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Last year I received two twin packs of carrot planters from my friend. She had received them from her mother in law but rejected them because she didn't want to grow carrots. I said they could be used for other crops too but she wasn't feeling green fingered so I adopted them. I used to grow a lot of veg and fruit in pots before I got an allotment and I still have a few containers in my parents garden. I have always used traditional terracotta/plastic pots or grow bags so I was curious to see how the Proteam Carrot planters would compare to growing in those.
WHY DO CARROTS NEED A POT OF THEIR OWN?
The Proteam carrot planters are model number GH1038 - Proteam make a number of planters aimed at specific crops such as potatoes and strawberries. I would suggest that the carrot planters could be used for many edibles - anything that you could grow in a container with a depth of 40cm. Proteam say that their planters would be of particular use to those who want to grow something on their patio or balcony and they would also suit someone with the sort of stony soil that can cause carrots to grow misshapen. Of course as each planter measures 40cmx45cmx27cm if you wanted to grow vast quantities of carrots you would need to have quite a few planters. I am happy to grow just a few because while I love snacking on fresh carrots, they are not expensive to buy so I prioritise other more expensive crops in general.
These planters are different from traditional tubs in that they are a sort of semi rigid rectangular bag. This means that at the end of the season you can fold them flat and store them away easily. This is great for me as I have a lot of traditional pots to store in limited space and when folded down the carrot planters take up next to no room. I am sure that those using them on a balcony would be even more grateful of this fact! Despite being made of a flexible material they are not flimsy. The planters are advertised as strong, durable and weather resistant and I would agree.
SETTING THEM UP
Proteam products are often advertised as ones that need no tools to construct and this is no exception. However, there isn't actually any construction involved at all! The planters are sold in a twin pack, and all that is necessary to get them ready for planting is to unfold them. They have a pole slotted into a sleeve at the top of the two longest sides which stops the sides collapsing in on themselves. Other than that they are self supporting if well filled. I could not see any information on the package as to how much compost the containers would hold but experimentation means that approximately 60 litres is necessary per bag. However, I also added grit and if you do not you would need a fraction more. I have found that it is a good idea to give the compost longer than average to settle in the bags and it is especially important to firm it down well. This is because the flexible sides bow a little as the bag is filled and the shape changes. Firming carefully as I went reduced the sideways bulge. I chose to add extra grit to the two bags that I grew carrots in because carrots like well drained soil, and I also added crocks to the bottom of one and gravel to the other for the same reason. Drainage holes are ready cut in the bottom of each bag and they seem to be a good enough size but I preferred to err on the side of caution and provide a little extra protection against "wet feet". Lastly I stuck in a metal hoop and used this to support a fleece covering to guard against carrot fly attack. I attached this with the help of metal pegs and some string tied around the perimeter.
I grew two varieties of carrots recommended for containers as they can be spaced especially close together. [Chantenay Red Core and Amsterdam Sprint 2]. They were perfectly happy in their home and grew and germinated at the same rate as those I had in a plastic tub nearby. I had to water the ones in the carrot planters a bit more often though as I believe moisture evaporates faster through the side of those ones. The compost definitely dries out quicker, but if you are aware of the fact and keep an eye on it isn't a problem. I used the remaining two bags to grow spring onions and landcress, both of which grew steadily in their home. I didn't really need a bag of that depth to grow either of those two things but the space was available so I decided to use it.
The bags held their shape well. I had to move one bag a little to access a plant behind it for pruning purposes and I was able to lift the filled bag without it tearing, so they really are strong. They are not at all light when filled with compost and I would not move them unless you had to as doing so loosens the compost from the edges a little which could upset seeds you have sown. There are no handles supplied so I just had to grasp the reinforced edges which didn't help.
The bags showed no sign of wear and tear at the end of the season. They are a dark green colour which looks smart enough, and a few mud splashes that had found their way onto the bag sides came off easily with a quick scrub. I put one pair away in my parents shed over winter and left the others outside where they survived the frost and snow. The colour hasn't faded either. I think to prolong their life I will store all of them inside this year - I just got a bit lazy last autumn.
WOULD I RECOMMEND THE PLANTERS?
The current Amazon price for twin pack is £5.99 which I think is a good deal. The bags have lived up to their promise of being durable and weather resistant - and last years wet summer and cold winter certainly put that to the test. If you want to grow carrot and can't do so in the ground for whatever reason these are worth considering especially of you don't have much room to store containers afterwards. I can understand some people finding these less attractive than conventional planters that you can buy in all sorts of colour schemes but I like them. If you want some cheap planters for another vegetable, don't be put off by the "carrot" labelling - they will do for anything that can grow in a pot that is 40cm deep. It would be worth checking to see what the minimum recommend pot size is for any crop you are thinking of though - as you may be able to get away with a shallower container and there is no sense using more compost than you need. Apart from that, these are well worth a try.
[This review is also under my user name on Ciao.]