Growing carrots in containers: An easy way to grow carrots anywhere!

You don’t need a garden to grow carrots! This popular root vegetable is easy to grow in containers, window boxes, and planters. Growing carrots in containers is a fun way to grow food in the smallest of spaces as well as on decks, patios, and balconies. And with a little planning, you can succession plant pots of carrots for a non-stop harvest from early summer through late fall.
Why grow carrots in containers
There are many reasons to consider growing carrots in containers. First, you can grow them anywhere you have a bit of space and some sunshine. You don’t have to worry about rocky, weedy, or infertile soil as you control the growing medium when planting in pots. And because you’ll be growing them in stone-free soil, the roots can grow straight and fork-free.
Because carrots are slender plants, you can also pack quite a few in a single pot! Carrots can be grown in any type of container, but you need to select pots that are deep enough to accommodate the roots of your chosen variety. You’ll find plenty of details on the different carrot types and varieties below, but root length ranges from 2 inches to a foot or more, so choose accordingly. Before filling them with the growing medium, make sure they’re clean and have drainage holes on the bottom.
Planting carrots in containers
Once the pots are filled with the growing medium, water and mix to ensure it’s evenly moist. Whether you want to grow carrots that are orange, black, or something else on the color spectrum, you’ll need to know how to start them from seed. Carrots do not transplant well – the roots are sensitive to disturbance, so seed sowing is a must. Choose your seeds and select a garden spot with full sun, one where you can create a carrot paradise. This paradise will consist of loose, sandy loam soil that is well-draining.
Level the soil and sow seeds a half inch apart and a quarter inch deep. Carrot seeds are quite small and you may prefer to use pelleted seeds or strips of seed tape to make planting easier. Try to plant carefully so the seeds are evenly spaced. Seed planted in dense clumps will need careful thinning.
One the pot is planted, water with a fine spray of water from a watering can or a hose nozzle set to the mist or shower setting. Avoid watering with a hard jet of water as that can dislodge the small seeds. Like garden carrots, those grown in containers need at least 6 to 8 hours of sun each day so move the container to a spot where it receives plenty of light.
Once the seeds have germinated and the plants are growing well, there are a few ongoing tasks you can do to help ensure a bumper crop of potted carrots:
1. Watering
Carrots appreciate lightly moist, but not wet soil. Pay attention to soil moisture, watering when the soil is dry about an inch down (stick your finger into the potting mix to check). The roots of drought-stressed carrots can fork or twist but checking the soil every day or two helps to ensure healthy root development.
2. Thinning
Once the seedlings are two to three inches tall, thin them 1 1/2 to 3 inches apart. I use garden snips to cut the unwanted seedlings off at the soil surface. Pulling them out may damage nearby seedlings if their roots were entangled.
3. Fertilizing
To promote healthy growth, fertilize the container every 3 to 4 weeks with a liquid organic vegetable fertilizer or compost tea. Avoid high nitrogen fertilizers which encourage lush tops but small roots.
4. Hilling
As carrots grow the tops of the roots can sometimes push out of the ground. If you notice this happening, just add a bit more potting mix to cover the shoulders. If they’re exposed to direct sunlight the tops of the roots can turn green and become bitter tasting.
How to harvest carrots in containers
Most varieties of carrots are ready two to three months from seeding. Check your seed packet for specific ‘days to maturity’ information. Not sure if yours are ready to harvest? The best way to check is to pull a root and see how big it is. Of course you don’t need to wait until the roots have matured to start the harvest. All varieties can be pulled once the roots are large enough to eat. If the roots aren’t bulging from the ground, brush back some of the dirt around the crowns to see how big they are. If they need more time, cover them back up and check again in a couple of weeks.
When you’re ready to harvest, first loosen the soil with a shovel, garden fork, or broadfork, being careful not to damage the roots, so that you can pull them up without breaking them.
Wipe off excess soil and cut off greens to prepare for storage. For long term storage, either leave fall crops in the ground and mulch heavily, or place them in a bucket of moist sand in a cool cellar. For short term storage, clean the roots thoroughly and place them in a perforated bag in the fridge.
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