Grow a Countertop Carrot Crop

Lately, I am yearning to sink my teeth into something straight from the

Not only are carrots good for eating, but they double nicely as plate decorations.
Not only are carrots good for eating, but they double nicely as plate decorations.

ground. My nose is already sniffing for the sweet smell of thawing earth beneath the snow, and my hands are missing the dirt as much as my palate misses fresh-grown flavors. Alas, there is still a lion’s share of winter yet to come.

But I’m not one for sitting idly by when there is a glimmer of possibility waiting to be cultivated. Sure, my outdoor garden may have to wait a while longer, but I think I’ll jump-start a little sunshine-inspired food right here in my very own kitchen. What do I have in mind? Carrots!

Yep, carrots are just the cure for my cravings. Growing them indoors provides a mini-gardening experience and a delightful dose of freshness and color — all in one countertop crop. Carrots will grow quite contentedly in containers because, unlike the ground, potting soil is perfectly loose and well drained; plus, there’s no competition from grass and weeds.

One of my favorite things about carrots, besides their delightfully sweet crunch, is that they come in all colors of the sunset: pale gold, vibrant orange, crimson and plum! These warm hues tickle our taste buds while proving its wondrous effects on the immune system. And the deeper reddish tints of carrots like the Atomic Red and Cosmic Purple reveal their lycopene content, which helps protect our cells from damage. Carrots are also a great source of vitamins C and B6, iron and fiber.

The best carrots for containers tend to be short to medium varieties. Small, round “ball” types like the heirloom Tonda di Parigi work well. Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds offers a luscious array of time-tested varieties at www.rareseeds.com.

If you, too, are already itching for garden therapy and home-grown goodies, here’s how to grow your own kitchen crop of carrots:

Gather These Items:
— A 12- to 15-inch-deep pot with drainage holes
— Organic potting soil and liquid organic fertilizer (available from Peaceful Valley Farm Supply at www.groworganic.com)
— Carrot seeds
— 1/4 teaspoon for measuring seeds
— Spray bottle for misting

Plant:
— Fill your container with soil to within about an inch of the top rim.
— Water the soil thoroughly and drain. (It’s easier to plant tiny carrot seeds on pre-moistened soil.)
— Sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon of seeds evenly over the soil, pat gently and cover them with a light dusting of dry soil.
— Mist with a spray bottle to wet the top layer of soil.

Grow:
— Place your container in a warm spot that receives at least 6 hours of sunlight each day. (Seeds should sprout within 10 to 14 days.)
— Keep the soil evenly moist as your carrots grow to encourage happy roots that don’t crack, and fertilize with liquid organic fertilizer every three weeks.
— When the lacy green seedlings are about 2 inches tall, it’s time to thin them for best growth. Instead of pulling, use scissors to snip them off at the soil line. You’ll want your seedlings to be spaced about 2 inches apart.

Harvest:
Your carrots should be ready to harvest about 60 to 80 days after planting.

Copyright 2009, MaryJane Butters.
Distributed by United Feature Syndicate, Inc.