Carrots are an iconic root vegetable and one of the most important in the world. Highly nutritious and a major source of income in agricultural economies, carrots are beloved by people all over the globe.
While they are not a particularly demanding crop, carrots do have some specific needs when it comes to growing conditions.
One of the most important factors is sunlight. How much sun do carrots need to grow?
Carrots need between 6 and eight 8 of full sun per day to grow properly. Less than six hours of sunlight will result in stunted growth and fewer carrots, while more than eight hours can actually cause the plant to grow more foliage than root.
While there are many factors that go into successful carrot cultivation, ensuring that they get the right amount of sunlight is a good place to start.
With the right care and attention, you can enjoy bountiful carrot harvests year in and year out. Keep reading to learn what you need to know about carrots’ light requirements.
Do Carrots Need Full Sun?
Yes. Carrots need full sun to grow properly. Carrots are a root vegetable, so most of their growth happens underground (concerning the vegetable).
The leaves of the plant photosynthesize, producing the food that the plant needs to grow. This food is then sent down to the roots, where it fuels the growth of the carrot itself.
So, while the leaves need sunlight to produce food, it’s really the roots that need sunlight to grow into a viable food source for us, and carrots that don’t get enough sunlight will have smaller, less developed roots.
To maximize the amount of sun that carrots get and to prevent self-shading by neighboring plants, consider planting your crop in a row running from east to west.
This will allow the sun to hit the plants directly for most of the day, and will also give you easy access to the crop for weeding and other maintenance tasks.
How Many Hours of Sun Do Carrots Need?
Carrots need direct sunlight for at least six hours per day, and likely more near to eight hours.
Anything less than six hours of sunlight will result in fewer carrots overall and stunted growth in general.
More than eight hours of sunlight can cause the plant to produce more foliage (carrot tops or greens) than root, so it’s best not to let them get too much sun.
Can Carrots Grow in Shade?
Yes, carrots can grow in partial shade so long as all other requirements are being met, i.e. soil conditions, fertilization, etc.
However, they will not produce as well as they would if grown in full sun. For this reason, it’s best to grow carrots in an area that gets at least six hours of sunlight per day.
Can Carrots Get Too Much Sun?
They sure can. Carrots that get too much sun (more than eight hours per day) can actually produce more bountiful carrot tops at the expense of the root.
While this might not seem like a big deal, it’s actually a sign that the plant is not getting enough food.
The leaves are photosynthesizing at full capacity to try and make enough food for the roots, but they’re not able to keep up. This can result in smaller, less developed carrots.
Another factor to be aware of is direct exposure of the root to direct sunlight. Anytime the soil around the root erodes away enough to expose the carrot to sunlight, it will start to develop a green tint.
This condition is unimaginatively known as “greening”, and will impart a bitter taste to that part of the root.
This is due to the production of chlorophyll in the root, and while these affected carrots are still edible, they will not be as tasty, crisp or sweet as those that have been protected from direct sunlight.
To avoid this, make sure to keep an eye on the soil around your carrot plants. If you see any exposed orange roots, simply cover them back up with soil and consider mulching to protect them from the sun.
Do Different Varieties of Carrot Need More or Less Sun?
Not really. Though there exist multiple varieties and even colors of carrots, they all share the same basic light requirements.
That being said, some varieties are more tolerant of shade than others. For example, the “Nantes” carrot is a popular variety that is known for being able to grow well in partial shade.
If you’re unsure about what variety of carrots you want to grow, your best bet is to ask your local nursery or gardening store.
They will be able to recommend a variety that will do well in your area and with the amount of sunlight you have available.
What Happens if Carrots Don’t Get Enough Sun?
If carrots don’t get enough sun, they will not develop properly and will produce smaller, less developed roots.
The plant will also be more susceptible to pests and diseases. To ensure that your carrots get enough sun, plant them in an area that gets at least six hours of sunlight per day.
If you live in an area with intermittent sun or one that is typically overcast, you may need to supplement the natural light with grow lights.
Can Carrots Grow with Indirect Sun?
Yes, but they will need at least 6 good hours of direct light. Carrots and other root veggies don’t do well in any area with mottled or inconsistent light.
If possible, choose a spot in your garden that gets at least 6 hours of consistent, direct sunlight.
If you can’t find such a spot, you may need to supplement the natural light with grow lights, if viable, or pick another veggie. Otherwise you might be setting yourself up for disappointment.
Transitioning Carrots from Indoors to Sunlight
If you’ve started your carrots indoors and are now ready to transplant them outdoors, be sure to do so gradually.
Carrots that have been grown indoors will need to adjust to the increased light exposure gradually, or they will become sunburned.
To transition them, start by placing them in an area with indirect sunlight for a few hours each day.
Then, over the course of a week or two, slowly increase the amount of time they spend in direct sunlight until they are able to withstand being in full sun all day long.
Tom has built and remodeled homes, generated his own electricity, grown his own food and more, all in quest of remaining as independent of society as possible. Now he shares his experiences and hard-earned lessons with readers around the country.