Ask any horticultural enthusiast and they’d agree that the sight of fresh and colorful carrots (yes, they come in colors) is a feast to the eye. What’s more, packed with beta-carotene, vitamin B6, niacin, and calcium, they work wonders to keep us healthy and make an excellent addition to anyone’s daily diet.
Fortunately for the gardeners among us, they aren’t very difficult to grow. With little skill, minimal effort, and some expert guidance, you can be guaranteed a delicious harvest in no time. Better still, growing carrots indoors is also possible, so even those of us without large outdoor space can enjoy this delicious vegetable. Today we’ll look at how to start growing carrots indoors, and you too can have a delicious carrot garden year-round.
Choosing a Carrot Variety
In addition to the commonly seen orange, carrots come in yellow, white, red, and purple colors too. They are equally nutritious and add a splash of vibrant color to your spread of home-grown produce. Care is similar in all cases, so feel free to pick whichever variety takes your fancy.
Pick a Kaleidoscope mix of carrot seeds if you want a good mix of all colors. You might also want to choose from a spread of Imperator, Chantenay, and Nantes type of carrots. They’re all equally nutritious.
An example of various carrot varieties and colors
The type of carrot has very little effect on its growing requirements, so this really comes down to personal preference as to which one to grow. The only thing that might be affected by the variety is the size of the container needed to grow which we’ll discuss next. Pick the one that looks most appealing to you.
You also have the option of growing baby carrots or full-sized ones. Baby carrots are a good choice for indoor growing as they take up less space.
As mentioned, baby carrots are the easiest to grow indoors. Their small size means they take up less space and tend to be ready to harvest quicker than full-sized varieties.
Choosing a Container
While baby carrots can grow in most sized containers, larger varieties require deep pots. If you choose to grow larger carrots, your best bet is to find a pot that is anywhere between 8 and 12 inches in depth. This ensures that it has enough room to spread out, which will help ensure properly sized carrots. Even for baby carrots look for a container that is deep rather than wide.
When the root system is not allowed to grow it prevents the plant from absorbing nutrients which will limit its growth. This leads to stunted growth and smaller yields, so always choose a pot with enough room for your carrots to grow properly.
This is also the primary difference between the various types of carrots. For example, Chantenay carrots are smaller and don’t require as big of a pot as some other varieties. Imperator carrots on the other hand are much longer and require a larger pot. Spend a bit of time learning about the full size of your chosen variety and pick a container that will accommodate that.
Choosing the Right Type of Potting Soil
Given that their roots grow relatively long and straight down, carrots are more likely to thrive in loamy and lighter-fitting soil. Digging up existing garden soil can leave you with a dense and rocky mix that’s unfavorable for cultivation. Therefore, it’s best to choose a potting soil mix that’s specifically sold for vegetables; preferably with a pH level that’s between 6.0 and 6.8.
Potting soil will be your go-to when growing in containers. It’s lighter and looser than normal soil, which makes it ideal for the confined space of a container. Using traditional soil or outdoor specific will lead to issues with drainage and nutrient availability. Always go with potting soil when growing anything, including carrots, in containers.
Maintaining the Ideal Temperature & Lighting
Carrots are cool-weather crops and thrive during the seasons of spring and fall. The ideal temperature is roughly between 50ºF and 65ºF, but a little higher than this is okay too. It’s best to avoid prolonged exposure to high temperatures though as this can lead to growth issues.
Seedlings are most likely to suffer in temperatures higher than 85ºF and it’s also smart to keep full-grown plants from sitting in high temperatures for too long. Also, like most plants, avoid large temperature swings. While an indoor garden might often be a bit higher than that ideal range, it’s likely not to make much of a difference if you keep up with the other care duties.
Carrots should receive a decent amount of sunlight per day, up to around 8 hours. Keeping them in a sunny window is usually enough, but feel free to add grow lights if more light is needed. This might be necessary in the winter and is perfectly okay for the plant. Growing carrots indoors gives the advantage of utilizing both natural and artificial light.
Providing Adequate Water & Feeding
Like most other plants, it’s important you provide just the right amount of water for your carrots. While under-watering can leave them starved and stunted, over-watering can leave them wilted and kill them quickly. The key is to find the right balance.
A good tip is to ensure the top few inches of the soil stays moist but not drenched. Gently touch the top of the soil and only water when this is dry to the touch. The soil should maintain a decent level of moisture at most times without being soaking wet. If the temperature is high or the plant is starting to wilt you can mist them with a spray bottle a few times per day. This can help hydrate the plant between waterings and helps prevent overwatering issues. I tend to water my carrots about 2-3 times per week generally hitting the higher side as the days become warmer.
Carrots should also be fertilized regularly, most gardeners recommend every two weeks with a liquid houseplant fertilizer. If growing from seeds, wait until the seedlings are roughly 3 inches tall before beginning the feeding routine. You can feed from early spring to late fall, but stop during the winter. During this time, your plant may go dormant and will not require any feeding. You should begin to grow again in the spring.
Under ideal water and temperature conditions, carrots seeds are likely to start sprouting within 14 to 17 days from planting. Upon sprouting, it can take anywhere between 60 and 80 days for the vegetable to grow and be ready for harvesting. Resist the urge to harvest them early to get the best quality veggies.
Different varieties have different growing times so be patient and don’t get discouraged if it takes a bit longer than expected. Care and location also affect this. The closer you get to ideal conditions the faster the plant will grow and the quicker it will be ready to harvest.
Harvesting Your Carrots
Although you may harvest your carrots any time after they develop a rich and mature color it’s best to harvest them at full growth. While tiny carrots are equally tasty, they do not bring as much value for effort as full-grown produce. It’s really up to the individual gardener though and their preferences.
Generally, you want to wait until the foliage of your plant is about 10-12 inches above the ground. This is a good sign that the carrot is ripe and ready to harvest. In most cases, this should also line up with the harvest timeline for your chosen variety. If you started with seeds, this is often listed on the packet.
Some Freshly harvested carrots. Notice the amount of foliage signaling a ripe veggie.
When you do harvest, start by loosening the soil around the plant. Then, gently pull on the greens to pull up the carrot underneath the soil. If you feel some resistance, then stop and loosen the soil a bit more. You want to avoid pulling too hard and ripping the greens off the carrot.
Water the soil the night before you intend on harvesting. This helps loosen up the soil and makes harvesting easier.
Growing Carrots Indoors
Carrots are a tasty treat and one of the easier vegetables for gardeners to grow in their homes. Armed with the knowledge of how to, you’ll be growing these wonderful veggies in no time. Let us know if you grow carrots in your garden, and what your favorite variety to grow is.
Growing Carrots Indoors FAQ
What’s the difference in carrot varieties?
The main differences will be in size, taste, and color. In terms of growth, they are all fairly similar, usually just needing different-sized pots and taking a differing time to mature.
Are carrots hard to grow indoors?
No! Carrots are one of the easiest veggies to grow indoors. While they do require more care than say chives, the difficulty is quite low and any gardener should be able to grow them with a little effort. If you want to grow vegetables, but want an easy one to start with, carrots are a fantastic choice.
What’s the most important thing to keep in mind when growing carrots?
By far the biggest problem gardeners face when growing carrots is watering. Carrots enjoy moist soil, but not soaked, and this can take a bit of work to get right. Wait until the top few inches of the soil is dry before watering.