Growing vegetables is one of the healthiest (and fun) hobbies you can take on! Starting a vegetable garden helps you prioritise your health, increases your intake of vegetables and cuts down your food bill – a win all around. And carrots are one of the best vegetables out there. Although, unfortunately, carrots won’t actually make you see in the dark, the vitamins and nutrients they contain can improve your eyesight and support your heart health[i].
However, one in eight British households don’t have a garden[ii], and we don’t want anyone to miss out on the benefits of growing your own food. Container gardening is an ever-growing trend, and for a good reason. Almost anything you can grow outdoors, you can grow in a container. So, this is how to grow carrots in containers for a bountiful harvest.
Choose A Suitable Container
Fortunately, growing carrots in containers don’t require specialist equipment. You can grow carrots in almost any container, as long as it has the proper depth. Adequate spacing and depth are essential for your carrots to develop correctly and grow well.
Usually, most carrot varieties will need a container with at least 12 inches of depth, plus around 1.5 – 2 cm of spacing between seedlings and the container edge[iii]. For specific information, check the depth requirements on the packet of the carrot variety that you’re growing.
Additionally, you don’t need to invest in a brand new container to grow carrots in. You can recycle or repurpose an old pot or container. Just make sure that it will provide plenty of drainage by drilling a few holes in the bottom. Growing any root vegetable without an efficient drainage system will cause waterlogged soil, which will lead to the vegetable rotting[iv].
Growing Carrots In Polytunnels
A mini polytunnel is an excellent option for growing carrots, whether indoors or out. A polytunnel will protect your carrots and create a microclimate to provide humidity and higher temperatures. This means you can produce various fruit and vegetables, including carrots, all year round, even if they’re out of season. Plus, since carrots require full sun, a polytunnel can help you grow these root vegetables, no matter your local climate.
Find out more about growing carrots in polytunnels.
Pick The Right Variety of Carrot
When growing carrots in containers, perfectly shaped cone carrots aren’t guaranteed. However, if you choose a variety that’s right for growing in containers, you’ll have an excellent chance for a successful harvest.
Some varieties of carrots are more suited for containers than others. For example, shorter varieties, like Oxheart, are perfect for growing in containers since their roots are only a few inches long at full maturity. On the other hand, Round carrot varieties, including Rondo and Parmex, are great for container gardeners trying to avoid oddly shaped carrots.
The most popular variety choice for growing carrots in containers is Chantaney. They have the classic carrot shape and only grow between 4 to 5 inches when fully grown.
However, the choice is up to you. There are plenty of carrot varieties suitable for container growing, but some of the best carrots to grow in containers include:
Use The Best Soil For Carrots In Containers
You can use either soil or compost to grow carrots when container gardening. The best soil for growing carrots in containers is a sandy or loamy type, but multi-purpose compost will do the job just as well.
Fortunately, growing carrots in containers has many benefits for soil. For example, you won’t have to worry about pests in the soil, and weeding won’t be required. Plus, you won’t have to worry about differing soil conditions, especially if your soil is shop-bought.
The soil or compost needs to be light and loose for optimum carrot root growth. So, before planting, use a handheld garden fork to loosen it up and remove any stones or hard bits. In addition, you must remove any obstruction since the carrot root will grow hard and deformed if it comes in contact with it.
You’ll want to fill the container with your soil or compost to within 1 inch of the top.
How To Plant Carrots In Containers
- First, add your soil or compost to your container, leaving around one inch of space at the top. Then, water it just enough to make it moist.
- Next, create the planting holes for your seeds. Make them about 1.5 cm deep and spaced around 2 cm apart from the edge of your container and other holes.
- Now, thinly sow your carrot seeds. You’ll want to fill each planting hole with 2 or 3 carrot seeds.
- Finally, once you’ve sown all your seeds, cover them with soil or compost and water lightly once more.
Caring For Carrots In Containers
Depending on the carrots you are growing, the sprouting time will vary. However, you can usually expect to see seedlings between 15 – 30 days. Once seedlings begin to develop, you’ll have to take great care of your sprouting carrots to guarantee a healthy harvest.
- Watering Your Seedlings – First, as the plant grows and seedlings develop, you must keep the soil or compost well-watered and moist to maximise growth and stop splitting roots. However, don’t soak it or make it too soggy. Ideally, you should water your carrots when the soil is dry about an inch down.
- Checking The Roots – Sometimes, if carrots haven’t had enough water, their roots can twist or deform. So check the soil every day or two and loosen or water if necessary. This will guarantee healthier root development.
- Thinning – When your seedlings have reached about three inches in height, you’ll want to thin 1 ½ to 3 inches apart. However, this depends on the size of your carrot variety. For example, narrower types will only need spacing of 1 ½ inches, whereas wider varieties will need the full 3-inch spacing. Don’t pull out any unwanted seedlings – this can damage nearby sprouts if the roots are entangled. Instead, cut off the unwanted seedlings at the soil surface.
- Hilling – If the top of the carrots roots are exposed to direct sunlight, they can become green and bitter tasting. To avoid this, monitor your carrots to see the tops of the roots push out of the soil. If they do, add a bit more soil, compost or potting mix to cover the exposed shoulders.
- Fertilising – Although it’s not essential, you can use fertiliser on container-growing carrots. Fertiliser will encourage healthier growth and more root development in your carrots, and you can apply it on a weekly basis a week or two after seedlings begin to sprout. However, you should avoid nitrogen-rich fertilisers as these will produce luscious tops but shrink the roots.
How To Harvest Carrots In Containers
Usually, carrots are ready about 12 – 16 weeks after sowing[v]. However, your seed packet will have specific details on the ‘days to maturity’ for your carrot variety, so make sure you’re aware of this information. Usually, carrots will be ready to harvest when the shoulders are about 1.5 – 2 cm in diameter[vi]. However, since this can depend on the variety, it’s best to go by the information on the seed packet.
Once you’re sure your carrots are ready to harvest, it’s time to get your hands dirty! There’s a technique to harvesting carrots – tugging at the foliage will likely result in a handful of greenery with the carrot still in the ground.
- First, if the green tops of your carrots have grown quite large, cut them down to around ¼ – ½ inches from the top of the carrot.
- Then, use a hand garden fork to loosen the soil surrounding the root. Be careful not to puncture or cut the carrots.
- Finally, grasp the root as close to the carrot as possible. Gently, ease the carrot out from the soil. If it doesn’t come out straight away, use your hand fork to loosen the soil some more until it pops straight out when you pull.
Carrots can be left in the soil for up to four weeks past their maturity days, giving you a carrot supply for a month or two. However, if you need to store fresh carrots out of the soil, ensure you do so away from apples or pears. These fruits produce a gas that will cause fresh carrots to become bitter[vii].
Carrots can be stored in a fridge for two to four weeks[viii]. Also, they can be canned, frozen or pickled to make them last longer in storage.
Growing Carrots In Containers
Carrots are an incredibly beneficial root vegetable, and knowing how to grow carrots in containers means you don’t have to miss out. With a bit of patience and care, you can have your own stock of fresh carrots all year round.
Let us know your tips on growing carrots in containers!
Sean Barker is the MD of First Tunnels, and is enthusiastic about providing quality gardening supplies to gardeners across the UK