Carrots are root vegetables and they prefer lower nitrogen and higher potassium and phosphate.
Beets, on the other hand, were first cultivated for their tops and they grow best in nitrogen-rich soil which feeds the leaves.
This can seem tricky if you want to plant these two root crops together.
However, carrots and beets can be good companion crops, be sure to test the soil and aim for a balanced NPK ratio with plenty of available nitrogen and potassium. Consider amending the soil to ensure good drainage and a light texture to the soil. Bone meal can improve texture and add nutrients to your root vegetable bed.
Plan to use a very well-prepared garden bed for your beets and carrots with well-draining soil with a light sandy texture for optimal growth. Have a good nitrogen-rich fertilizer on hand to fertilize your beets every two or three weeks.
Rocks and stones can result in forked and misshapen carrots, but beets can break up hard or rocky soil.
Be sure that you keep carrots and beets well watered, they can be a good candidate for a drip system if you have one.
Cool-weather crops like beets and carrots are generally easy to grow and easy to store. They can be stored in the ground after frost until they are ready to eat. Carrots and beets are good crops for boosting your family’s nutrition.
How to Fertilize Beets and Carrots
Fertilizing beets and carrots should be done before planting and beets should continue to be fertilized every few weeks during growth.
Test the soil where you hope to plant the beets and carrots and add appropriate soil amendments to create phosphorus and potassium-rich soil mix.
Add additional compost or nitrogen-rich fertilizer like blood meal or poultry manure to your bed to increase the nitrogen.
During the growing season, you can add additional blood meal or other nitrogen-rich fertilizers around the beets. This can improve the size and health of your beets.
Plan to add a fairly balanced fertilizer at a rate of about 30 pounds per 1,000 square feet.
Clemson Cooperative Extension in their factsheet concerning carrots, beets, parsnips, and radishes recommends fertilizing the plants by adding fertilizer beside your rows when the plants are about 4 inches tall.
This is called side dress fertilizing.
The Clemson Extension recommends that this side dress fertilizing is done with a nitrogen fertilizer like blood meal or poultry manure. Water well after sidedress fertilizing.
Be careful when disturbing the soil around carrots as the young roots can be easily disrupted.
These are the recommended fertilizers with a variety of NPK ratios that can be used in every stage of growing these root vegetables.
Best Fertilizer for Beets and Carrots
Carrots and beets require balanced fertilizer in bed preparation and before planting, but nitrogen-rich fertilizer during the growing season.
This list contains both types of fertilizers and recommendations on when to use them when growing beets and carrots.
Blood meal is a nitrogen fertilizer that should be used to fertilize your beets and carrots when they have been growing for two to three weeks.
Add blood meal to the soil next to your beets and carrots when the greens are about 4 inches tall.
The blood meal is a water-soluble fertilizer that will go deep into the soil and nourish the roots of the carrots and beets.
The linked fertilizer is a granular fertilizer which makes using this fertilizer easy and convenient.
There are liquid nitrogen formulas available that may be more convenient for some gardeners. (Number 11 is a good liquid alternative)
2. Poultry Manure
Poultry manure is a great fertilizer for beets and carrots because it is not as heavy as horse and cow manure.
Light poultry manure can add plenty of nutrients to the soil and improves the soil texture for your root vegetables.
Poultry manure is a very balanced fertilizer. A large survey of poultry manure produced under various circumstances shows that the NPK ratio varies widely.
Poultry manure does always contain Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium, along with other nutrients that are beneficial to the garden (like nitrogen, magnesium, and calcium).
If you have chickens you can use the bedding from their enclosure as a soil amendment for your beets and carrots.
If you cannot get poultry manure, you can use horse or cow, just be sure the soil is draining appropriately.
Beets and carrots are very susceptible to wilting and need frequent watering, but if the soil is too wet it can cause root rot.
Check your soil after 2-3 days and if it is still very wet, your soil is not draining well enough.
Poultry manure should be added during the preparation of the garden bed, not as an amendment after the plants are growing.
Carrots like phosphate and potassium-rich soil. Triple Super Phosphate is best used when your soil test has shown that your soil is deficient in phosphate or tests abnormally high in nitrogen and potassium.
The NPK ratio of Triple Super Phosphate is 0-46-0, so it will only contribute phosphate to the soil.
Apply Triple Super Phosphate at a rate of 9 pounds per 1,000 square feet to raise the K in your soil. This can also be a good strategy if you find that your soil tests high in nitrogen and potassium.
Plan to use about 1 cup per 10×10 foot area in your garden.
Be sure that the soil is draining well after these additions as soil texture is very important for these root crops.
This ratio should be as balanced as possible before planting your beets and carrots.
Master Blend is a potassium-rich fertilizer that can be used when preparing a garden bed for carrots and beets.
