Packed full of color, flavor, and nutrients, carrots are a staple vegetable in many households. If you purchase your carrots at a local grocery store in Hawai’i, they will most likely be imported. Carrots are known for being a cold climate vegetable so would it even be possible to grow them in the tropics?
Carrots can be grown in Hawai’i, but they are best planted during the cooler months of October thru January or all year at higher elevations. Choose carrot varieties that are heat tolerant with short maturity dates. Sow them at a rate higher than average due to lower germination rates in Hawai’i.
Hawaiian grown carrots are possible, but to ensure success, you will want to be sure you set yourself up right. This article will dive deeper into how to grow carrots in Hawai’i and ensure a bountiful harvest for years to come.
Best Carrot Varieties For Warm Weather Climates
With a high average temperature across the year, carrots can struggle to grow. To start off on the right foot, choose varieties of carrots that are known to be heat tolerant.
Some of the well-known carrots for warm climates include Nantes, Purple Dragon and Romance. Other varieties to look for should include shorter maturation times to take advantage of Hawai’i’s shorter cool season.
- The Nantes variety is a widespread favorite in hot climates and can be ready to harvest in as little as 62 days! They are a bit shorter and stubbier than the varieties you see at the store, but their flavor is a lot sweeter.
- Purple Dragon Carrots are a beautiful carrot, with a dark purple outside and orange core. They grow in as little as 60-70 days from germination. I find them to be less sweet than other carrot varieties, with a slight peppery flavor.
- Romance Carrots are orange carrots with a delicious, sweet taste. They definitely win the taste test between these 3 varieties of carrots. However, they take a bit longer to reach maturity at 80 days.
When trying to figure out which varieties to grow on your property, why not sow multiple varieties to test which will flourish on your property. Hawai’i has so many microclimates, one variety that works well in one part of the island may grow great, whereas in another part of the island a different variety will thrive.
When sourcing your carrot seeds, I like to start my search for local non-GMO seed with The Hawai’i Seed Grower’s Network and if that doesn’t work, try out Johnny’s Seeds, a mainland seed company that carry many of the varieties we cover in this post.
When To Plant Carrots In Hawai’i
Although carrots can potentially grow all year round, they thrive in cooler climates. Cool weather will also increase their sugar content, making more palatable carrots.
In Hawai, carrots will grow if sown between September to April but will do best if planted when the nighttime temperature drops in October and through to Early January.
Where you reside may differ in the seasonal change in temperatures. Upcountry locations may have the conditions to grow year-round with no problems, while coastal locations may have to wait for the winter months. Wherever you may be, just note that the ideal time to sow is when the temperature is between 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit.
How To Prepare Soil For Seeding Carrots
Soil for carrots, as for most any plant, needs to be nutrient-rich. Aside from this, the two things carrots need to flourish are good drainage and loose soil particles.
Drainage is important as compacted water can cause root rot and increase bacterial growth, leading to disease and blight.
Good drainage will also ensure all parts of the carrot get adequate moisture. As the carrot grows deeper, it is more important the water gets all the way down. If the bottom of the roots is too dry the carrots may crack.
Soils that are too compact can cause carrot roots (the tasty bit!) to become deformed, twisted and stunted as they are unable to grow through clumps and dense soil.
Before sowing, mix in a good fertilizer or compost and till the soil thoroughly and deeply so your carrots have a medium that will support and develop them.
Pests And Disease That Love Carrots Grown In The Tropics
While plants in the tropics tend to grow with almost no problems, our year-round growing climate is also a hospitable place for pests and disease to thrive as well. It is best to be armed with knowledge on how to combat these issues before they arrive.
- Root-rot nematode – parasitic organism that causes knotted and knarled roots from feeding on the carrots. These can be hard to detect as they effect the below ground portion of the plant. If discovered, I like to replant my carrots in a different area and grow another crop type in that spot such as brassica or nitrogen fixer.
- Insects – aphids, leafhoppers and slugs can all feed on your carrots. They cause minimal damage to the root as it is protected in the soil, but if they are demolishing the carrot leaves the plant may not collect enough nutrients from the sun.
Normally healthy soil is enough to ensure that your crops are strong enough to withstand insect attack, but sometimes you need to intervene with solutions such as soapy oil to combat aphids to picking off slugs by hand (preferably with tongs, watch out for Rat Lungworm!).
- Blight – if your crop picks up unfavorable fungi you may see blight develop and withering in the carrots. Ineffective drainage can cause excess moisture that exasperates these effects.
When and How to Harvest Carrots in Hawai’i
The variety of your carrot crop will define when they reach maturation and are ready for harvest. Most carrots need 3 – 4 months. The Nantes variety is approximately 62 days.
The germination rate for carrots in a tropical climate is relatively low compared to cooler climates, so if you plant more seeds to have a higher yield you will need to thin the crop to allow space for some roots to reach mature. These are edible as “baby carrots”.
As long as there is a fully formed root the size of a finger, they can be harvested and are edible. Harvesting early has no repercussions, but harvesting too late can cause woody and bitter carrots.
When harvesting, I like to clear some of the soil from the top of the root to check the size. If it is the size you are looking for, then gently lift the carrot from the soil.
Before harvesting, make sure the soil is irrigated and moist so carrots can be removed smoothly without cracking or snapping the root.
Ninja Tips To Make Carrot Growing In The Tropics Easier
- Sow a lot of seeds – Germination rate is low in a hot climate. The more you sow, the more success you will have. If you sow the minimum be prepared for a small harvest.
- Use Vermiculite When Sowing – This is a trick I picked up from an old gardener friend of mine. When sowing carrot seed, make a shallow trench in the soil ¼” – ½” deep. Sow your carrots and cover them with vermiculite.
This will help you know the location of your seeds during the 2 plus weeks it takes for germination but will also help keep the seeds moister than regular soil.
- Protect from the elements – When the wet season rolls around, the heavy rain can erode you garden bed and expose the seeds. Cover the sown seeds, at least until you see the plant emerge, or better yet grow them in a greenhouse.
- Hilling – If you find wind and rain starts to expose the top of the carrot root you can push some extra loose soil up around the root “shoulders” to keep it protected and lush
- Mulch – covering the soil with mulch can help keep soil temperatures from getting too warm, at least until the plants have leaves to provide shade.
- Companion planting – choose plants that will work to help your carrots. Plants such as onions, leeks and some herbs will help keep insects away. Pak choy roots help keep soil cool.