It’s my ambition to start growing at least one root vegetable in my container garden and baby carrots are a good contender. I’ve researched all the steps that I need as a beginner to grow baby carrots in pots.
What are baby carrots?
Baby carrots are a mini version of the larger carrots that are supposed to be sweeter and tender. But I was confused about the different types available.
Baby-cut carrots: These are not actually baby carrots but the larger carrots that are cut into smaller ones. They are genetically modified carrots grown to be sweeter and last longer. Then cut into small, cute looking ones and packaged.
Mini carrots: These are the varieties of carrots that are short and stout typically growing 1-4 inches tall. They tend to be sweeter and tender than the larger varieties of carrots.
Tender carrots: You can grow the regular carrots and harvest them a few weeks before they reach maturity. You get to taste the tender and sweeter version of the carrots when you do this.
Understand how long it will take to grow
It can take 50-65 days for the baby carrots to grow in containers. You need to check the seed packet for the specified time after which you can harvest the carrots.
You can start growing the baby carrots in spring so they will be available before summer. Carrots prefer cool-weather and if the temperature goes too high they will grow hairy and lose flavor. You can sow the carrot seeds about two weeks before the average last frost date in your area.
You can also start growing baby carrots in the fall about 10 to 12 weeks before the average first frost date of your area. You can then harvest them just as the frost hits. Baby carrots tend to become sweeter and crunchier with the first hit of frost.
Choose a baby carrot variety you prefer
You can grow some of these baby carrot varieties in your containers.
Mini carrots: These are the carrot varieties that grow short and stout. They typically range from 1 to 5 inches in length. So they’re easy to grow in pots.
Some examples of such mini carrots include Babette, Little Finger, Paris Market, Thumbelina, and Short ‘n Sweet.
Chantenay: There are the carrot varieties that grow long but are limited in length to 6-7 inches. Some examples of these carrots are Red cored Chantenay, Royal Chantenay, and Hercules.
Choose a pot to grow the baby carrots
You can grow baby carrots in pots because they don’t grow as tall as regular carrots. It’s an advantage to grow baby carrots in pots because you can regulate the moisture.
You do need a pot that is 10-12 inches deep so the baby carrots have sufficient space to grow.
It’s also good that the pot is 10-12 inches wide which will help you start several carrot seeds and later thin them out to a limited few you want to continue growing.
You can use a pot made from any material like plastic, ceramic, terracotta, metal, or fiber. Make sure that the pot has drainage holes at the bottom to drain out excess water. If there are no drainage holes, you can drill some in the bottom yourself.
Carrots can be fussy when it comes to water and you want to keep the moisture consistent. Too much moisture and they will rot but too less moisture and they will break.
Prepare the container soil for the baby carrots
You need to use a good potting mix for your baby carrots. This could be a soil or soilless mix based on your choice.
The potting mix that you use will help you get a loose and well-draining texture of the soil. This helps your baby carrot plants get the required moisture, aeration, and nutrients from the soil.
You should not use garden soil for growing the baby carrots. The garden soil may be too sandy or contain too much clay which will not help the soil retain moisture. The garden soil may also contain harmful pests and diseases that affect your baby carrot plants.
You need to fill the container with 10 to 12 inches of potting soil while leaving about an inch from the rim of the container.
You can add some slow-release organic fertilizer granules to the potting soil and mix it well. This will help the carrot seeds get nutrients for the first few weeks till they sprout.
Plant the baby carrot seeds in the pot
Before you plant the carrot seeds, you can prepare them 3-4 days in advance. This will help you get faster germination.
You can prepare the carrot seeds by soaking them in water for about an hour. Then take them out and dry them with a paper towel. Fold them in the paper towel and store them in an airtight container.
Take the seeds out after the 3 to 4 days has passed. You can plant the seeds about 1/4th inch into the potting soil. And cover the seeds with the potting soil.
You can plant several 2-3 seeds together because once the seedlings are grown, we can thin the baby carrots keeping only a few.
Water the seeds gently with a watering-can to be sure you don’t dislodge the seeds. You want to keep the seeds moist for about 2 to 3 weeks till they germinate.
Move the pots to the right sunny position
Baby carrots need at least 6 to 8 hours of full sunlight to grow their best. They can tolerate partial shade but we want to grow them well. So place the pots in a position that gets a lot of sunlight.
You may need to move the pots based on the season because the direction of the sun shifts as well. If the sunlight is too harsh in your area during the afternoon, you may need to move the pots to shade.
Make sure the pots growing carrot seeds are not getting shaded by other container plants that have already grown tall.
Provide water to the baby carrots
Baby carrots need a lot of moisture when they’re sprouting from seeds and when the plants are growing. If they get too little water, the seeds won’t sprout or the carrots won’t grow. If they get too much water, the seeds will drown or the carrots will break apart.
You want to give consistent water to the baby carrot plants. When you’ve just planted the seeds, you need to water every day. But once the carrot plants have grown, you can water based on how dry the soil is.
The best way to do this is to pick a watering schedule. You could choose to water in the morning.
So, every day you check the potting soil in the morning. Stick your finger 2-4 inches into the soil and check for moisture. If you don’t feel the moisture on your fingertip, it’s time to water the potting soil.
You want to water the potting soil slowly and thoroughly so that the water can reach the bottom of the container. This helps the carrot roots get the required moisture for growth.
