Real Men Sow

Growing Carrots in Containers

containercarrotsDo your carrots look more like stumpy three legged people than those perfectly straight shop bought specimens?

Yep, mine too. My problem is that stony, heavy ground that either splits my roots or stunts the growth altogether. There’s nothing more disappointing than spying a fat looking carrot top poking through the soil, only to find the result is nothing more than a nubbin when pulled up.

So, what’s the solution? A quick and easy option is to try growing carrots in containers. I’ve been experimenting with this over the past couple of years, and have just harvested the first of my July sown Autumn King.

Carrot Containers
My favourite type of carrot container are the old recycling boxes that my local Council dispose of from time to time. They’re 40cm wide, 35cm deep and 50cm long, and already have a few holes pre-drilled in the bottom for drainage. These containers are good for the bigger, maincrop carrots such as Autumn King.

Short or round salad carrots like Parmex or Early Nantes can be grown in shallower containers. I’ve used window box planters and other vessels of similar dimensions, as well as florist buckets. Last Spring I had a very productive harvest of little, sweet Early Scarlet Horn from a wooden planter which was only 15cm deep.

The Soil
My most successful soil for container carrots has been a mix of cheap Wickes peat free multipurpose compost and some leaf mould. Carrots like the soil light, and I’ve found this to be a good growing medium. The compost isn’t of great quality, but the leaf mould adds a gentle improver and helps retain moisture.

That said, container soil does dry out quicker than normal, so make sure you water regularly. I’ve found that carrots dehydrate if the soil is left to go too dry.

When sowing, I sprinkle plenty of seeds on the surface of the soil before covering with more soil so they are about an inch deep. I don’t scrimp with carrot seeds, as there are thousands in a packet and you can pick up free or very cheap carrot seeds all over the place in Spring time. Magazines are always giving them away, and many retailers sell packets for less than a quid.

I don’t bother with rows in containers, but I do try and get an even spread of seeds. I don’t thin the seedlings, but this is more through laziness than any wisdom! In theory, thinning gives more space for the carrots to grow big, so if you’re more on the ball than me this could be worth doing.

I harvest a carrot when a rub around the surface shows a good width top. Be gentle when lifting as it is easy to snap a carrot in half if you force the root out of the ground.

Of course, with carrots so cheap in the shops, you might argue that buying soil specifically for growing them a bit of a waste of time, but you can replenish the soil at the end of each year with leaf mould or compost, so this is a one off purchase.

And for me, there is something very satisfying about mastering carrots. Plucking a long, straight specimen from the ground is a great feeling and for me, hard won – particularly if your soil is difficult and you’ve had to try something different.

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  1. Dominika NaskováNovember 20, 2013 at 8:48 pmReply

    Thanks for your recommendation – as we have a new plot with rather heavy soil, I seek for any tips for container planting (I assume that especially carrots would not stand our soil).

    Best regards

  2. @spadeforkspoonNovember 20, 2013 at 9:03 pmReply

    I grew carrots in a container this year too. We’ve got heavy and stony soil and this has been the only year we’ve had a decent crop. Great idea to use recycling boxes.

  3. @allotmentbabeNovember 20, 2013 at 10:25 pmReply

    I have grown a few carrots in an old barrel, for the last couple of years. I usually make my first sowing like this and cover with a bit of fleece. Have had pretty good results. More expensive than growing in the ground, but the results make it worth it.

  4. david shinnNovember 21, 2013 at 9:36 pmReply

    Hi Jono,
    I grew Harlequin carrots in high pots this year,mainly to guard against carrot root fly.
    If your boxes are 35mm deep then the root fly were probably banging their heads against the sides..

  5. Jono

    JonoNovember 24, 2013 at 9:38 pmReplyAuthor

    Hi all – thanks for your comments. Should have talked about the carrot fly trick in the post, thanks for reminding me :)

  6. Lisa HectorNovember 25, 2013 at 8:57 pmReply

    Hey Jono,

    I grew carrots in containers this year for the first time and they were a great success! It was my neighbour that gave me the tip as her brother had told her the best thing to grow them in is pure compost. I also didn’t grow them in the veg garden, I grew them up by the house in a really sheltered sunny spot so they obviously liked it.
    I was planning to add the compost to my other beds as part of my rotation plan and use fresh compost in the pots next year, mainly because I don’t want to encourage carrot fly by growing them in the same soil again. Do you think just adding a bit of leaf mould next year would be enough nourishment for a second crop, with no risk of the dreaded fly…?
    Great post!
    Lisa :)

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meIn 2007, I took on a redundant allotment plot with my gardening-mad mum Jan. As all good mums do, she went along with it, but I don’t think she held out much hope. However, over a decade later, and she now lets me do stuff without watching over my shoulder, so I must be doing something right. [ read more ]

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