When considering a porch or patio container garden, there are certain plants that always tend to come to mind. Veggies like cherry tomatoes, squash, and even sugar snap peas are all great candidates for planting in pots. One group of plants that shouldn’t be overlooked, however, are root veggies.
While it is true that these plants require more soil and some extra room to grow compared to other crops, it is possible to grow them without an in-ground garden. And carrots, especially, tend to be easy for novice container gardeners to work with.
If you are looking to expand your patio garden selection or would just love a simple way to grow tasty carrots at home, we have all the tips and tricks to get you on your way to a bountiful harvest.
The Benefits of Growing Carrots in Pots
When you are trying to grow a veggie whose edible bits exist completely beneath the soil, it would seem like planting them in a garden with unlimited depth would be the best option. But the truth is, planting carrots in containers might actually increase your harvest while saving you loads of work.
For one, well-structured and picturesque root veggies require well-tilled, rock-free soil to grow. Any hard clumps of clay or debris that get in the way of your tuber will result in malformed carrots. Poor soil can even affect the nutrient profile of your carrots.
The issue of bad soil is easily remedied by using containers filled with organic commercial potting soil. These prepared soils are free from rocks and other large debris and perfectly mixed to allow water and nutrients to move freely.
In addition to saving you work with soil prep, planting your carrots in containers will also help avoid some of the diseases that often plague this plant. Soil dwelling weevils and other bug larvas often snack on carrots while they grow. By putting your carrots in pots, you can easily protect them from these nasty pests.
Other common diseases such as those brought by fungus and bacteria are also less common in potted plants, assuming you are diligent about thinning your crop to increase airflow around the greens.
As long as you have the proper setup and follow a few simple tips, planting carrots in pots is actually less work than putting these root veggies in your garden beds.
8 Simple Tips for Growing Carrots in Containers
Carrots are an easy, fun veggie to grow for gardeners of all ages and experience levels. But if you want a generous crop of sweet and crunchy roots, you’ll want to read through these eight tips before you get started.
1. Choose a Sunny Location
The vast majority of carrot varieties out there need at least six hours of full sun to grow well. So you’ll want to choose a south or west-facing location around your home to put your pots. Do keep in mind, though, that carrots are cool-season plants so you may need to move your pots to a slightly shadier location once the heat picks up toward the end of the spring season.
2. Select the Right Carrot Variety
There are limitless options when it comes to carrot varieties, but for container planting, you’ll want to focus on those types that tend to be smaller and rounder. It is possible to grow your more traditional long carrot in a pot, but you will need a much deeper container if you go that route. We recommend sticking to the fun heirloom varieties that tend to be smaller and come in a number of beautiful and nutritious colors.
3. Choose a Deep Container
When it comes to how deep a planter box needs to be to grow carrots, it really depends on the type of carrot you’ve chosen. Typically, you’ll want a container that is about twice as deep as the mature size of your carrot variety. For most options, a 12-inch deep pot will work. But for longer carrots, you may be better off choosing a larger, deeper tub-type planter.
You should also assure your container has plenty of drainage holes to avoid soggy soil that can lead to root rot. Fill your containers with organic potting soil that is premixed for optimal moisture retention.
4. Plant Your Seeds Before the Last Freeze
Because carrots are a cool-season plant, you’ll want to get your seeds in the soil before the last freeze so they will germinate just as spring takes over. If you live in a more mild climate, you can typically plant your pots as the weather begins to warm and leave them in the sun for the two to three weeks it will take the carrots to germinate.
If, on the other hand, you live in a colder climate, you may consider keeping your freshly sowed pots inside until the risk of a hard freeze has passed. This will extend your growing season by a couple of weeks and help speed germination.
5. Thin Your Crop
Once your seedlings are about an inch or two, it’s time to thin out the crop. This is important for the health of your plants since overcrowding reduces airflow and breeds disease, and also to assure you get plenty of well-structured carrots come harvest time. Reference your seed packet for the exact specifications on space requirements. Try to target the smallest and weakest seedlings first. Thinning your crop slowly over the course of a couple of weeks is a good way to assure you leave only the healthiest plants behind.
- Pro Tip: Instead of pulling unwanted seedlings out, use a pair of scissors to clip them off at the base. This will assure the roots of nearby sprouts aren’t disturbed.
6. Water and Feed Frequently
As is usually the case when growing veggies in containers, frequent watering is a must. You want to keep the soil moist without overwatering or allowing it to dry out. Early in the season, you may be able to get away with watering every other day, but as the days heat up, you’ll want to check your soil every day and water as needed.
All that watering will leach nutrients from your soil, so expect to have to fertilize about every three to four weeks. Choose a low nitrogen, organic fertilizer to keep the roots growing well and the greens at a more modest size.
7. Harvest When the Root Is Visible
When it comes to how long carrots take to grow in containers, it will depend on the variety. But you can expect most types to be ready to pick around 75 days after germination. Look for the tops of the carrots to be visible just above the soil as a good indication that it’s time to harvest. Start by just picking a few plants from different areas in the pot to assure the carrots have fully matured before pulling all the plants up.
8. Sow a Second Crop
In many climates, it is possible to sow a second crop of carrots to harvest just before the first freeze in late autumn. For short-seasoned latitudes, plant a new round of seeds immediately after picking your first crop. For warmer climates, you may need to wait a month before starting again. In either case, protect your seedlings from the harsh summer sun by using shade fabric or moving your pot to a cooler location.
How to Use Your Homegrown Carrots
Once you have your beautiful, colorful carrots out of the ground and into the kitchen, you have endless options of how to use them.
Of course, nothing beats a crunchy, raw carrot fresh from the soil, but there are also endless ways to cook carrots that you may grow to love even more. Try roasting your carrots with other root veggies and some onions for a tasty treat. Or saute them up with a selection of other spring veggies in a delectable stir fry. You can even incorporate this nutritious root vegetable into a number of desserts and snacks.
Of course, one of the great things about carrots and other root veggies is how easily they store. If you find yourself with an extra-large harvest, cut the greens off the top and place the carrots in a container and cover with water. Keep them in the fridge out of the light and swap out the water about once a week to keep them fresh and crisp.
However you choose to prepare the carrots from your harvest, you can feel good knowing that you grew these tasty veggies all by yourself from a tiny, inexpensive seed. (Even if it really didn’t take all that much work!)
Feature photo: ©darksoul72/Bigstock