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Grow Carrots in Containers

Carrots are a popular and versatile root vegetable, and have been grown in this country since they were introduced from Holland in the late 16th Century. They can be eaten raw, steamed or boiled and are tasty and nutritious, being a source of beta- carotene and Vitamin A.They are also high in fibre and low in calories. There are many varieties to choose from, including short carrots, baby carrots, Chinese carrots, and ones which are yellow and purple. Most gardeners choose the traditional orange and long variety as being the most suitable for growing in containers.

The advantages of growing carrots in containers are:

  • Containers take up much less space than even a raised bed so are ideal if you do not have a large garden or much space generally.
  • The carrots do not have to compete with soil pests and weeds, so many gardeners consider that they actually do better in containers.
  • They grow smoothly and straightly as their growth is unimpeded by stones in the soil.
  • Containers are an ideal solution if you live in an area with clay.
  • The delicate and feathery green leaves also make it an attractive plant to have on a patio.

The best time of year to grow carrots, in the United Kingdom, is in the spring as they need at least 6 hours of sunlight a day to grow, so choose your location carefully.

Grow Carrots in Containers

Photo by Ed Yourdon via Flickr

How to sow the seeds:

  • Potting compost is the best sort of soil to use. Any size or shape plant container will do as long as it has a depth of at least 8 inches.
  • Prepare the potting compost by adding some fertiliser and then giving the soil plenty of water.
  • Sow the seeds from April to June, in the same way as you would if sowing directly on the ground.
  • Make small drills about 1/2 inch deep and sow the seeds thinly along the drills, with about 6 inches between the rows. If using a circular container, you could experiment by sowing the seeds in different shapes and patterns, such as a spiral.
  • Cover the drills carefully with compost and water.

Make sure the seedlings do not dry out in the early stages, keep the soil moist at all times. This is the trickiest stage of the growing process. Once the young seedlings are about 1 inch tall , it is time to start thinning. The seedlings need to be regularly thinned, by removing the weakliest looking seedlings until the distance between the young plants is approximately 2 inches.

Most carrots take approximately three months to fully mature, but the young tender roots are the sweetest so they can be harvested throughout the summer. Gently pull the early roots up by hand as soon as they are big enough to eat. You could leave some to grow until October, for a mature carrot that can be stored over winter.

Growing Courgettes in Containers

Courgettes can be similarly grown in tubs. As they are one of the most prolific plants, it can be prudent and easier to buy established seedlings from a garden centre in the spring and plant them directly into well fertilised containers or into tomato grow-bags.

  • Protect the plants from late frosts by keeping them in a greenhouse or by placing them under cloches or polythene bags.
  • They are very thirsty plants, with a deep root system and require plenty of water and fertiliser.
  • Interestingly, courgette flowers can be either male or female and bees are necessary to pollinate them, so in rainy, cold weather, with fewer bees around, the plants may remain unfertilised.
  • When the courgettes are 4-6 inches long, they are ready to be harvested. Cut the fruits carefully with a knife, close to the stalk. Regular cutting ensures continuing production.

Growing Vegetables at Home: The Basics

Most people have a small space in their garden, or even in their house, that could be used for growing plants. This article is going to focus on ways to begin growing vegetables and address some of the challenges that you might face.

The first thing to do is to assess the space available to you. Anyone with a garden that receives sunlight for at least five hours of the day should be capable of growing most vegetables. If you just want to grow vegetables in pots then this is also possible, but you will be restricted to certain plants. Large root vegetables, such as potatoes and carrots, are naturally quite impractical to grow in pots.

Growing Vegetables

Growing Vegetables photo by Moncton Gardener via Flickr

Once you have decided where you would like to grow your plants the next thing you have to do is to decide what you would like to grow. Good vegetables to start off with are runner beans, carrots, tomatoes and even courgettes – it’s important to grow something that you enjoy eating. For the average, amateur grower the amount of vegetables they produce will rarely exceed their own requirements, at least for the first couple of years, so don’t worry about having more than you can comfortably eat.

Now you know what vegetables you want to grow you need to buy some seeds. There are many places that stock them, anywhere from garden centres to newsagents. Typical vegetable seeds are quite cheap, usually under two or three pounds. However, the number of seeds that come in a packet varies significantly based on the type of vegetable. For example, a packet of carrot seeds may contain about a hundred seeds whereas a packet of bean seeds may only contain about twenty. This variation is usually proportional to the seed’s rate of germination, in effect far fewer carrot seeds germinate than bean seeds.

Once you have the seeds you would like to grow the next step is to plant them. This is usually the most labour intensive part of the process. The majority of seed packets will have basic instructions for sowing, maintaining and harvesting the crop you will hopefully produce. If you don’t have any instructions to hand then there is plenty of useful information on the Internet and your local library is also a good resource. There are many different types of vegetables and the growing requirements and difficulties associated with each of them could fill several books, so rather than addressing all of these the rest of this article is going to focus on general growing tips.

One of the most fundamental elements of a plant’s success in its environment is the soil that it’s grown in. Identifying your soil type and making sure that it’s compatible with your plants can make a real difference to their growth. Your soil type is not completely fixed though, adding some fertiliser from a garden centre can alter its properties and make a noticeable difference in a plants health. This subject goes hand-in-hand with feeding plants as they grow. It’s important to keep a careful eye on the plant feed that is being given to vegetables that you plan to eat, what you put on the roses may not be quite so good when eaten! There are several special, organic feeds out there for vegetable plants that are very good. An interesting experiment is to buy a few and try them out on a couple of the same plants to see the differences in performance.

One of the biggest difficulties with growing vegetables is other animals eating them before you do. There are two main ways to prevent this: growing your vegetables in your house, or growing them inside a greenhouse. Growing vegetables in your house is possible, especially if you have a conservatory, and can be a nice project to do with young children. However, the soil and dead leaves that inevitably make their way onto the carpet and throughout the house discourage most people from doing this on any scale. Greenhouses are an excellent alternative as they allow you to protect your plants from almost any pest, however they are expensive and not always a viable solution.

Most people will have to grow their plants outside which leaves them prey to common pests like slugs and snails. There are many common deterrents for these pests, ranging from salt to slug pellets, which are recommended by gardeners. The fact that you are growing vegetables makes using regular pesticides difficult, a surprisingly effective solution involves the use of a moat. Some vegetable plants such as beans and tomatoes can be grown in large pots; if this approach is used then these pots can be placed on a heap of gravel and then in a flat-bottomed tray filled with water. As long as there are no pests on the plants or in the soil already then it is virtually impossible for them to get on the plants and damage them. Slugs and snails are incredibly resilient and persistent, but they haven’t learnt to swim yet.

Hopefully this article has inspired you to get out into the garden and get planting. There are few things as relaxing and enjoyable as watching your work come to fruition over the course of several months. Growing vegetables is a great way to get engaged with your surroundings as well as being an economical way to improve your garden and your diet!