Carrots in bottles? Why not!

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Hi everyone! Yes, you’ve read it right, I am trying to grow carrots in plastic bottles this year. I did not come up with the idea, though.  Horti Hugo invented this some time ago and also introduced the #carrotbottles hashtag on twitter. Now, everyone has their own reason for growing carrots in bottles, and here are just a few:

  • Growing carrots in container requires tall (or deep, however you look at it) pots, because they have a very long tap root, and a plastic bottle is just the right size.
  • Unlike other planters, plastic bottles are essentially free: just dig into a recycling bin and collect the sizes you want!
  • The bottles have small enough of a footprint to be placed in a garden bed between other plants. Why would you want to do this? Well, for example, I have an asparagus patch in my community garden bed, which I would not change for the world, because I love asparagus. However, outside of the harvest season (which means pretty much all summer and fall), I can not use this space for anything else, because asparagus ferns need to feed their roots to stock up on energy for the next year’s harvest. Now, I can grow my asparagus, but still use the space, because I will stick the carrot bottles between the ferns!
  • Why not?

Fortunately, the whole setup is pretty easy. The trickiest part is making sure you end up with one carrot seedling in each bottle. If you’ve ever grown carrots, you probably know that they do not germinate that well (or that fast). So if I’m growing them in the ground, I sow thickly to make sure I have even planting, and then thin out the little plants when the time comes. Fortunately, the entire carrot plant is edible, so the thinned seedlings can go on a salad or into a stir-fry.

You can definitely do the same thing in a bottle – sow 3-4 seeds into each and thin out the extra ones. However, in addition to low germination rates, carrots also take their sweet time sprouting – up to two weeks! So during all this time you’d have to faithfully mist your bottles to keep them moist, but not disturb the seed with a thicker stream of water.

So what Horti Hugo and I suggest you do is pre-sprout the carrot seeds by layering them between two paper towels, napkins, toilet paper or the like, misting lightly but evenly, and placing these “sandwiches” into a tupperware container (lid on, but not tightly, to let the air through). People also use ziplock bags for this, but I opt to not use plastic bags, unless I really have to (e.g. biohazard plastic bags at work for biospecimens).

I was lucky this year: my carrots started germinating after about 5 days.

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When you see the roots sprouting, it is time to move your seedlings. But before that, make sure your bottles are ready!

Poke (or burn, or drill) some holes in the bottle bottom to provide good drainage,…

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…fill it up with light potting mix (not garden soil),…

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…and transfer one seedling per bottle (be very gentle, I use forceps at this step to avoid damaging the sprout).

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Keep misting the bottle daily (bottom watering is another great option), and if all goes well, in a few days your bottle will look like this:…

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…or like this, if you’ve sown more than one seed per bottle:

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At this point, you can ditch the mister and use a watering can (or keep on bottom watering), like with any other plant. This is where I’m at right now, with a dozen bottles or so, and I’ll keep you posted on the progress!

Have you tried growing carrots in bottles?

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