Harvesting carrots is easy: just pull them out of the ground when you want them. In truth, you don’t have to wait the full growing period before you start harvesting them. If you have a hankering for some baby carrots but all you planted were Imperators, there’s nothing to stop you from harvesting a few.
If you live in a temperate zone, you can leave carrots in the ground after the first frost and right up until the ground freezes for the winter. If you live in a milder region, you can leave your carrots in the garden all winter long and harvest them whenever you like.
In some cases, the longer the carrots keep growing in the ground, the sweeter they’ll be. In general, once you see the top of the root poking through the soil, you’re getting close to harvest time. If you see any plants shoot up a flower stalk, that’s the day you harvest that carrot. If you miss the harvest window, you’ll have a lovely flower for the dinner table. Leave the carrot for the wildlife.
Some carrots that grow deeply can resist harvesting. There are a couple ways to persuade them to come to harvest. Push the carrot down toward the ground and then pull. That will loosen the very ends of the root from the soil, and it should come right up. You can also use a garden fork to loosen the soil and then gently pull the carrots out of the ground.
Another harvest technique is to water your carrots the day before you plan to harvest them. This has two advantages: the water loosens the soil, and the carrot roots have their maximum moisture level before the leaves get back to work producing energy for the plant.
If you have a really long row of carrots and you don’t want to harvest them all at once, pull every other carrot out and leave the rest. That will give you some for now, and some bigger ones for later.
When you remove the carrot tops, do it away from your garden. The smell of fresh carrot leaves in the morning will send the carrot rust flies rushing to your carrot patch.