Growing Carrots: The Most Common Problems and How to Avoid Them

Growing carrots in your garden is a popular endeavor as carrots are one of the most loved vegetables in the world. According to some sources, they are the second most popular vegetable in the world.

The level of popularity will not come as a surprise to those who eat carrots regularly, as they are aware of this root vegetable’s incredible taste and versatility in cooking.

Whether you add them to stews, boil or steam them, roast them or even add this nutritious vegetable to a stir fry, their distinctive color, and world-renowned crunch make them a staple in everyone’s kitchen.

Not only do they taste great, but like so many vegetables, they are packed full of vitamins and nutrients essential to your body’s health.

In the right conditions, they can be stored for several months and will retain their sweet flavor.

Like all foods, when you eat carrots, your body breaks them down into their primary nutrients. Carrots are great for your health because they provide essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. 

For example, it is an excellent source of beta carotene, an antioxidant our body converts into Vitamin A. Vitamin A is essential for growth, development, and your immune system.

However, with all these benefits, there are a few things you should be aware of when it comes to growing carrots in your garden. Here are some of the most common problems and questions gardeners experience.

I’m Trying To Grow Carrots, But Why Are They So Small?

First of all – make sure you are not growing baby carrots! 😃

One of the most common problems with growing carrots in your garden is when they end up tiny. If this has happened to you, don’t worry as you are in good company as this problem is common.

Like most gardening projects, growing carrots is a long-term endeavor, and you can’t just plant them in the ground and leave them – although, admittedly, life would be a lot easier if you could!

When you grow carrots, to ensure that you are giving yourself the best chance of developing the biggest, healthiest carrots possible, they need to be looked after from start to finish.

Looking after carrots includes watering them regularly. Don’t underestimate this point, as it is a critical factor in a carrot’s lack of development.

Insufficient water not only causes shallow root development but also increases the level of stress that the plant experiences.

Seven Small carrots laid on a table
If your carrots turn out small, make sure they are not baby carrots!

Water your carrots thoroughly once per week, depending on your soil’s sand levels. While carrots generally are very tough and can grow in most soils, if your soil has high amounts of sand, it won’t be moist enough for your vegetables to thrive, so consider increasing the water amount.

In addition, if the weather is scorching hot and humid, consider increasing the amount of water again to ensure sustainable growth.

Gardners must be aware of the weather throughout the year and adjust accordingly. Adapting to the prevailing climate is part of the skill and challenge of growing vegetables.

What’s Root Branching (Hairy Roots)?

You may not have come across the term “Root Branching,” but if you have started growing carrots or have grown them in the past, you will know what it is.

Roots branching out of the main stem are typically called ‘hairy roots.’ They are called this because the roots tend to have a hairy texture and resemble that of hair growth.

Growing Carrots with hairy roots
Small hairs on the roots are a sign of poor soil.

As previously mentioned, ‘hairy roots’ typically form when the vegetable is not in ideal conditions, including moisture levels in the soil. More specifically, it is also a sign of too much nitrogen in your soil.

If this is the case, try adding manure/compost soil to the bed and let it break down. This phosphorus-rich alternative is much better for carrot development than nitrogen-heavy fertilizer.

Why Are My Carrots Splitting, Cracking and Forking?

Another common problem that growers of carrots experience is the splitting, cracking, and forking of this orange root vegetable.

Again, similarly to the small carrots issue above, this is predominantly a result of unacceptable conditions. Factors that can lead to splitting, cracking, and forking include:

  • Giving the carrots too much water
  • Incorrect planting methods
  • Cold weather conditions
  • Letting the carrots grow for too long

Any combination of the above can lead to these ‘variations’ in your carrots which look unsightly and are not something you would take to your local vegetable growing competition.

One major cause of carrot splitting is planting your carrots in rocky soil, and when the carrot grows, it splits on the rocks.

Not only do they look terrible, but they can change the taste of the carrot, making them bitter and unusable.

Make sure your soil is loose, fertile, and deep for this root vegetable. If this is hard to do, try building a raised bed for your carrots.

3 carrots with middle one split
Splitting is a common problem when growing carrots.

Why Are The Shoulders Of My Carrots Green?

First of all, what are carrot shoulders? 

Carrot shoulders are the area around the top of a carrot and are usually the widest part of the popular vegetable.

For those new to growing carrots, you may be thinking that when the carrots show green on the shoulders, they are ready to take out and eat.

However, if the shoulders have large amounts of green, they are still in the early stages of growth. 

Remember that this is common when growing carrots – the skin and roots will start to form, but the plant itself is still relatively small. When the plant matures, it will be much larger, and the green shoulders will disappear.

different growth levels of growing carrots
Credit: Carrot Museum

Why Are My Carrots Growing REALLY Tall?

Now you might be thinking, if the carrot tops are growing tall, that must mean you have big carrots underneath.

Unfortunately not!

If your carrot tops are growing several feet tall and start flowering, this is a clear indication that your carrots will run to seed.

