To grow 100 sweet, tender carrots, simply devote 60 feet of garden space to rows, dig and cultivate the soil to a depth of 18 inches, add organic materials and fertilizer, moisten the soil, and plant the seeds. Total labor time: about three hours.
Or, you can add potting soil and time-release fertilizer to a half whiskey barrel, and plant your seeds. Total labor time: about 15 minutes.
Growing these betacarotene-rich vegetables in a barrel also will save you many hours of weeding and other garden-maintenance chores, and the finished product will often be superior to garden-grown carrots. Why? Because the prime object of a carrot is to grow its root, and the loose, easy-draining potting mix used in containers is usually far better than garden soil for producing strong, straight roots.
The barrel can be located on a patio, where the light-green foliage makes it an attractive item, or it can be placed conveniently near the kitchen door, only a step or two away from culinary use. So condominium or apartment dwellers, and others with limited garden space, also can take advantage of barrel-grown carrots.
The first thing to do is to buy a half whiskey barrel with at least three one-inch drainage holes drilled in the bottom. Most local nurseries and garden centers have them in stock. Put the barrel in a sunny area of your yard or patio. It's absolutely necessary that carrots receive at least six hours of sunlight a day--the more, the better. Place four bricks under the barrel to help drainage; then fill it with about 2 cubic feet of a commercial potting soil (most potting soils are sold in two-cubic-foot bags).
Next, mix three cups of Osmocote 14-14-14 time-release fertilizer (or a similar time-release fertilizer) into the potting soil and moisten with water.
Good carrot-seed varieties include 'Danvers Half Long,' 'Nantes,' 'Lindoro,' 'Imperator' and 'Short 'n Sweet.' Using about half of a standard-size seed packet, lay the seeds on the soil surface. Then cover them with a 1/8-inch layer of moist potting mix, and press the soil down with a trowel.
After planting, keep the soil surface moist by sprinkling it very lightly with a watering can. When the young seedlings emerge and become established, begin a systematic program in which you water every three days (when no rain occurs, that is). The soil in the barrel should always be kept moist; never allow it to dry out. Once a month, feed the plants with a balanced liquid fertilizer containing the vital trace elements (Miracle-Gro or Terr-O-Vite are good choices), following the label directions carefully.
As the carrots mature, harvest them as needed; carrots, unlike other root crops, store well if left in the ground. When all of the carrots are pulled up, add more time-release fertilizer to the barrel and plant more seeds. In the Southland, carrots may be grown year-round.