Posts Tagged ‘carrots’
Seventeen days after I planted carrots in a sawed-off soda bottle, young carrot tops had sprouted on the windowsill in my basement.
I encourage people who have little space that they can still grow small kitchen gardens. To that end, on May 1st I cut the top off of a two-liter soda bottle, filled the bottle with soil, and planted carrots in it. I described this project in a post titled Small Kitchen Garden Carrots in Containers. I mentioned my container carrots again on May 18, and again on June 17. It has been an interesting project, and I encourage you to try it. I want to relate what to expect.
Mature Container Carrots
After three months of growing, a carrot of nearly any variety should be mature. By “mature” I mean the carrot plant has sent up a flower stalk and is making seeds. I would rather eat an immature carrot than I would one that has flowers. In fact, I’ve only let my carrots flower once, and I vowed that season never again to do so.
After three months of growth, my container carrots have pathetic tops. These are no better than a third the height of my in-ground carrots. I planted the in-ground carrots fully a month after the soda bottle carrots; and woodchucks have dined twice on the in-ground carrot tops.
So, my container carrots—a variety that matures in 65 days—ought to be dropping seeds all over my deck. That’s hardly the case. Rather, the carrot tops started to look stressed some time in June, and now they look very stressed. These stressed plants have very short tops compared to free-range carrot plants. Those tops have fewer fronds than my in-ground carrots do, and many of the carrot fronds are turning yellow or purple or some other color that isn’t green.
The good news is that those sickly-looking carrot tops protrude from very pronounced orange carrot shoulders. It should follow that there are whole carrots in the soil beneath those shoulders, albeit rather small carrots.
When my container carrots started to look bad, I took some steps to pep them up: I pulled a carrot to provide a bit more space in the soil (I’d planted 11 seeds). I also made a mixture of compost and water and poured it into the carrot container to provide an infusion of nutrients. The carrot plants weren’t impressed.
So, I decided that the container carrots are done: there are too many carrots growing in too small a space. I harvested them to put the poor things out of their misery. My suspicions about crowding were oh so right: I shook the soil out of the planter, and it came out in a cylindrical brick. You could use several hundred of these carrot planter bricks to build a small sod house.
The good news: my soda bottle carrot plants have shoulders!
The largest carrots were only four inches long, but it’s clear they would not have grown longer. Regardless, they taste grand as all fresh, young carrots do.
More Small Kitchen Garden Carrots
This carrot experiment was very satisfying. You know what I did? I cut the top off of a three-liter soda bottle, filled it with soil, and planted some carrot seeds in it. This time, I planted fewer seeds… in a bigger container. There may be only 70 days remaining in our growing season, but I’m hoping to get bigger carrots from this planter than I got from the first one.
If I don’t? No matter. It’s still likely to produce a handful of three-bite carrot snacks. Not bad for such a small kitchen garden.
As my soda bottle carrots slide out of the planter, I feel considerable heat in the soil. I’ve often touched the side of the planter to gauge whether it was overheating in direct sunlight, but it has never felt as hot as the soil does in my hand. I suspect being pot-bound was only half the stress my carrots experienced. The insulating plastic of the soda bottle concealed from me the extent of the greenhouse effect taking place around the carrots’ roots. The root ball has me musing about growing pre-formed sod bricks… it would be so much easier than cutting them out of prairie grass.
I always marvel that so much of what matters in life involves dirt. No, OK, I’m a purist: I grow food in soil. But when soil ends up on your hands, your clothing, your kitchen floor, or YOUR FOOD, it’s dirt. These little snackers are sweet and delicious.
More thoughts on growing carrots in a small kitchen garden
Grow your own in local skips – Gardeners are being encouraged to grow carrots in skips on building sites and tomatoes in hospital car parks under new plans to increase the amount of land available for grow-your-own vegetables. The Government is setting up a national …
How to Grow Carrots – How to grow carrots in the vegetable garden: fresh-carrots. carrots like a sunny spot; dig soil in autumn & break soil down to fine, crumbly seedbed before sowing. carrot-bed. sow outdoors from March to August – if in March cover with …
Who knew? Carrots grow extensive networks of thin roots before they grow the tap roots of which Bugs Bunny is so fond.
When I decided to experiment with growing a small kitchen garden in ultra-cheap planters, I hoped to come up with a few space-saving ideas that would be easy on my budget. I had no idea I’d learn something cool about carrots along the way: carrots make a lot of roots!
On May 1, I described how I modified a two-liter soda bottle, filled it with soil, and planted eleven carrot seeds in it. Seven weeks later, the carrot plants are growing well; their tops are beautifully lacy-green. You can read about it here: Small Kitchen Garden Carrots in Containers.
What’s Going Down?
