing so to help minimize any attractive carrot odors that may attract carrot root flies.
Pull, Pull, Pull
A preferred method, & one we utilize here on the hill, is to pull the seedling from the soil in all its glory. When you wait until the seedling greens are at least 2-4 inches tall, this process is easy & simple. If your soil is compacted, you may want to use a pencil or your finger to gently loosen the soil near the seedlings to allow for easier removal. Otherwise, simply pull from the base, where the green meets the soil, and remove. NO WASTE TIP: Again, utilize the seedling in its entirety as discussed earlier OR transplant!
THINNING OUT CARROTS STEP-BY-STEP
Transplanting is the ultimate NO WASTE TIP in our humble opinion. After all, who doesn’t want to enjoy fresh, crunchy carrots all winter that taste just like they were pulled from the garden! See how I store my carrots for fresh eating all year in my article “How To Store Your Garden Carrots For Fresh Eating All Winter”. Transplanting allows for an abundance of full-sized carrots to be available almost year round…from your own garden!
To transplant, simply pull the seedling from the soil by gently pinching at the base of the green (where it meets the soil) and pull straight up.
Take a pencil or your finger and poke a hole where you would like to transplant the seedling.
Drop the seedling into the hole and gently but securely pinch the soil around the seedling to create good connection with the soil.
Once transplanted, water all the transplants deeply. This will not only hydrate the transplanted seedlings but will assist the soil in settling around the taproot more securely.
When thinning or transplanting, be sure to mound additional soil up around the seedlings to cover any carrot tops that may have been exposed during the process. Carrot tops that are exposed to the light will green if exposed to sunlight.
I’ve made a short video showing the process during the second phase of thinning, the 3-4 week period after the first thinning.
That’s it! An easy, no waste way to thin your carrots. With a little effort, time, & patience, you will be enjoying the fresh taste of carrots (nothing like it) from your garden throughout the year!
Do you grow your own carrots already? Share your experiences and tips below in the comments! As always, be sure to subscribe to our monthly newsletter, “happenings on the hill” to stay on top of all the exciting “happenings” 🙂 .
Love, Light, & Laughter ~