Ensure there are drainage holes at the bottom so the excess water drains out. Otherwise, your baby carrots will soak in water and rot.
The best water to use for your baby carrot plants is rainwater if you’ve collected it in a rain barrel. The next best option is to use distilled water if you can afford a distiller at home.
If you can only use tap water, I would suggest keeping it in a container for 12-24 hours so the chemicals like chlorine and fluoride have dissipated from the water. Because these chemicals can stunt the growth of the baby carrots.
It’s time for thinning the seedlings
Once the seedlings have sprouted and grown 2 inches tall, it’s time to start thinning some of them. Thinning means you remove some of the seedlings to allow more room for the remaining ones to grow.
You can choose the seedlings that look weak and small for the thinning. You can also choose seedlings that are growing less than an inch close to each other.
When thinning, you want to pull the seedlings out to keep at least 1 inch of space between the remaining seedlings. Carrots need that much space to grow or they will turn out crooked.
To start thinning, hold the carrot plant between your forefinger and thumb at the soil level. Pull the entire carrot plant from the soil together with the roots. You can add more potting soil into the holes that have been created due to the thinning.
Fertilize the baby carrot plants
You can use a slow-release organic fertilizer when adding the potting soil in the container. This could be a balanced granular fertilizer with an NPK value of 5-5-5. This means the organic fertilizer contains 5% Nitrogen, 5% Phosphorus, and 5% Potassium.
This fertilizer will provide nutrients to your baby carrot seedlings for a few weeks. Once your plants have grown larger, you can add fertilizer again.
This could be a slow-release granular fertilizer that you only need to apply 1 to 2 times during the growing season. Or it could be a liquid fertilizer that you need to apply every 2 weeks on the leaves and the soil.
Make sure to use a fertilizer that is low in nitrogen because nitrogen encourages the growth of the plant foliage but we want to grow the roots.
You can use an organic fertilizer that is 0-5-5 which means no nitrogen but a good amount of phosphorus and potassium. This will help encourage the growth of healthy carrots.
Check the plants every day
I would suggest checking the baby carrot plants every day as part of your watering schedule. You want to check if there are problems like brown spots, mildew, or mold attacking the plants.
If there is any such problem, you want to immediately take care of it because this will spread to the other plants as well.
You can cut off the infected leaves with pruning shears. This will protect the plant and encourage it to focus its energy on growing the roots and fresh foliage.
You also want to check if some of the baby carrot plants are not growing as well as the others. These plants may be suffering from pests and diseases or may not be healthy.
You want to pull these carrots from the soil to protect the other plants from infection. This also helps the other plants get more nutrients from the soil.
If there are any carrot tops that are getting exposed from the soil, you want to cover them up with potting soil. Because the sunlight will turn these carrot tops green making them bitter and inedible.
Harvest the baby carrots when ready
You know the time it will take your baby carrots to grow based on the seed packets. This could be between 50 to 65 days depending on the variety you choose. The carrot tops should have grown to an inch in diameter.
You can pick one or two of the baby carrots from the soil to check if they are ready for harvest. The best time to harvest is when the first frost hits because the carrots become sweeter and crunchier.
You should only harvest the baby carrots that you will consume for the next 2 to 4 weeks and leave the rest. They will continue to remain in the soil and you can harvest them as you need.
You can cut the leaves of the harvested baby carrots to just leave 1/4th of the foliage on top. If you want to preserve the carrots for longer you should not wash the soil off. You can also wash and dry the carrots then store then in the refrigerator for later use.
What are some carrot pests and diseases?
The best thing you can do when your carrot plants are affected by pests and diseases is to cut off the infected part. If the entire plant or root is affected you need to pull the carrot out and dispose of it.
If the container soil is infested with pests and diseases, you will need to throw away the soil and wash the containers. You can use one part bleach and 10 parts water to create a mix.
Soak the container in this mix for at least an hour. Then rinse the container well with water and leave it to air dry before you can reuse it.
Carrot rust: Carrot rust flies are a pest that can affect your baby carrot plants. They will leave their eggs on the soil. These will hatch into larvae that will burrow into the soil and eat into the carrots. They will create rust-colored tunnels into the lower part of the carrots.
Carrot weevils: These are beetle pests that also lay their eggs in the soil near the carrots. The larva will hatch and burrow into the soil and eat into the upper part of the carrots.
Leaf blight: This is a fungal disease that can affect your baby carrot plants in humid conditions. This will cause yellow/brown spots on the leaves and carrot tops making them appear burned.
Nematodes: These are microscopic creatures in the soil that cause disease to the roots making them malformed. But they only grow in the soil when the temperature is above 55 degrees.
Can you replant baby carrot tops?
Now you have harvested and consumed the sweet baby carrots you grew but can you reuse the carrot tops? Is it possible to grow new carrots from them?
You cannot grow carrots from the carrot tops. But if you have 1 inch of the crow, you can place them in a tray filled with water and soil. Make sure to place this tray in a sunny part of your house.
After a few days, there will be a plant growing out of this carrot top. You can use this as a decorative plant in your house.
What can I plant next to carrots?
You can grow tomatoes together with carrot plants because the tomato plant will prevent the carrot flies from laying eggs.
You can also grow plants like leeks, rosemary, sage, and chives that protect the carrot plants from pests and diseases.
Don’t grow plants like cilantro and dill near carrots plants because they tend to stunt the growth of the carrots.