Thin Your Carrot Starts for a Better Crop

Carrots are pretty easy to grow, of course, but there is a small amount of work involved in getting the biggest, best crop each season. One of the most important things you can do for your carrots is to thin the seedlings, which gives them plenty of room to grow. If you’re not sure when thinning needs to happen, keep reading!


The reason for thinning carrot seedlings.

Like many root vegetables, carrots are often initially seeded too close together to grow correctly. Thinning is the act of removing some of your seedling plants to allow more room for the remaining plants to grow properly.

Carrots may start out small, but they need room to reach their full growth potential. Because of this, it is necessary to thin out some of your starts to make space for the rest. Besides simply making more room, thinning your seedlings helps prevent root crowding, which results in stunted, undersized carrots; a lack of space can also result in some plants that fail to grow at all!

When to thin your plants.

Carrots need to be thinned twice during the growing season. This allows you to leave the largest, strongest plants each time, resulting in a harvest of bigger, better carrots. The first time to thin is when your seedlings are about four inches tall. Remove the smallest starts at this time, to allow your remaining plants to spread their roots.

The second thinning of your carrots should occur about a month after the first time. As you thin your plants again, you may find that you’re pulling up baby carrots. These are fine to eat, and are particularly good in salads or as snacks.

How to thin your plants.

At first thinning:

  • Locate the smaller, less developed seedlings
  • Using scissors, snip the foliage at ground level
  • Don’t pull seedlings at this time; this can damage the roots of other plants
  • Thin so that remaining plants are about a thumb-width apart

While you’re in the garden, ensure that the roots of remaining starts are well-covered with soil; exposed roots will cause discolored carrots.

At second thinning:

  • Water a bit before thinning, to make pulling easier
  • Look again for plants that are smaller than most
  • Use a fork or small garden tool to loosen the soil around the top of the carrot
  • Grasp the plant at ground level and pull gently but firmly
  • Thin so that plants are about two inches apart

The carrot plants you pull at this point can be transplanted, if you’d like.

Once you’ve thinned your carrots for the second time, it may be a good time to lightly fertilize your carrots