How to Grow Carrots in Containers
The humble little carrot, in Latin its name is Daucus carota.
Carrots of any type or colour are a great way to get yourself or the kids started in gardening.
They require little skill, minimal care and minimal effort. You’re almost guaranteed a delicious harvest in the late summer with spring planting effort.
Carrots are high in beta-carotene, vitamin B6, vitamin C, niacin and calcium. A carrot is actually the young root of a plant that looks a lot like Queen Ann’s Lace.
There are many unusual colours of carrot, such as Purple Haze that you’ll sometimes see in the stores. The yellow, white and red carrots look beautiful too but are not often found in the stores.
Long ago, in the days when everyone had a backyard garden, carrots were always multicoloured – that was normal. Somewhere along the way though ‘we’ decided that carrots should be orange and the other colours fell into obscurity for several decades.
Now with the benefits of eating local organic food becoming so obvious and important, the other colours of carrots are making a bold reappearance.
If you shop at farmers markets or in the speciality markets you may see some purple carrots or maybe a bag of mixed colour, young rainbow carrots.
If you’re starting from seed, then pick up the seed packages labelled Kaleidoscope mix. It’s a seed mixture of white, yellow and different shades of orange carrot in one package.
It’s a bit more interesting than just orange carrots on their own.
Here’s a fun idea, before planting, mix the purple carrot seeds and Kaleidoscope mix carrot seeds in the seeder (buy a seeder here) together and then start planting.
Doing this makes it a super fun way to grow and pick, especially for kids because you never know which colour is going to pop up next!
There are so many different, delicious and beautiful types of carrot that you can grow. You can use the harvest on a summer veggie platter and create a gorgeous rainbow and amaze your guests.
Types of Carrot
There are many varieties of carrots, all with different sizes and characteristics meant to suit a multitude of growing conditions and needs.
The main types are: Imperator, Chantenay, Danvers and Nantes. It’s not pictured here but the Danvers carrot looks like a short. stumpy Imperator.
For container gardening you’ll want to choose a smaller variety with a smaller mature size and fewer days to maturity.
- Purple Dragon carrots are thicker and a bit stumpy with a thick purple ring
- Purple Haze is longer and slimmer like the imperator with a thinner purple ring
I prefer Purple Haze because they are slimmer and have a softer texture and when you pick them young, they’re so sweet and delicious.
Carrots prefer a looser, lighter soil with some perlite mixed in. This makes it easier for the roots to grow long and straight down. The ideal pH for them is 6.0 to 6.8.
For a small number of tubs or containers then I recommend buying good quality bagged potting soil for vegetables in containers. Buy it here.
If the soil is dense or rocky, the carrots will struggle to grow through it. They 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 sprouts will grow around them and become crooked and bent in crazy ways.
I don’t recommend digging up existing garden soil to put in a container. It’s too dense and will be very hard packed and an unfavourable environment for the carrot seeds to sprout.
Type of Container
All varieties of carrots will be happy growing in any container that is a decent size and more than 12″ deep. The one seen here to the right is 15″ deep. Planting in a raised bed is a good method too.
These methods offer plenty of depth for them to grow. It’s very likely that you’ll be harvesting them early anyway.
Carrots usually take 60 to 75 days to harvest depending on variety. They are a cool weather crop and prefer the cooler weather of spring and early fall. They grow well in zones 4-10.
If you have the space, you can plant successive crops every couple of weeks in the spring and late summer as long as you have enough time before the winter freeze. This will give you a longer harvesting window and many carrots for delicious meals and snacks.
Carrot seeds are very tiny and hard to manage. Once they’ve been sprinkled on the soil they are quite hard to see so it becomes difficult to know when you’ve planted the right amount. It’s very, very easy to over plant a carrot container.
If this happens and you accidentally put down too many seeds, it’s ok, just leave it and allow them sprout. Let them grow to about 1″ – 2″ tall.
Then carefully cut out the smaller sprouts with scissors (don’t pull them out). It’s easy to damage neighbouring sprouts.
The root will die and feed the soil while allowing the stronger seedlings room to grow. If the seeds are over crowded then none of them will grow large and healthy. Plant approximately 4 seeds per square inch.
This leaves room for the larger ones to grow healthy and strong. This doesn’t happen if the seeds are over crowded.
There are a smaller variety of seeds that are available in “pelleted” form. The term pelleted means that each seed has been coated in an inert, organic clay material. This makes them much larger and easy to handle and they’re really easy to see once sprinkled on the soil.
The coating quickly dissolves in the rain and the seed sprouts normally. Seed Tape is another good way to simplify the task of planting the tiny little seeds. The drawback is that only a few selected varieties are available in tape form.
It’ll save you a lot of time and wasted seeds.
These inexpensive little gadgets called “seeders” that you can buy easily right here that will help you sprinkle a controlled amount of seeds.
The one seen to the right is effective by offering a succession of holes each increasing in size for sprinkling through larger and larger seeds.
This seeder design is very precise, the Tenax Precision Air Suction Seeder will allow you to pick up one seed at a time to have complete control over how many seeds are applied to the soil.
They’re really a big help to prevent over seeding, choose the one you like the best.
Planting the Seeds
One package of seeds will go quite far and will be enough for 2 large 18″ containers. I can never resist wanting to put more seeds than that in to two containers. Nom-nom-nom…more beautiful carrots! It’s important to resist doing this, too many seeds in one container is not better.
Anyway, once they’re planted and covered with a thin layer of soil, pat it down just a little. Then use a gentle sprinkler to water them so as not to turn up the soil and disturb the seeds. Use a watering can with small holes or a handheld hose wand with a soft spray.
Days to Sprout
They don’t need tons of water but it does need to be consistently moist. If there is no rain, keep them watered by hand enough so that the surface doesn’t dry and form crust.
It’s important to keep the top few inches of soil moist until they sprout. Then if the outside temperature is right, you should see sprouts popping up in 14 – 17 days.
It’s important to know that the seeds will lie dormant, grow very slowly or stop growing completely right where they are if the temperature dips after planting or isn’t high enough to meet their ideal growing conditions to sprout.
The optimum temperature for them is a consistent 13º C or higher.
They will resume growing as though nothing happened when the temperature rises into this range. They don’t like to be too hot either, the seedlings begin to suffer in temperatures higher than 30º C.
Keep them lightly watered but not too wet while they grow. The top few inches of soil should stay moist all the time.
Then 60 – 75 days from planting you’ll be able to start to picking the size carrots you can use for dinner and snacking on. It’s really hard to wait that long though!
What’s with the green shoulders?
As the carrots grow it may happen that they will push up out of the soil a little bit. This exposes the top end of the carrot (the shoulders) to the sun and causes it to turn green. This isn’t unhealthy it’s just not very nice looking.
The way to remedy this problem if it happens is to reserve a bit of soil in the bag, and when you see the shoulders starting to show, just add a bit more soil to cover them up again to block out the sun.
When picking select the ones with the largest, thickest greens and then gently pull them up, sometimes they need a wiggle.
Wash or brush off the soil and enjoy. You won’t even have to peel them, they′ll have a deliciously irresistible, earthy flavour.
This should be enough instruction to get you going with learning how to grow carrots in containers or raised beds.
Carrot Facts Summary
*Very tiny seeds
*Easy to grow
*Cool weather crop
*Seeds sprout at about 13º C
*Prefer loose, loamy soil
*pH of 6.0 to 6.8
*Nearly pest free when grown in containers
Please leave a comment below if you need additional help getting your delicious, colourful carrot garden started.