I have somewhat of a love/hate relationship with carrots. Sometimes I can’t get enough of them and will go through a few bags a week, and other times I can barely stand to eat them. Right now I’m at somewhat of an in between point in the cycle; I don’t crave them but they’re not repulsive. Despite my ambivalence, the supposed ease at which carrots grow in containers meant I had to give them a try this summer.
The carrots we are familiar with today were first domesticated from wild carrots (which are still found in temperate regions today and are known in the US as Queen Anne’s Lace) about 1,100 years ago in the Middle East. Wild carrots were likely first used as an herb and medicinally before it became domesticated. The first carrots cultivated for food were purple or yellow. The orange color is a relatively new trait that became common around the 1600’s. The Carrot Museum does a wonderful job of providing an extensive history of the carrot from Neolithic times to modern day, and if you are interested in the history of carrots, please see their History pages.
The variety of carrots I’m growing is called Little Finger (or Orange Finger). They’re a small orange heirloom variety that is supposed to be perfect for growing in pots. I’ve found that they have a sweet taste and a pleasant crunch, which makes them great for eating raw. Their small size is nice too since I don’t feel like I’m going to break teeth biting through them. Having grown several varieties of carrots before, I can easily say that these are my favorite.
Size: Little finger carrot foliage can grow to be 4 – 8 in (10 – 20 cm) tall. For proper growth, the carrots need to be planted 3 in (8 cm) apart. Little finger carrots themselves can grow to be 4 in long and ½ in wide (10 cm long and 1.3 cm wide).
Water Requirements: Keep the carrots well watered, but be careful not to drown them.
Soil Requirements: Heavily drained soil with few roots or rocks (to avoid weirdly shaped carrots) is preferred.
Light Requirements: Little finger carrots grow best in full sun.
Temperature Requirements: Best growing temperatures are between 60 – 70F (15- 21°C).
Nutrient Requirements: Usually mature manure is enough, although the carrots may sometimes need a little extra potassium.
Pests: Pests that may attack your carrots include various caterpillars, vegetable leafminers and weevils, leafhoppers, and southern potato wireworms.
Companion Planting: Carrots do well when planted near beans, lettuce, peas, peppers, and tomatoes. Chives improve flavor and rosemary and sage deter pests.
Growing in Containers: Little Finger carrots are well suited for container growing.
Harvesting and Use: Carrots should be ready to harvest about 60 days after you planted them. They taste the best after they become bright orange and can be eaten raw or cooked in any recipe that calls for carrots.
Botanical Interests Little Finger Carrots – The source of my seeds as well as general growing information.
Burpee Companion Planting Guide – A list of companion plants for various vegetables.
Burpee Little Finger Carrot Seeds – A source for seeds and very basic growing requirements.
Eden Brothers Carrot Seeds “Little Finger – A source for seeds and very basic growing requirements.
North Carolina State University Center for Integrated pest Management: Pests of Carrot – guide to identifying carrot pests.
Sustainable Seed Company Little Finger Carrot Seeds – A source for seeds as well as planting instructions.
World Carrot Museum: History of Carrots – A very detailed history of carrots.