What does run to seed mean?

The gardening term “going to seed,” “running to seed,” or “bolting to seed” occurs when a plant/vegetable starts to flower and produce seeds instead of using its energy to create the leaves or vegetable that you want.

This process takes a lot of energy from the plant and typically means that it will not grow anymore, as most plants usually start to die after going to seed.


What Pests and Diseases Do Carrots Have To Deal With?

Like most vegetables, carrots are susceptible to a wide range of diseases and pests – after all, we are not the only ones who find them tasty!

But after all that hard work and tending to your carrots, there may be no worse feeling in gardening than when you see that the crop you had high hopes for has been entirely ruined by pests and disease.

Common Disease

One common disease that carrots may have is Pythium Phytopathum (Pythium), a fungus that can cause a bacterial blight on crops. Pythium can also cause root rot in the carrot plant.

Pythium affects your carrot crops and can go even further as it causes Checkerspot Disease (Cabergie disease), a fungal disease that affects potato plants.

Common Pests When Growing Carrots

You may think that a common pest for carrots is the rabbit, but you would be wrong (and perhaps would mean you have watched too many Bugs Bunny cartoons). 

The Carrot Rust Fly is the most common and well-known pest amongst carrot growers, and for a good reason.

Female Rust Flies lay their eggs near your root vegetables, and once their offspring/larvae are born, they burrow their way through the soil to feed on your crops. By the time you get to your crops, they will be full of tunnels and holes, which is the tell-tale sign that you have been another victim of this common pest.

Ways to Solve Your Pest Problem

Here are several ways you solve your pest problem:

  • Rotate Crops and plant them in different locations every season.
  • Cover your plants with a lightweight fabric.
  • Plant your carrots next to onions, garlic, and chives to confuse the Rust fly’s sense of smell.

What If All My Seeds Sprout?

When you grow carrots, it can be somewhat of a lottery as to how many of them sprout from seedlings. It could be all of them, or it could be very few, depending on the conditions.

But indeed, if all of them sprout, that is a good thing?

Not always.

Having all your seeds sprout is undoubtedly better than having none, but you must keep a keen eye on your crop for them to develop.

If all your seeds start to grow close to each other, it also means that they will all be competing for nutrients and water.

The high level of competition will be to your crop’s detriment and will mean lots of small, potentially poor-tasting carrots.

growing carrot seeds sprouting
Sprouting carrots.

The solution? As your carrots start to grow and take up the room, you will need to step in and separate them manually.

As they get bigger, take them out of the soil, and you may see that the carrots are interconnected and joined by the roots. In this case, take a pair of scissors and separate them.

Replant the carrots approximately 1-2inches apart, allowing them to absorb as many nutrients as possible, resulting in large, beautiful carrots.

I’m Growing Carrots But They Aren’t Sprouting?

A standard error by inexperienced carrot growers is that they place the carrot seeds in soil blocks/trays ready to germinate in the greenhouse before being placed in the garden.

Growing carrots in the greenhouse at the start is a flawed strategy because although carrots are resilient vegetables, they don’t like being transplanted and prefer staying where they are, especially in their early stages.

When planting in the garden, make sure you choose a spot that has good sunlight. If you place your carrots in shady, dark areas, it will result in poor-tasting crops. Sunlight is a crucial ingredient for carrot development as, without it, it will cause plants to be deficient in minerals and vitamins.

Unless you have your solution to watering the carrots, ensure they are in an area with good moisture levels, as this will also play a massive role in the quality of your crop.

Don’t Plant Too Deep And Don’t Put Too Much Water On Them

Making sure the seeds are not planted too deep is a great tip and one that even experienced gardeners may miss.

Far too often, many will complain about the length of time their carrots take to sprout without realizing they have planted the seeds far too deep.

Instead of planting the seeds deep, sprinkle them over the area you want them to grow and lightly brush some soil over them. I emphasize the word lightly! They should just be beneath the surface.

After spreading the seeds, you may be tempted to pour some water on them, then hope and pray they start the germination process.

But this is another mistake.

Don’t make this mistake!

It is up until the point of germination that these seedlings need to be kept moist. That means regularly monitoring the moisture levels and topping them up should the carrot’s environment start drying up.

If you want to speed up this process, you can add plastic covers to the seeds, retaining the moisture while letting in sunlight.

It’s a bit like being in the greenhouse but remember not to put them there at the start due to their nature and to find it challenging to adapt to new environments.

carrot sprouting in the ground
Sprinkle carrot seeds on the soil surface to see quicker results.


When growing carrots, take these steps before you plant your seeds. First, ensure your soil is fertile and has plenty of water, especially during the dry months.

Secondly, ensure they have access to reasonable amounts of sunlight, which is essential to their development. Finally, keep an eye on them and constantly monitor their progress, ensuring they are not growing too close together.

Whether it’s pest control or moisture levels, the experienced gardener knows what their plants and crops require at any given time because they always check in on their development.

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