All fertilizers should be applied after your soil has been tested, you can test your soil with an inexpensive kit or by mailing a soil sample to a soil testing lab.
If your results show that your soil is rich in nitrogen, master blend is a good fertilizer to prepare your bed.
Master Blend is mixed with other amendments like Epsom salt and sometimes a nitrogen-rich fertilizer.
Master blend is often promoted as a great way to get large yields in crops like tomatoes and peppers.
You can find detailed mixing directions in this video with a gardener who is using Master Blend in his traditional vegetable garden.
This fertilizer is used with great success in hydroponics and other nontraditional applications.
It is slightly more expensive, but a little goes a long way and a bag will last you all season.
An industrial product like Master Blend allows you to have a much more scientific approach to fertilizing your vegetable garden.
Be sure to read all included information and directions as this is a very potent fertilizer and must be weighed and measured before being applied.
5. Organic Garden Tone
Garden Tone is a readily available fertilizer that you can purchase in many home and garden stores and online.
Garden Tone is a well-balanced fertilizer that can be helpful if you already have relatively healthy soil that has been supporting other crops during the spring and summer growing season.
Garden Tone has an NPK ratio of 3-4-4 so it is not a high nutrient fertilizer, but it can add nutrients and improve soil texture when added before planting.
It is favored by organic gardeners and as a planting medium for potted herbs.
It is made of poultry manure, feather meal, and potash. These items can be purchased separately if you would like to alter the NPK in your garden.
Potash is another name for wood ash, which you can produce at home and add to your garden if you need to add potassium and lower the PH of your soil.
Garden Tone should be added to the soil before planting your carrots and beets and should be well turned into the soil. Plan to add a large amount of this fertilizer to support healthy plant growth.
6. Bone Meal
Bone meal is an excellent choice for fertilizing carrot soil beds. Bone meal is high in phosphorus which promotes root growth.
Bone meal is a slow-releasing fertilizer so it can be applied to the bed in preparation for planning and it will supply phosphorus throughout the growth of the carrots and beets.
Bone meal can also help keep the soil light and soft for straight carrots and big beets.
Phosphorus is promoted as the most important nutrient for growing root vegetables, but the plants need nitrogen as well.
When beets and carrots have been planted together it is important to have balanced soil with high phosphorus and nitrogen levels available to the plants.
The nitrogen does feed the leaves, but the green tops of the carrots and beets are edible and very nutritious. Plan to eat them or feed them to your animals.
Compost is a great addition to a carrot and beet garden bed as it can improve soil texture, biology, and composition.
Compost can be purchased or home rotted, but any that you can add will help improve the soil over time.
Compost can improve the biology of the soil and help prevent diseases that can destroy carrot tips.
Compost can also supply the potassium that carrots love to grow strong roots.
The compost is particularly important if your soil is heavy or clay. The compost can lighten the soil and improve the ability to hold water.
Carrots and beets need a moist soil texture and they are very susceptible to stress from wilting.
Beets are susceptible to a condition called black heart. This results in sunken black spots on the root and inside the beet.
Blackheart is a result of low available boron in the soil.
Carrots can have a similar dimpling on the roots when the soil is low in available boron. This results in gray pinpoint sunken areas just under the skin of the carrot.
You should perform a soil test before applying Borax to your soil as it can be damaging to other crops.
Soil that is sandy and lacks organic matter is most likely to have a boron deficiency. Soil with this texture should be fed with compost and organic matter to improve texture and tested before boron is applied.
One tablespoon per 100 square feet is the recommended application, so go very easy on this fertilizer.
Some gardeners report success when using this at a rate of 1 teaspoon per gallon and applying it on the surface of well-draining soil.
9. Fish Emulsion
Fish emulsion is often touted as a secret to success for many organic gardeners.
Fish emulsion is a nitrogen fertilizer with an NPK ratio of 5-1-1.
When growing beets and carrots you can use a fish emulsion solution after they have been growing for a few weeks and have been thinned.
The liquid can be sprayed on leaves as a foliar fertilizer with a sprayer. Fish emulsion is always diluted, so be sure to read the bottle for full instructions when using fish emulsion in your garden.
It can be applied to nitrogen-loving plants (like beets) every 2 or three weeks. This fertilizer will not burn leaves when applied appropriately diluted.
Fish emulsion often contains other nutrients like magnesium, sulfur, and calcium which can fortify the plants and build your soil over time.
Fish emulsion should not be used in the bed preparation unless your soil has been tested and found low in nitrogen.
10. Wood Ash
Wood ash is free if you have a fire pit in your yard! Burn some hardwoods and collect the ashes when they are cool enough to handle.
