a bunch of container grown carrots

Container Carrots: Everything you need to know!

Did you know that the OG carrots were usually yellow or purple?! The orange carrot that we know and love today was not actually developed until 17th century!

Initially they weren’t grown for the tap root but rather for the fragrant leaves. Isn’t it incredible how the food we eat has evolved?!

We love growing carrots and our preferred and most fail-safe method is actually growing them in pots. In our experience we find that by growing this way the seedlings are less prone to slug and snail attack and we also end up with much straighter roots.

What sort of container do I need?

The best part about growing in pots is that you really don’t need anything special. We usually use a basic pot that is around 50cm tall. Some people even use old potato bags or compost bags! Whatever you use just make sure that the pot is quite deep. This allows the root to grow deeper as it develops.

Are there any special soil requirements?

Carrots don’t actually need too much in the way of nutrients, unless your soil is really poor. There is no need to go for a rich soil or compost. Too rich a soil and you will end up with lots of weirdly shaped roots! The most important thing is that the soil is loose, free draining and free of stones.

How to prepare your container

We like to fill our container with soil and give the soil a good soak with water before sowing our seed. If we were to water after we sow the seeds then the seed is more likely to move around and group together.

How to sow carrot seeds

Once the soil is damp and any excess water has drained away then we can scatter our seeds lightly on the surface of the soil. You don’t want to sow too thickly but we do find it is better to sow more than what you think you will need in case any seeds don’t germinate. You can always thin the seedlings later to your desired spacing.

Scatter your seed as evenly as possible and lightly press them down so that they are in contact with the soil. Add a very thin layer of soil on the top of the seeds to protect them from drying out too quickly and add a very light sprinkle of water to moisten this final layer.

For the next few weeks just make sure that the top layer of soil does not dry out as the seeds need the moisture to help them burst into life.

Thinning your carrots

The timing of carrot thinning is all down to personal preference. You may prefer to thin early on when the seeds have germinated and growth hasn’t yet started. You may prefer to thin when the roots are starting to develop so that you can harvest baby carrots. It really is up to you. It is recommended to allow an inch or two around each carrot if you are aiming for full sized carrots. A a smaller spacing will only mean a thinner carrot so again, it is down to personal preference. When growing in pots we do like to enjoy thinner carrots and have more of them!

Carrot fly

Another benefit of pot grown carrots is that the pot can be moved to help protect from the carrot fly.

Carrot fly is a pain to any gardener who enjoys growing carrots. The carrot fly is a pesky little insect that lays its eggs near our carrots. Its larvae hatch and burrow into our beautiful roots creating those ugly brown holes and tunnels. The carrot fly tends to be active in May and June and again in August and September. Later sowings (June onwards) tend to have less risk of attack from the carrot fly but there are other ways that you can try and avoid this little pest.

  • Carrot fly can only fly to around 50cm so you can raise your pots so that they are out of reach.
  • An insect proof netting is also a good option to help protect your crop.  
  • Make the most of the benefits of companion planting by planting onions, garlic and chives near your carrots. The smell of these can be quite the deterrent for the carrot fly. Why not try growing our perennial spring onion ishikura near your carrots?
  • Be aware of thinning your carrots – carrot fly can smell the scent of a carrot from up to a mile away! If you are thinning your carrots then be sure to cover them with insect netting straight away or lift your pot to a safe height! You can avoid thinning your carrots with a less dense sowing of seed.

When to harvest

Carrots will take around three months to mature. You will soon know when they are ready to harvest when you see their shoulders popping through the soil but you can always gently move the soil around the top if you need a better look!

How to enjoy!

If you are not going to enjoy your carrots immediately then remove the greens and enjoy those while they are fresh. Carrot leaf pesto is a fun option or even a carrot leaf chimichurri.

For the roots themselves it is really personal preference on how to store them. You might prefer to leave the soil on the roots until they are needed and others like to clean them up first. Either way the carrots will last a few weeks in the fridge as long as they are unpeeled.

For longer term storage it is best to leave them unwashed and place them in a root cellar with some moist sand.

We do hope this blog post helps anyone wanting to grow more of their own food. Carrots are really really easy to grow in pots so why not have a go! We would love to hear how you get on.

Happy Sowing!