Saving carrot seeds is actually quite easy, and only requires a few steps. That said, it does take 2 years overall to collect new seeds.
To save carrot seeds, collect the first umbels that dry on the plants. Set them out to dry for 2-3 weeks. Then place the dried seed heads into a paper or cloth bag and tap the seed capsules against the inside of the bag to loosen the seeds. Use a sieve to separate the seeds from the bits of capsule and chaff. Label and store in a cool dry location for 2-3 years.
Read on to learn all about how to save carrot seeds!
Introduction to saving carrot seeds
Carrot seeds are easy to collect. It just takes a little more time for the seeds to grow than most other garden vegetables!
Carrot plants are biennial. The seeds sprout and grow roots during the first growing season and then overwinter in the soil before flowering during the second summer.
Carrot plants are in the Apiaceae family. These plants easily cross-pollinate each other, so care must be taken if you’d like to isolate a single variety. Garden carrots can also cross-pollinate with wild plants of the same species such as Queen Anne’s lace flowers.
Planting carrots for seed saving
Carrots are generally harvested for eating in late autumn. Save the healthiest carrots with the best root shape, tops, and foliage for seed saving. You can either snip the foliage off and replant these selected seed-saving carrots in the fall or store them indoors in cold storage for early spring planting.
Carrot plants for seed saving are usually grown about a foot apart. You can stake the carrot flower stalks to hold them upright or stretch wide mesh across the carrot patch for the umbels to grow up through.
Plant a minimum of 4 dozen carrot plants to save seed from. Either plant only one variety for seed saving or use a physical barrier to isolate varieties.
In areas where wild carrots (Queen Anne’s lace) grow wild, you’ll have to isolate the carrots even if growing only one variety to prevent cross-pollination. You can isolate carrots by distance, but the different varieties must be spaced at least 500 feet (150m) apart. Lastly, if wild carrots nearby are a problem, replant the carrot roots early indoors to give them a head start so they flower before the Queen Anne’s lace.
Choose an open-pollinated variety
Open-pollinated carrots are best for seed saving. If you save seeds from hybrids (F1 crosses), they will not be true to type.
Here are some great open-pollinated carrot varieties:
- Scarlet Nantes carrot
- Kuroda carrot
- Black nebula carrot
- Pusa Asita black carrot
- Cosmic purple carrot
- Danvers 126 half-long carrot
- Red-cored Chantenay carrot
- Atomic red carrot
Read more about the different types of carrots here.
Companion planting for seed saving
Carrot plants make excellent companions for many garden vegetables. Good companions for carrots include lettuce, sunflowers, cilantro, and nasturtium.
Growing carrot plants for seed saving
To grow carrot plants for seed saving, start with high-quality seed stock or buy seeds from a reputable dealer. Replant only the healthiest carrots for seed saving in the plants’ second year.
How to save seeds from carrot plants
Choose the first umbels that appear on the plants to save seeds from. These are the flower clusters that appear right on the main flower stem.
Clip the seed heads off with scissors. Hang them in paper bags to dry or place them on a dry flat surface. Alternatively, you can pull up the whole plants, wash the roots off, and hang the entire plants unside down.
Let the umbels dry for 2-3 weeks. The seed heads will turn brown and papery when they are ready to harvest.
Place the dried seed heads in a paper or cloth bag and tap the seed capsules against the inside of the bag to loosen the seeds.
Use a sieve to separate the seeds from the chaff (dried plant matter). Store the carrot seeds in a cool, dry place.
Carrot seeds have a short life expectancy and usually remain viable (at good germination rates) for 2-3 years when stored properly.