Wood ash can lower the PH of the soil slightly and both beets and carrots prefer soil with a PH between 6 and 6.5.
Wood ash is a great fertilizer for beets and carrots as they will generally contain higher levels of potassium and phosphorus which will be helpful to your winter root crops.
Wood ash should only be added to soil that has been tested and the soil PH can handle the addition.
If the PH is too low that can keep the plants from growing well.
Be sure not to add any unburned or uncomposted wood to the soil as it can rob nutrients from the soil and make the soil unfriendly to crop growth.
Liquid fertilizers can be more convenient for some gardeners and avoid disrupting the roots of these crops.
This Organic Fish and Kelp Liquid fertilizer does not list an NPK ratio, but it guarantees that it contains at least 2% nitrogen.
Fish and Kelp fertilizers are prized by gardeners who see the benefits of the fertilizers on their plant health but also the soil health.
This fertilizer contains many soil benefits beyond the NPK ratio. I have heard several gardeners wax poetic about their fish emissions, so they are worth a try.
It is recommended that you apply this fertilizer every two weeks. It can be applied directly to the plant’s leaves as a foliar spray.
This smaller convenient bottle can be helpful for porch and container gardens and it can be helpful for indoor plants as well.
Kelp fertilizers contain lots of nutrients that some gardeners swear make their carrots sweeter if your soil is lacking minerals.
If you are going for the root vegetable gold try adding some Organic Kelp fertilizer while your carrots and beets are growing.
Should I plant beets and carrots together?
Beets and carrots make good companions in the garden, although they have different soil needs they can improve soil health when planted together.
A great garden plan can include peas and beets growing together in a new plot to break up the soil. The beets will take nitrogen and the peas will add it.
The beets will break up the soil well.
Carrots require very loose soil free from rocks, so after a season of beets, plant the beets and carrots together for a healthy harvest.
Beets and carrots should also be thinned at the same time and in the same way, so planting them together can make thinning easier.
Rather than pulling up small plants to improve spacing, simply clip off the leaves with a pair of garden scissors. The tops of both vegetables are edible and delicious.
Other Companion Crops for Beets and Carrots
If you are looking for other companion crops you have several options:
You want to avoid companion planting two crops that need a lot of the same nutrient, so beets and carrots can make good companions because beets will need nitrogen and carrots will need potassium.
Choose beans or peas to shield these water-loving plants from some sun, but not to create shade.
Avoid planting field mustard close to your beets as they do not grow well together. Carrots should also be kept well away from potatoes and dill. The dill can cause cross-pollination with carrots and potatoes are too needy to be planted close to carrots.
Consider how each vegetable will feed or deplete the soil and how they may improve soil texture over time.
Always test your soil before the growing season and amend soil appropriately.
How to prepare soil for planting beets and carrots
The soil texture is so important in growing carrots and beets and it is the first thing that should be attended to.
You can work on the soil texture while you are waiting for your soil test results. (You should test your soil at the beginning of the growing season every year).
If you have very wet, heavy or clay soil you need to amend the soil with compost and peat, coffee grounds, sand, or mulch to improve the texture.
Test your soil by watering it well and checking the moisture just below the surface every 12 hours. How long does the soil hold the moisture?
If it is still very wet after 2 or 3 days right below the surface then your soil does not drain well enough for beets and carrots.
Soil that is too wet will promote root rot and other plant ailments. This type of soil can benefit from the addition of compost, vermiculite, sand, or gypsum.
When you get your soil test back you will have information about the chemicals available in your soil. Check these things before planting beets and carrots:
- Available potassium to promote root growth
- Available Boron to prevent black heart in your beets
- Available nitrogen for healthy beet growth
- Soil PH between 6 and 6.5
Carrots and beets are relatively easy crops to grow, overall they prefer balanced, light-textured soil.
Fertilize your beets every 2 to 3 weeks with a nitrogen-rich fertilizer for best yields.
Plant beets and carrots in full sun for best yields, but beets and carrots can benefit from being planted close to a taller plant that can shield them.
The Bottom Line: Fertilizing Beets and Carrots
Beets and carrots are good crop companions, but their soil nutrition needs are slightly different.
Be sure to plant beets and carrots in loose sandy soil for the prettiest carrots possible. Turn the soil with peat, vermiculite, sand, compost, mulch, coffee grounds, or gypsum.
Test your soil and aim for a balanced NPK ratio and a PH between 6 and 6.5. You want higher potassium and phosphorus for your carrots, but plenty of nitrogen for the beets.
Choose a balanced fertilizer when preparing your beds and side dress with a nitrogen-rich fertilizer when the plants are about 4 inches tall.
Be careful not to over-fertilize your beets and carrots as it can cause the splitting of the carrots.
Keep the soil moist to avoid getting woody beets.