How to Grow Carrots in Containers
Carrots are a good place to start in gardening. They require minimal care and effort you are almost guaranteed a delicious harvest.
I prefer the odd colors of carrot seed. With any vegetable, if it’s an odd color you can bet I’ll try growing it.
Seeds such as Purple Haze and Kaleidoscope mix carrot which is a mix of white, yellow and orange carrot seeds in one package. Sometimes, in the stores you can find packages of only white carrot seeds.
Order them through the Seed and Bulb Sources page here on Backyard Food Growing, it saves your time and effort of trying to find them in the stores.
They are different, delicious and beautiful on a veggie platter especially combined with Purple Haze.
Types of Carrot
There are many varieties of carrots, all with different strengths, sizes and characteristics meant to suit a multitude of growing conditions.
The main types are shown in the image and are: Imperator, Chantenay and Nantes.
For container gardening you’ll want to choose a smaller variety with a smaller mature size.
- Purple Dragon carrots are thick and stumpy with a thick purple ring
- Purple Haze is longer and slimmer with a thinner purple ring
- Kaleidescope Mix is great, with white, yellow and shades of orange carrot seeds
I prefer Purple Haze, white, yellow and all the odd colors. Then when you pick them young, they are so sweet and delicious. This is a great way to introduce kids to gardening and might even make carrots more interesting for them to eat.
If you really want to you can choose carrots with a large mature size and then just pick them before the “days to maturity” number is met. They will be younger and sweet.
Carrots prefer a looser, lighter soil with perlite mixed in. This makes it easier for the roots to grow long and straight down.
If the soil is dense then the carrots will be shorter, more stumpy and sometimes growing in odd directions with two or three legs. If they run into a rock or are grown in rocky soil then the carrots will grow around them to become crooked and bent.
For a small number of tubs or containers then I recommend buying good quality bagged potting soil for containers from your local garden center.
Type of Container
Carrots will be happy growing in any container that is more than 12″ deep. I recommend 18″or 24″ for lots of “leg room”. A raised bed is fine too.
Those options offer plenty of room because you will likely be harvesting early (before they get to the size stated on the package) and getting delicious sweet “young” carrots.
Carrots are 60 to 75 days to harvest depending on variety and mature size. They prefer the cooler weather of spring and early fall.
You can plant successive crops every couple of weeks in the spring and early summer. If you have the space use a few containers and then you’ll get a longer harvest lasting into fall.
Carrot seeds are teeny-teeny-teeny and very hard to manage. Once sprinkled on the soil they can be hard to see so it’s difficult plant the right amount. It’s very easy to over-plant a carrot container.
The image to the right is an example of an over-planted container. If this happens you’ll need to carefully cut out some of the small ones to leave room for the larger ones to grow.
Use sharp scissors and cut them off at ground level, the root will die and feed the soil while allowing the stronger seedling room to grow.
If you just pull them out there is the risk of damaging or pulling out neighboring sprouts and killing them too, best to snip them.
Buy a Seeder
It’ll save you a lot of wasted seeds. There are inexpensive little gadgets called “seeders” that you can buy at the garden center or online that help you sprinkle a controlled amount of seeds easily.
Some operate with air suction, some by sprinkling through size controlled holes. Choose the one you like best, they range from $5 to $20.
They are really a big help to prevent over seeding. They are cheap enough that you can buy both kinds (sprinkle and air suction) and decide which you like best.
Planting the Seeds
Sprinkle the seeds on the soil. One package goes quite far and will be enough for 2 large 18″ containers, like the ones in the image. I have a habit of putting too many.
Use a gentle sprinkler to water them at the beginning. Doing this ensures you don’t turn up the soil and disturb the seeds. Use a watering can with small holes or a hand sprinkler with a soft spray.
Put 3 or 4 blocks or “pot feet” under the container so it doesn’t sit directly on the ground. This is important for air flow and drainage. Ensure the container and soil line stays level.
Days to Sprout
If there is no rain, water them enough so that the surface doesn’t dry and form crust and also to keep the top few inches of soil moist. There should be sprouts popping up in 14 – 17 days.
However, the seeds will lie dormant or cease growing if the temperature dips or isn’t high enough to meet their ideal growing temperature. They will resume growing when the temperature rises. The optimum temperature for them is 16 – 18 degrees Celsius (61 – 64 degrees Fahrenheit).
Keep them lightly watered but not too wet while they grow. 60 to 75* days from planting you’ll start to pick the size carrots you can use for dinner and snacking on. Wash off the soil and you won’t even have to peel them, they will have a deliciously irresistible earthy flavor.
This should be enough instruction to get you going when you want to learn how to grow carrots in containers.
Please leave a comment below if you need additional help getting your delicious carrot garden started.
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