Introduction to growing hydroponic carrots: Carrots are members of the parsley family. The carrot is a root vegetable claimed to be the perfect health food. Carrots (Daucus carota L) are one of the most widely used and important root vegetables in the world because they grow relatively easily. The hydroponic system is a method of growing plants without the use of soil.
Fresh Carrots make a healthy addition to the hydroponics system and are a rich source of vitamins A and C. A medium culture hydroponics system is required for Carrots, as they are a root vegetable. Solution culture hydroponics systems do not provide the support required for root vegetables. In this article we also discussed the following topics;
- Hydroponic Carrot growing conditions
- Optimal pH for Carrot growing hydroponically
- How fast do hydroponic plants grow
- Kratky hydroponic method
- Hydroponic Carrot nutrient requirements
- How long does it take to grow Carrot hydroponics
- Advantages of growing plants by using hydroponics
A step by step guide to growing hydroponic Carrots
Basic requirements of hydroponics: The basic requirements of hydroponics are the Nutrient solution, Temperature, Air, Supporting materials, Water, Mineral nutrient, Light and most important Growing media such as Sawdust, Bark, Chips, Straw, Gravel, Rockwool, Perlite, Sand and vermiculite, etc.
A hydroponic system supplies plants with three basic things they are water, nutrients (in the water), and oxygen (at the root level). Systems can be modified to accommodate the growth habits of a particular crop, but these three basic needs must always be met.
Water is easy enough to provide. Most tap water will do, it is a good idea to let it sit out overnight to de-chlorinate and also to come up to room temperature. And this helps prevent damage from temperature shock.
Oxygen at the root level is very important because nutrient absorption only occurs in the presence of oxygen. Any hydroponic in which the plants are not grown directly in standing water will automatically provide enough oxygen to the roots. Some plants are grown directly in standing water; an air bubbler is mainly used to keep lots of oxygen dissolved in the nutrient solution. As long as you know how to keep a nutrient reservoir properly, providing nutrients to your plants is a simple matter of knowing their nutritional requirements. Carrots, for example, prefer a pH level of about 6.3 and nutrient solution strength of 1120-1400 ppm. It is very important to add that they are started out on a weaker solution at first.
Root crops require lots of room to grow. This is particularly true with Carrots. Carrots need to be “thinned out” in a hydroponic system just as they want to be when grown in soil, and for the same reasons. And over-crowded Carrots will fork, grow deformed, and wrap around each other. If the container is not deep enough, the carrot plants will grow sideways when they hit the bottom. Root crops such as potatoes and Carrots need a lightweight, loose growing medium that is easy to “push out of the way” as they grow. Finally, root crops must not be grown directly in standing water and they tend to rot when they are kept too wet.
Light requirement for growing hydroponic Carrots
For indoor Hydroponic systems, you will want to use grow lights when the seedlings sprout. 12 to 16 hours daily and 8 -12 hours darkness to simulate the natural day/night cycle. Hydroponic Carrots need about 12 to 16 hours of light every day and 8 to 12 hours of darkness per day. This mirrors the natural day or night cycle experiences outside. The foolproof way to makes your plants get enough light is to put your grow lights on a timer then that you don’t have to remember to turn them on and off.
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Hydroponic systems for growing Carrots
The only difference when growing Carrots, and other root vegetables, is that instead of the roots being directly in the nutrient solution, you want to grow your Carrots in a growing medium. The growing medium supports the roots of the carrot plant, including the delicious storage root.
Here are some hydroponic systems for growing Carrots are;
- Ebb and flow systems
- Wick systems
- Drip systems
Nutrients for growing hydroponic Carrots
In hydroponics, feed carrot plants lightly with a nutrient solution at least once a week. Sprinkle with enough nutrient solution to ensure that the upper layer of Growth Medium gets damp. The plants will draw the bulk of their nutrients from the reservoir below.
Carrots grow best with a solution pH level of about 6.3; up to 7.5 is tolerable but not optimal. Maturing Carrots need a Nutrient solution strength of 1120-1400 ppm. Germinating and new carrot seedlings must be fed a weaker solution, slightly more than half strength gradually bumped up to full strength as they mature and it should not exceed 1400 – 1450 ppm.
Planting Carrots in hydroponics
Fill your container with a mix of about 2/3 perlite to one 1/3 vermiculite. And other suitable growth media such as sterile sand or coco coir will suffice, but for Carrots, in general, the perlite-vermiculite mix works best. The perlite draws moisture upwards from the base and maintains ample oxygen within the medium.
Oxygen at the root level is very important for nutrient absorption by the plant. The Container must be filled to a depth of at least 1 foot. For larger varieties of Carrots, you will want to make the media slightly deeper. If the container is not sufficiently deep, the Carrots will fork and produce sideways when they hit bottom.
Best hydroponic growing mediums for Carrots
When growing Carrots hydroponically, you’ll want a growing medium that allows the carrot to push through it as it grows, or you’ll be growing a lot of split and deformed Carrots. Perlite is widely recommended as the best growing medium for Carrots, and it is better to use coarser perlite, about 0.6mm perlite caused a significant increase in yield. If you’re worried about water retention, then you can add 1 cup of vermiculite for every 3 cups of perlite.
