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GROWING CARROTS IN RAISED BEDS AND CONTAINERS

   

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Carrots grow far better in containers and raised beds compared to those grown open soil. Containers have crumbly compost which is the ideal growing medium for carrots. You also have total control over watering and weeding. The final benefit of growing them in containers is that they can be crammed in with no effect on cropping.


The smallest container which carrots can be grown in is really only determined by the depth of the container. 20cm / 8in deep is about the shallowest container suitable for carrots. The actual diameter of the container only affects how many carrots can be grown in the container.

Plastic, clay, round, square or oblong containers are all ideal, they make no difference whatsoever to how your carrots grow. And of course carrots can be grown in exactly the same way in raised beds.

RECOMMENDED VARIETIES OF CARROTS FOR RAISED BEDS

It's difficult to recommend specific varieties of carrots because taste varies so much. However, a few words on the different types of carrots and their names will help you make a decision on which ones you want to grow.

The first division of carrot types is between main crop carrots and early carrots. Early carrots, as the name implies mature early, they take around 12 weeks to mature. In general they are smaller and sweeter than maincrop varieties. The down side is that early carrots do not store nearly as well as maincrop carrots.

So, if you want carrots which store well then select maincrop varieties. If you want quick maturing carrots then go for earlies.

Next, are the various words which are commonly used to describe different carrot shapes and types. Nantes type carrots are earlies, medium width and length. They store reasonably well and cope with clay well.

Amsterdam type carrots are small and slender and mature quickly. They do not store well but have a sweet taste, great for eating raw. Chantenay type carrots are favoured by chefs because of their tip top flavour. They are cone-shaped and medium sized.

Autumn King type carrots are the ones to use if you want to store them over winter. The are definitely main crop and take a long time to mature. Their name might give the impression that they do well in colder climates but in fact they need a good 16 to 20 weeks of sun to mature and be ready for storage.

Which variety are we growing this year? Early Nantes 5 because they taste good, mature quickly and be sown in succession from March to mid July.

WHEN TO SOW CARROTS

Carrots are generally hardy plants and they suit cooler climates well. The seed packet will tell you when to sow them but early March is a good time to start. If you are growing early types then don't sow them all at once, sow a few at time, just enough so that they can be eaten straight from the ground.

However, if you are sowing maincrop varieties then sow all of them in mid March. They will tend to mature all together in August to September time but they can be stored for eating over winter.

HOW TO SOW CARROTS

Sowing carrots Sowing carrots in containers and raised beds is easy. Draw a line in the soil with a plant marker to form a shallow groove about 2cm / ¾in deep. Pour a small amount of seed into the crease in the palm of your hand. Then tap your hand whilst it is gently sloping down. In this way a small amount of seed will be sown. Cover the seeds lightly with the surrounding soil and gently water them.

If you are sowing more than one row then space the rows about 7cm / 3in apart. Another way of sowing carrots is to simply sprinkle them in a line on the soil as described above and then cover with thin layer of multi-purpose compost or horticultural vermiculite. Water gently over the surface.

The reason we try and limit the number of seed sown is to reduce the later need for thinning the seedlings out. With such fine seed it's easy to sow far too many increasing the time it takes to thin out the seed.

Below is our amateur video showing how we sow carrots in a raised bed. Because carrots can tolerate shade and are small plants, they are ideal candidates for inter-cropping (growing in between other plants). Our video also shows us sowing seed in a container that already has raspberry plants in it.


Video showing how to sow carrots in a raised bed or container

CARE OF CARROTS

Carrot seedling

Carrots will do fine if you follow the care instructions we give for raised beds (the same applies to container grown carrots) which can be found here. Our weekly calendar (see top left of this page) will also show what's to be done this week for the container and raised bed garden.

Water is the prime need though as far as carrots are concerned, especially if they are grown in small containers.

They may even need watering twice a day if the weather is warm and they are in the sunshine. With containers, it may be best to move your carrots into a shady position if a long warm spell is predicted.

Feed once a week with a general purpose fertilise, tomato fertiliser is even better because it will encourage better root growth.

When the carrot seedlings emerge, about ten days after sowing, thin them out in the evening (to avoid the attention of carrot fly) to about 1cm / ¼in apart. No further thinning is required because when the carrots begin to get congested simply harvest them as young plants.

HARVESTING CARROTS

To harvest carrots grown in raised beds and containers simply grip the foliage near the top of the carrot and gently ease them out of the soil. Harvest them when they are young and they will be the sweetest carrots of all.

Where you harvest carrots before mid July, sow more seed in the freed up space. They stand a very good chance of maturing before the end of the season.

STORING CARROTS

If you grow maincrop carrots then storing them over winter is a real possibility. Early October is the latest time to harvest maincrop carrots. Much later than that and the frost may get to them.

Harvest the carrots and brush off any loose soil. Leave them to dry for a few hours, outside if the weather is dry. Lightly brush off any remaining soil and store the carrots in boxes lined with sand. Place sand between the individual carrots so that they don't touch. Only store carrots which are in perfect condition. Store in a cool, dry place and inspect them every few weeks removing any that show signs of deterioration.

CARROT PEST AND DISEASE

When grown in containers, carrots are normally free from pest and disease. Carrot Fly may be a problem but not normally. The reason for this is that the carrot fly insect flies just above the soil surface. Containers are generally high enough to avoid their attention.

However, it's best to thin carrots in the evening when carrot fly are not about and to dispose of the thinnings well away from the growing carrots. If you are plagued by carrot fly however, you will need to cover the raised bed or container with horticultural fleece or similar.

You can recognise carrot fly damage only when you pull the carrots up. The carrots will be damaged with brown marks and small holes. If you cut the carrot open there may well be creamy coloured maggots present.

Always rotate carrots from one raised bed to another each year because the carrot fly pupae are quite capable of overwintering in the soil.

READER COMMENTS AND QUESTIONS ABOUT THIS PAGE

30 August 2014
From: David
Thanks, really informative article. Could you please explain what the numbers mean after the variety name. For example, 'Early Nantes 2' I assumed meant that they were 2nd earlies, but then I came across 'Early Nantes 5'. Cheers
OUR ANSWER: Good question! They are in fact just improved versions, each version increasing as they improve the variety. So, Early Nantes started off with that name then they improved it and called it Early Nantes 2, then improved again and called it Early Nantes 3 etc.

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