Most gardeners have had trouble getting a good carrot crop. Carrots are somewhat finicky plants and require specific conditions to grow well. Although soil is most important for every plant, it’s doubly so for carrots. This is why they actually grow better and more plentiful in containers in a controlled soil environment.
Containers have the advantage of having great soil (since you only put the best in there) that is free of large rocks and other impediments to straight carrot growth. The soil is also loose and airy, helping the carrots dig deeper more easily.
Soil for Container Carrots
You should use the best potting soil you can muster. It should be loose, but not sandy. Good compost mixed with good, loose topsoil, purchased potting mixes, a peat mix, or any other mix that is high in nutrients and free of rocks and disease will work well.
Nearly every time, you’ll have weed-free growing and few (if any) pest problems when growing in pots. The containers do need to be fairly deep in order to allow the carrots to grow down. Pots at least a foot deep are best.
Carrot Varieties to Grow in Containers
Most carrot types will grow well in containers. In shorter containers, try Parmex, which grows in a roundish ball. Kinbi is a yellow variety that is relatively short as is Nelson, which is a Nantes variety that grows only about six inches long and has a lot of flavor – a favorite amongst juicers. Most varieties don’t grow longer than 1 foot, but you’ll want to stick with those that are in the 6-9 inch range if you can.
How and When to Plant and Harvest Container Carrots
Planting can be done at any time the weather will be warm enough for the carrots to grow. Many container growers have their containers on wheeled carts or able to be lifted with a hand truck and will grow indoors, taking them outside during the day and back in over the frosty night. This can allow most people to grow all year round.
Plant as you would in the ground, following the packet instructions. Most carrot seeds are “drilled” into the ground about a quarter of an inch or so. Then watered carefully. You can also “broadcast” plant carrot seeds and cover them with a thin layer of soil or vermiculate.
Once the seedlings are sprouted and about an inch high, begin thinning. You can pull them or cut them back, but thin them down to about one or two inches apart. These sprouts can be eaten as any other sprout and are great salad toppers, so don’t throw them out!
When the carrot reach the young “baby carrot” stage where the plants are about six or seven inches high and the root is about two or three inches long, thin them again. You want to leave the remainder about six inches apart. These baby carrots that you’ve pulled are excellent eating and are young and tender.
Carrots will need fertilizer every couple of weeks. This can be a good compost tea, commercial potting plant fertilizer, or whatever you’d prefer. It should be a basically even mix (10-10-10). They will need water regularly – about every two or three days, depending on your climate.
You can harvest at about 70 days. If you plant your carrots in rotation in containers, you can have a continual harvest all year!