Hydroton or clay pebbles can also be used to grow Carrots. This is normally a more expensive option, but also more environmentally friendly and has the added bonus of being aquaponics-friendly.
Coco Coir is becoming popular with many growers and makes a good growing medium for Carrots. The main disadvantage is that, unlike the other items on this list, it can be reused two times. It is treated with chemicals to ensure that it does not contain pathogens.
Growing Carrots in a hydroponic system
- Mix two parts sand, one part perlite, and one part peat moss to make a hydroponic potting mixture. Then add water until the peat moss has absorbed the water.
- Fill the pot loosely with potting mix and water it again until you see water drain out of the bottom. And this will settle the mixture into the container.
- Sow your carrot seeds into plant pots by pushing them down 1/2 inch into the growing medium. Then cover them over and tamp the surface gently. Make sure the mixture is warm, about 60 to 65°F, or the carrot seeds will not germinate.
- Mix about 2 cups of dry complete fertilizer in 1 gallon of water to make a concentrated nutrient solution. Dilute 2 tbsp. of nutrient solution in 1 gallon of water before using it on Carrots.
- Carefully water the planted carrot seeds every morning with warm diluted nutrient solution until it drains out the bottom and save the drained water and use it again in the morning.
- Place the container in a spot where it can get 12 hours of light, sunlight or grow lights, each day. Keep the air temperature around it at 65 to 65°F, or the flavor of the carrot will get too strong.
- Drill 3 or 4-inch drainage holes on each side of a 32-quart plastic storage bin, 3 inches up from the bottom. And space the holes equally along each side.
- Locate the bin in a warm, sunny location in your yard or on your deck or patio. Fill the bin with perlite to a depth of at least about 12 inches. Depending on the type of Carrots selected, you may need to make the perlite even deeper, but for most varieties that are appropriate for container growing, about 12 inches is enough.
- Dampen the upper layer of perlite and sprinkle carrot seeds over the perlite, spacing them about half an inch apart. Cover them with a one-half-inch layer of perlite and also keep them damp until they sprout. Once they are 2 inches tall, thin them so they are 3 inches apart, leaving the strongest plants to grow.
- Then fill the bottom of the bin with a nutrient solution once the Carrots are established. The holes will keep the solution from getting too deep since the extra will pour out through them, but make sure the bin is in an area where the runoff won’t cause any problems.
- Sprinkle the Carrots lightly with nutrient solution 2 or 3 times each day. And use just enough to make sure the upper layer of perlite gets damp. The Carrots will draw most of what they require from the reservoir below them, but sprinkling will ensure that Carrots get adequate moisture. Use liquid if the weather is hot and dry and less if conditions are humid. Continue watering Carrots until they are ready to harvest.
- Harvest the Carrots when their tops are 1/2 inch wide or smaller if you wish to grow baby Carrots. And pull straight up to avoid snapping the root from the greens.
Time to take to grow Carrots hydroponically
Most carrot varieties will reach maturity in about 70 days. More accurate estimates will be listed on the seed packet of the seeds you purchase, but it isn’t necessarily an accurate estimate.
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The time it takes for a plant to reach maturity will depend a lot on the conditions that it was grown in. A good rule of thumb to follow is to wait at least the number of days listed on the seed packet and be sure your carrot is about 1 inch in diameter. You can generally get a good look at the carrot by pulling back the leafy part of the carrot plant and poking a bit around the growing medium.
Gardening tips for growing hydroponic carrots
If you purchase concentrated hydroponic nutrient solution, mix it according to the packet label directions before using it. You can make your own nutrient solution by adding 2 teaspoons of water-soluble fertilizer, complete with micronutrients, and 1 teaspoon of Epsom salts to each gallon of water used in the system.
Don’t select a hydroponic system that immerses your Carrots in water. Carrots don’t do well in very wet environments and keeping them in water all of the time will cause them to rot. Keeping the liquid level no more than 3 inches deep provides the carrot plants with access to food and water without them being wet all the time.
Do not take Carrots from outdoor gardens to use in a hydroponic garden. This generally brings unwanted pests and diseases into your Hydroponic system.
Hydroponic Carrot harvesting
Depending on plant variety and growing conditions, your Carrots should be ready to harvest in about 2 to 3 months. If insects pose a problem to the hydroponics system, use natural pest control methods to control them.
Kratky method for growing Carrots
Some growers have even had luck with the Kratky method for growing Carrots. This process involves starting a carrot seed in a Rockwool square and then suspended in water mixed with a nutrient solution. This is different from most hydroponic systems as the water is not aerated or circulated.
The Kratky method is a way of hydroponically growing plants in a container without needing electricity, air stones, and pumps. And this means that the Kratky Method is a passive hydroponics system. Though, the Kratky method is not recommended for any type of root vegetable or tuber as the roots tend to rot in the water before getting the chance to reach maturity. Then, it is a risky way of growing Carrots.
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