Okay, you may be wondering; Why on earth would I want to grow carrots in a jar? Well for starters, this made a great project during a unit of study on root systems, especially when the cold air of winter would not allow us to grow anything outside. Also, it looks cool and is a great conversation piece. And if you don’t have a lot of space, or live in an urban setting, this could be a way for you to contribute to your menu. It’s simple, relatively quick (in a manner of seed to mouth speaking) and a great way to teach kids how easy it is to grow our own food.
Large jar (I reused a marinara sauce jar that Tracey, from our dining hall saves for me. I use these jars for a plethora of reasons; storing dried herbs from our garden for tea-making in the winter, brewing sun tea in the summer, terrariums and various science experiments).
Handfuls of gravel or sand (I like to add this to the bottom of the jar in case someone with a heavy hand does the watering; it helps with drainage).
Potting soil (enough to fill your jar about 3/4 of the way)
Carrot seeds (whatever type you have access to will work)
Step 1: Locate a clean jar that is deep enough to accommodate the length of a grown carrot. Glass is great because you can see what’s happening (at least around the perimeter of your jar).
Step 2: Place about 2″ of gravel or sand in the bottom of your container. (Be creative about where you mine your gravel or sand from, especially if working with small children who love expeditions. Set a search site and have fun with a theme like “The Great Rock Search” or “Mining Sand from Streams” (or the side of the road for that matter! The street sweeper has yet to clean my road, it is loaded with sand from the winter).
Step 3: Mix your potting soil with water. You don’t want to create mud, but you also don’t want to plant with really dry soil. Texture should feel moist and be a bit crumbly. Think pie crust, if you make your own.
Step 4: Put moist potting soil on top of gravel or sand, filling jar about 3/4 of the way to the top of the jar. Don’t tap it down, new roots have a hard time breaking through compacted soil.
Step 5: Scatter carrot seeds on top of the soil, especially near edges so you will be able to see some of the carrots developing. Don’t overcrowd the jar with seeds – nobody, not even carrots, like to be packed like sardines.
Step 6: Scatter a little more moist potting soil on top to cover your seeds.
Step 7: Place jar on a sunny windowsill. Water very gently. This jar has extremely limited drainage, right? The most important thing to remember is to water lightly at all times. Don’t let soil get very dry for any extended amount of time, but you also don’t want to create a swamp. Trust me. This is something you will have to monitor. If you, or your little one, tend to pour things too quickly, try this trick: using a hammer and nail, pierce several small holes in the top of a plastic water bottle cap. Now you can reuse the water bottle as a watering can with a very fine drip.
Step 8: Watch your seeds germinate and over time produce lots of delicate, lacy leaves. Once you see the tops of carrots forming (check your seed packet for expected harvest time, this can vary depending on the variety), and the circumference looks like that of a healthy sized carrot, gently twist and pull the leaves until the edible root comes free from the soil.
Step 9: Wash carrots with water to remove any soil.
Step 10: Persuade someone who thinks they don’t like carrots to sample your crop. Enjoy a moment together, while munching on sweet, crunchy deliciousness.