In my fortyish years of growing carrots in a garden, to me these plants have always been green fluffy greens that grow atop orange shoulders just showing above the soil. At harvest, I’ve found smooth orange tap roots of various lengths, tapers, and diameters. One season, I left carrots in the ground well into winter. Along the way, flowers emerged much like those of Queen Anne’s Lace (carrots and Queen Anne’s Lace are closely related), and the plants put up a second wave of foliage. When I excavated these very mature carrots, I found many small roots growing from the plants’ tap roots. These mature carrots looked hairy, and somehow much less appetizing than younger, smooth-skinned carrots.
But you know what’s cool? Before a tap root forms, a carrot plant puts out a huge network of tiny roots. Who knew? You can see these roots through the clear side of the soda bottle planter in which my carrots are growing. The roots have been visible for about four weeks, and orange carrot shoulders have yet to appear at the bases of the foliage.
This upside down tomato plant supports the observation that roots want to grow down. When I planted the seedling, its root ball topped out about two-thirds of the way up inside the planter. A week later, though many roots are visible through the plastic, none appear above the root ball.
Of course, it makes perfect sense that the plant would need roots to get established before it built up its winter food supply in a tap root. Still, I’d never thought of this, so creating my silly soda bottle planter led to the pleasant surprise.
About Upside Down Tomatoes
When I wrote about growing tomatoes in upside down planters I predicted that roots would immediately start growing down from the root ball of the newly-planted seedling. Eventually, I guessed, an upside down tomato plant would become pot-bound even if there were many inches of soil available above the root ball in the container.
I don’t know whether I’m right about this, but I can report that all the root growth in the first week has been downward. How do I know? I followed instructions at http://ohcripes.com (once you’re on the site, look in the left margin for the link to IPlanter Modified) for creating an upside down planter in a three-liter soda bottle. I set a tomato seedling in my planter and hung it up last week. Already, new roots have grown from the root ball out to the sides of the planter, and then down along the sides. No visible roots have grown upward. This may change as the plant becomes pot-bound, but I don’t expect it to.
The pineboard sides and seats of the kids’ sandbox have rotted and weeds have grown in the sand. I’ll soon remove the weeds, add horse manure, and plant tomatoes – exactly what my dad did to my childhood sandbox sometime after it lost my interest.
My small kitchen garden isn’t big enough to feed my family for an entire year. So, this year I’m trying to squeeze more food out of the garden space we have while adding alternative planting beds to squeeze even more out of our yard. One upcoming project will be to convert the kids’ abandoned sandbox into a planting bed for tomatoes. The sandbox already resembles a wild field evolving into a climax community forest. My other strategy for adding space is to plant vegetables in containers.
Here’s a project I did quickly this afternoon. I’ve never tried it, but I can think of no reason it should fail: I planted carrots in a two-liter soft drink bottle. The carrots are supposed to grow no bigger than six inches. Assuming a diameter of 1.25 inches per carrot, it seems that six full-grown carrots should fit easily in the bottle… but these carrots will never become full-grown; I’ll harvest them while they’re young and sweet.
A utility knife easily slits the bottoms of the soda bottle’s “feet.” These slits will let excess water drain out of the container, but won’t let potting soil wash away with the water.
A Carrot Planter
I rinsed the empty soda bottle and cut off the top where the sides of the bottle become cylindrical (just over four inches below the lip of the bottle). I used a utility knife to make slits in the very bottom of the bottle: one ¾ inch slit in each “foot.” Then I filled the bottle with seven inches of light potting soil.
Though carrot seeds are small, I was able to pick up one seed at a time and drop each on the soil where I wanted it. I made a circle of six seeds about an inch from the sides of the bottle. Then I placed four seeds an inch inside of those, and a single seed in the center of the planter. If all the seeds sprout, it’ll be crowded in the soda bottle. What’s more, as they grow, the carrots will displace soil, eventually overwhelming the bottle.
To finish, I sprinkled a quarter inch of potting soil over the seeds and spread it smoothly, and then watered very gingerly so as not to disturb the seeds. I completely soaked the soil until water leaked out through the slits in the bottom of the soda bottle planter.
If things eventually look uncomfortable in there, I’ll pull a carrot and we’ll eat it. After that, I have four concerns:
- A small container is going to need daily watering or more, depending on the weather.
My budget-priced carrot planter sits on a windowsill in my basement. I’ll move it onto my deck in a few days.
- A small container can act as a solar-cooker. If I set my carrot planter in direct sunlight, the heat may destroy my carrots. It’ll be important to keep the planter itself shaded, though I want the carrot tops to get as much sun as possible.
- In such a small container, the carrots will deplete soil nutrients very quickly. I’ll need to provide some type of food periodically to ensure the carrots’ health.
- Its small size makes a soda bottle planter very portable. However, the container is flexible and somewhat flimsy. If I do move it once carrots have sprouted, I want to be gentle so as not to damage the plants.
As I said: I’ve never tried this; it’s an experiment. I’ll let you know how it works.