Carrot is an excellent vegetable. It offers you with high amount of beta-Carotene or vitamin A which is good for the eye. Beta-Carotene is also an excellent anti-oxidant. It will make your skin smooth and healthy. Therefore, it is a good idea for you to grow carrots in your garden. However, growing this root vegetable can be a bit tricky. In consequence, many gardeners try growing carrots in containers.
What is Carrot?
Daucus carota or carrots are biennial plants that are mostly grown as annuals. People grow these plants mainly for their edible roots. However, carrot greens and seeds are also edible. The plants are originally from Southwestern Asia and Europe. These days, people in various countries cultivate them. Some of them are even growing carrots in containers.
However, carrots can only grow in area with cool climate. If you live in the U.S, you can grow them in USDA hardiness zones 3 to 10. Each of these vegetable plants has several triangular green stems. In every stem, you will find 8 to 12 fern-like leaves.
Each carrot plant produces one taproot. It is conical and fleshy. Most carrot plants produce orange taproots. However, some varieties produce purple carrots or red carrots. These taproots are varied in size. Some of them are as short as 5 cm long and others can reach up to 50 cm long. Meanwhile, their diameter is about 5 cm.
In the second year, carrot plants bloom in late spring. When the plant is flowering, it grows quite tall, about 1.5 m tall. The flowers are very small. They are white and bloom in clusters. These flowers will attract bees and butterflies to pollinate them. As a result, the seeds will develop.
Growing Carrots in Containers: the Requirements
To be successful in growing carrots in containers, you must provide everything needed by the plants.
Most carrot plants love to grow in full sun. However, they may tolerate partial sun, especially if they grow in warm climates. If you live in cooler climates and place the containers of the carrots in lightly shaded area, the plants will suffer from slow growth. They will also produce paler taproots.
The seeds of carrots will germinate successfully in temperature of 12oC to 24oC. In this temperature, the seeds won’t take long to germinate. However, if you plant the seeds when the temperature is cooler, they will need more time to germinate. Therefore, the best time to start growing carrots in containers is in the early spring or late summer.
During their growing season, these cool season plants thrive in temperature of 16oC to 24oC. Growing the taproot vegetables in that temperature will allow you to harvest sweeter carrots. If the weather is getting hotter, you can move the containers in a lightly shaded area. As an alternative, you can create ideal temperature by mulching the soil.
It is essential to grow carrots in loose sandy soil that is free from rocks. This kind of soil will allow the taproots to go straight and smooth. Meanwhile, rocky soil will cause misshapen taproots. For this reason, many gardeners are growing carrots in containers in which the potting they purchase is loose and free of rocks.
Moreover, it is essential for the carrots to grow in well-draining soil. Therefore, you need to choose containers that have enough drainage holes. In addition, the plants must grow in rich organic soil which pH range from 6.0 to 7.0.
Carrots love to grow in moist soil. However, maintaining the moisture of the potting soil can be a bit tricky. Therefore, you need to water the plant frequently. In addition, you must not let the soil dry between watering. However, you must avoid over watering the plants. When they are almost mature, it is essential to reduce the watering frequency.
When you are growing carrots in containers, it is necessary to consider the carrot cultivars to grow. Most cultivars can grow well in containers. However, they produce different size of carrots and they may not be suitable for your containers’ size.
You can consider these cultivars before you start growing carrots in containers.
This cultivar produces shorter orange taproots, about 10 to 13 cm long. They are wide at the top and slightly narrowing toward the blunt end. In addition, they are good for canning and long storage.
Chantenay needs 65 or 75 days to mature. If you want to grow this cultivar, you need to make sure that the temperature of the soil is between 8oC and 24oC. The seeds of Chantenay will germinate in between 1 and 3 weeks. They are adaptable to rocky soil.
If you want to harvest sweeter and crisp carrots, you must choose Nantes cultivar. It produces slightly longer taproots than Chantenay. They are almost cylindrical and about 15 cm in length. The taproots are ready to harvest in between 65 and 75 days.
It is tolerant to rocky soil. Moreover, they germinate and grow best in temperature of 8oC to 24oC. In addition, Nantes carrot seeds have the ability to germinate faster. They need a week to 2 weeks to germinate.
For you who live in warmer area, Danvers carrot will be one of your best options. The ideal temperature to grow this plant is between 15.5oC and 29oC. This cultivar offers you with cone shaped carrots. Their size is almost the same to the Nantes carrot, i.e. about 15 cm long.
Danvers carrot can tolerate heavy soil. Therefore, it is perfect for you who have clay soil in your garden. Moreover, the seeds need 6 to 21 days to germinate. Meanwhile, this cultivar requires 65 to 75 days to reach maturity.
4. Paris market
Another carrot cultivar that is perfect for container growing is Paris Market or Parisian. It is perfect for you who are a bit impatient in growing carrots in containers. If you choose to grow this cultivar, you only need to wait for 50 to 60 days to harvest the taproots. Meanwhile, the seeds need 2 to 3 weeks to germinate.
