Tips for Growing Carrots Indoors
Growing carrots indoors has both pros and cons. Bringing plants inside gives you more control over outside factors such as weeds, pests, and disease. But it also means that you have to water them more in containers versus in gardens.
You'll have to ensure your plants are receiving at least eight hours of light for the full sun carrots expect. Carrots thrive in well-drained fertile soils. Use a potting soil mix suitable for vegetables. Several smaller varieties of carrots like Thumbelina will take to containers indoors well. A one-quart pot will provide plenty of room.
Pros of Growing Carrots Indoors
The advantage of growing carrots indoors is the harvest. With some easy preparation, you can enjoy fresh picked carrots year round. Imagine eating sweet baby carrots in the middle of winter. There's probably not too many things that can do a better job at chasing away the winter blues.
Growing carrots inside in containers gives you more control of the conditions. You don’t have to worry about a sudden change in temperature that could cause your carrots to bolt or produce a flower stalk that will go to seed. The problem, in this case, is that the plant focuses on its seeds rather than the root. You'll have spindly carrots rather than the plump, juicy ones you wanted.
The same issue of control applies to weeds too. Weeds can enter your garden accidentally from seed dispersal by animals or by airborne spores, both of which are out of your control outdoors. Without this source of contact inside, your carrots stand a better chance of surviving without unnecessary competition.
But, of course, weeds are the only problem you have to deal with when gardening. Wildlife may also stumble upon your carrots. Once they discover your garden, it can be difficult to keep them out. With an indoor container garden, you can keep rabbits and other curious critters at bay.
And that doesn’t just apply to the four-legged variety. You can avoid the hassles of insect pests invading your space as well as the diseases they may carry. By gardening indoors, you put a huge barrier between the pests and your carrot plants. This fact alone might make you seriously consider growing carrots indoors year round.
Cons of Growing Carrots Indoors
While you'll have more control over environmental factors, growing carrots inside is not without its challenges. These issues are things you need to consider before making a move inside. At the very least, you're going to need a dedicated space for just carrots—and any other plants you want to grow indoors.
Adequate UV light is essential for good quality carrots. You’ll have to provide a reliable source of light to replicate the full sun that carrots prefer. This requirement means having a grow light on your plants for eight hours or more a day. It won’t use a lot of electricity, but it is something to think about if you’re considering a spot used for other purposes.
One disadvantage with container gardens is making sure that your carrot plants get enough water. The soil in pots will dry out quicker than it would outside. For growing carrots, inadequate moisture could spell disaster.
Likewise, it’s vital that your containers help soils drain well. Excess water in pots can set up the perfect storm for mildew and rot. You can place some stones on the bottom of your container to give water a place to drain.
Choosing Your Carrots
Now comes the fun part, choosing your carrots. The University of Illinois Extension recommends the small, round Thumbelina for containers. These quick-growing carrots grow to about golf ball size. Want to try something different? You might also want to consider planting heirloom varieties like Paris Market to try some carrots you might not find at the grocery store. These red-orange carrots will get about the same size as Thumbelina.
The limitations on the kinds of the carrots you choose exist because of the space you can provide. But it's not just a matter of carrot length. Some carrots have large diameters over one inch which can lead to crowding. Larger carrots also tend to have bushier above-ground foliage. You can run into problems growing more robust carrots if the vegetation impedes good air circulation.
Setting Up Your Space
Fortunately, you won’t need to dedicate an entire room to indoor plants. Even a one-quart pot will provide plenty of space for fresh carrots throughout the winter. Your primary considerations are lighting and air circulation.
Keeping Your Carrots Out of the Dark
The size of your growing space determines the wattage you need to provide adequate light. You should figure on about 20 to 40 watts per square foot of indoor garden, explains Better Homes and Gardens. You have several options for grow lights.
High-intensity discharge (HID) lights can provide the sole source of UV light for your growing carrots that closely replicates the sun. While they are the most efficient, they also are the most expensive. More economic choices include high-intensity fluorescent bulbs or traditional fluorescent tubes.
While less costly, some growers worry that the change of light may impact the color of plants. If you have concerns, you can opt for full-spectrum bulbs over the cool or warm tones of a fluorescent light. However, temperature and moisture are the real issues. Diane Mumm Garden Videos offers some additional ideas for creating your indoor garden.
Adequate Air Circulation
Other things you want to consider include things such as enough air circulation in your gardening space. Warm, humid conditions provide the perfect setting for mold to develop. It's especially risky when plants don't have an opportunity to dry adequately after watering. You should water at the base of your carrots rather than on the vegetation.
And finally, take time to think through your daily routine with your carrot plants. If you accidentally knock over a pot outside, it might not be a big deal. Inside, you're going to have a big mess on your hands. Ideally, you can set up your indoor garden in a workroom or laundry room.
Growing carrots isn’t just a summer hobby. With a dedicated space and adequate lighting, you can create an indoor garden that will keep you in carrots all winter long.