How to grow carrots in containers

Almost anyone can grow carrots! It doesn't matter if you live in an apartment or have super rocky soil, because these tasty root vegetables grow really well in containers. Carrots thrive in containers because they prefer the loose, well-draining, rock-free potting soil and they don't have to compete with weeds. The best carrots for containers are the short, round "ball" types or Nantes varieties, which have 4- to 6-inch-long cylindrical roots with blunt ends. If you want to trying growing carrots in containers, all you will need to get started is a spot that gets at least 6 hours of sunlight a day, a pot and high-quality potting soil. Now for the rest.

Choose a pot that has a drainage hole in the bottom and is at least 12 inches deep and 18 inches wide. The frilly foliage of carrots looks especially pretty in rectangular window-box type planters. Planting concentric circles of carrots in a large, low, round planter also looks super cool.

Fill the pot up with a high-quality potting mix, leaving about an inch of space from the top of the soil and the rim of the pot. Then, water the soil well and let it drain. I know it seems strange to water the potting soil before you plant, but it you don't, the lightweight mix tends to float up the first time you water, dislodging your carefully placed seeds. When shopping for soil mix, look for a brand that does not come pre-mixed with synthetic time-released fertilizers or water absorbing polymers. Plants grow just fine without these chemical add-ins.

Good carrot varieties for containers include: "Parmex," a round, orange, ball type; "Kinbi," a bright yellow carrot with short, tapered roots and "Nelson," a 6-inch-long Nantes type carrot with a very sweet flavor (see Resources below). If you can't find these particular varieties, look for one that grows less than 6 inches long.

Try to space your carrot seeds about 1 inch apart in rows that are 6 inches apart. Pat the seeds into the damp potting soil to ensure good soil-to-seed contact and then cover them with a very light layer of soil. Water the carrots in with a gentle stream of water, being careful not to dislodge the seeds. Carrot seeds are very tiny, so don't worry if you end up seeding them thickly. You'll have to thin them out as they grow anyway.

The main challenge when growing carrots is keeping the seed consistently moist while you wait for the seeds to germinate-which can take up to 2 weeks if the weather is cool. To prevent the seeds from drying out, soak 3 cups of peat moss in water overnight. Spread a thin layer of the peat moss over the planted carrot seeds and keep it consistently moist by spraying it with a mist of water daily (you may need to water more than once if the weather is really warm).

After a week, begin checking underneath the peat moss for signs that the carrot seeds are germinating. Gently remove the peat moss as soon as you see the feathery seedlings pop out of the soil. When the seedlings are about 2 inches tall, thin them to an inch apart. To thin, simply use scissors to snip off the seedlings you don't want at the soil line.

Keep the potting soil evenly moist as the carrots grow. If you let the soil dry out and then flood it with water, the carrots may crack. Fertilize with a liquid organic fertilizer every 3 weeks. The carrots should be ready to harvest about 70 to 80 days after you sow the seed.

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