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Q: I have decided I will grow my carrots in a container this year. I’ve had nothing but problems trying to grow them in my little vegetable garden. They have been either stunted or attacked by some insect or other. Am I nuts to be trying to grow them in a pot? I certainly would appreciate any tips or suggestions you might have to help.
A: You are not nuts at all! It’s an excellent idea and something I’ve done myself. I used to have terrible problems with wireworms attacking my carrots so I gave up and beat the worms by growing the carrots away from the little varmints. Choose a container that will be deep enough to accommodate your root vegetables.
Carrots can be fussy when it comes to nutrient-rich soil. The soil should be loose and loamy to allow the carrots to grow to their potential. It should also be rich in nutrients. A good quality potting soil mixed with organic matter such as well-rotted manure or compost at a rate of two parts potting mix to one part organic matter is a good blend.
Sow the carrot seeds thinly on the top of the filled container and sprinkle a thin layer of soil over the seeds. Water the seeds well but carefully. It is easy to move the seeds about if you water with any force. Keep the soil evenly moist. Unlike carrots sown in the ground the container-grown carrot seeds tend to dry out more quickly so check the soil regularly. Keep the container in full sun. After the seedlings sprout thin them to approximately five cm apart.
How do you know when to harvest? My grandmother used to call it ‘spooning’ because she used a special spoon to gently dig around the carrots to determine their size. I recommend harvesting the first batch when they are the size of your finger. This should be about two months after the seedlings come up. Tender baby carrots with a little dill and butter is a treat. But only harvest every second or third carrot. By harvesting in this manner you leave the remaining carrots in the soil with the extra room they need to get to their full size.
Plant breeders continue to develop vegetables meant for container growth and I know of two excellent examples of short-rooted carrots. ‘Bunny Bite’ has a four cm root ideally suited to growing in the shallowest of containers or in soil with high clay content. ‘Short n’ Sweet’ is another dwarf variety with 10 cm tapered roots. As its name suggests the taste is very sweet and the carrot is very tender. There are many other varieties that will work, just check with your local garden centre or Apache Seeds, which is my favourite store when it comes to finding seeds.
Q: I have planted crocuses in a flower bed that faces west that gets the sun later in the afternoon. The last few years they come up just fine but never bloom. I’ve tried digging them up and replanting them but to no avail. Do you know what could be the problem?
A: It may be possible they are getting too much nitrogen. The ideal fertilizer for them would be something like 5-10-10. Higher nitrogen numbers will inhibit flowering. They could get this extra nitrogen even when you fertilize your lawn and some of the fertilizer falls on the bulb area.
I get many lovely emails and it’s a privilege to be able to help with everyone’s gardening questions. If I take longer to answer it is because my email box might be especially full but I do my best to answer every query either personally or through a column.
Learn more by emailing your questions to email@example.com, reading past columns at edmontonjournal.com/author/geraldfilipski or my book Just Ask Jerry. You can also follow me on Twitter @justaskjerry01.