Though I got a couple dozen carrots to grow last summer, I planted hundreds of seeds. I emptied a couple seed packets with most not even coming up. I tried again this year using the board method (planting the seeds under a board to help maintain soil moisture, but did not even have one carrot seed germinate after a few weeks of watering and keeping the boards on them. I have been counting on carrots for our winter garden, but purchasing ten seed packets seems like a waste. I researched and experimented and found what has been going wrong and how to get these carrots to germinate when nothing else seems to work.
Apparently if carrot seeds dry out for even an hour or two during the germination process, that can kill them. Living in an arid climate, I would have to water the ground nearly constantly to keep them from drying out. The board method still did not keep the moisture in. Removing the three 4×4″ boards showed that the soil had still dried underneath. I decided to sprout my carrots inside.
First, take two paper towels and lay them out on a cookie sheet. Space your carrot seeds about 1 – 2″ apart. Then fold the other paper towel over the top. Use a spray bottle to soak the paper towels with water. Set another pan upside down over the top so the seeds stay dark. Set them in a room inside where they stay 65-80 degrees. Come back in one week and most of the carrot seeds should be sprouted.
Prep the ground where you want to plant them. Ideally you have decomposed manure or compost you can spread out. Loosen the soil with a shovel or broadfork several inches down.
Now you can plant the paper towels directly on the ground. Spread about a quarter inch of soil on top of them. Water heavily and keep moist for at least a week. You should have carrot greens pop up in no time.
If you spaced them one inch apart instead of two, you can thin them back to 2″ apart so you get bigger carrots. Some recommend planting the rows 1′ apart, but I have not had issues with just a couple inches apart as long as your soil is healthy.
Now that you know how to geminate carrots, go and start a tray. If you plant late summer, you should have fall and winter carrots to enjoy in the coming seasons.
Another tip: waiting until it gets cold to harvest is said to result in sweeter carrots.