Paris Market offers you with cute carrots. They are small and round, almost like radish. The size of the taproot is only 5 cm long or even less. This cultivar must be planted in temperature of 13oC to 21oC.
5. Little finger
It offers small Nantes-like carrot. They are about 10 cm long. That’s why many people call it baby carrot. This taproot is great for pickling and canning. The carrots of this cultivar are ready to harvest in 50 to 65 days. If you want to grow this carrot, you need to make sure that the soil temperature in between 7oC to 29oC.
Steps of Growing Carrots in Containers
If your are growing carrots in containers for the first time, you don’t need to worry about being failed. Growing this root vegetable is easy.
1. Getting started
The first thing you need to do when you are growing carrots in containers is getting their right containers. The recommended containers must be at least 30 cm deep. You may need deeper containers if you grow for longer carrots. Moreover, they must have drainage holes.
Meanwhile, the width of the containers is free for you to choose. If you want to have a row of carrot plants in the container, you must choose a wide one. After you get the right container, you need to choose the area to place the container. It is important to remember that the area must get 6 hours of sun a day.
Next, add a layer of pebbles at the base. After that, you must fill in the container with high quality potting mix. It must be loose, airy, and smooth. As an alternative, you can create your own potting soil. To create it, you need to mix soil, compost, and perlite in the same proportion. In addition, you can add low-nitrogen fertilizer
2. Planting the seeds
The taproot of this plant is sensitive so that the seedlings does not transplant well. In consequence, it is better to plant the seeds directly to the container. For best result, plant the seeds outdoors 3 weeks before the last frost date if you live in cooler areas. But, in warmer areas, the best time to start growing carrots in containers is 12 weeks before the first frost date.
To sow the carrot seeds, you need to make small holes about 0.5 cm deep and 5 cm apart. After you plant the seeds in theseholes, you must cover them with fine compost. The compost will prevent the forming of a crust that will hinder germination. After that, water the soil frequently to keep it moist. Don’t forget to check for crust periodically to ensure the germination success.
The next step of growing carrots in containers is thinning the seedlings when the leaves are about 2.5 tall. Remove or snip the leaves of the weakest seedlings so that the remainders are 10 cm apart.
In addition, you must thin the plants again when their leaves are 15 cm tall. Thin them so that the remainders are 15 cm apart. At this second thinning, you will get baby carrots from the plant you pull out.
Carrot Plants Care
Growing carrots in containers require slightly different care from growing them directly to the ground.
The potting mix in the containers will dry quicker than the garden soil. Therefore, you need to water the soil more frequently. Check the moisture level of the soil regularly and water it evenly if the soil starts to dry. But, when the taproot size is ¾ of the mature size, you must reduce the amount of the water.
At the beginning of growing carrots in containers, you may have added low nitrogen fertilizer to the potting soil. However, it is not enough. You need to side dress the plants with similar fertilizer in the middle of the season.
As an alternative, you can enrich the soil with liquid fertilizer once in two weeks. However, it is only recommended if you do not fertilize the soil before planting the seeds.
3. Dealing with pests and diseases
Growing carrots in containers give you more advantages. This kind of carrot gardening is weeds free. It is great because weeding can disturb the taproot. However, you need to check for pests regularly. Flea beetles and aphids may feed on your carrots plants. Therefore, you need to control them.
Carrots usually need at least 70 days to be ready to harvest. When they are mature, you will be able to see the tops of the roots emerge above the soil. In harvesting the carrots, you need to consider the size. You can harvest them when they are in the desired size. However, you can also harvest them before they reach that size. As a result, you will get smaller but sweeter carrots.
Loosen the soil around the plants carefully. After that, pull the plants one by one gently. If you grow the carrots in the spring, you need to harvest before the weather is warmer. Warmer temperature will change the texture of the taproot and cause the plant to bolt. But, if you are growing carrots in containers in the fall, you can harvest them after a few frost days. It will make them taste sweeter.
Tips of Growing Carrots in Containers
If you want to have better experience in growing carrots in containers, you can follow these tips.
1. Successive planting
Sowing the seeds in succession will allow you to harvest carrots successively. Therefore, you will not have too many carrots at the same time. It also allows you to have fresh carrots every week.
2. Mulch the soil
To speed up the germination, some gardeners mulch the soil after the seeds are planted. Mulch will also help you to maintain moisture of the soil. Therefore, you don’t need to worry much about dry soil or crust.
3. Indoor planting
Many people grow their carrots indoor when the weather is not ideal for the carrots to grow. If you want to grow carrots indoors, you need to place the container near a sunny window. Indoor planting will allow you to harvest carrots all year round.
Growing carrots in containers is simple. Most beginners will be able to do it successfully. One of the keys to reach the success in growing carrot is deep containers. The container must be deeper than the length of the taproot.