Sweet, crisp carrots are one of our favorite veggies for salads, snacking, and cooking—but the tastiest carrots are the ones you grow yourself. Even without a backyard or garden, you can grow carrots in containers on your patio, porch, or fire escape.
Carrots aren't the most foolproof vegetable to grow, but with a few basic supplies and simple instructions, you'll be crunching down on your own homegrown crop in just a few months. Here's how to grow carrots in pots or planters.
Meet the Expert
Alexandra Jones is a certified master gardener in Philadelphia. As an indoor and outdoor gardener, Jones is an author in topics like gardening, climate, urban farming, and sustainability.
- Working time: 30 minutes
- Total time: 1 hour
- Skill level: Beginner
When to Plant Carrots in Containers
Sow carrot seeds in containers two to three weeks before the last frost date for your area for an early summer harvest. Most carrot varieties are ready to harvest between 70 and 80 days after seeds are planted. For a fall harvest, sow seeds in late summer.
You can overwinter carrots sown in late summer or early fall to harvest in the following spring. In very cold climates (zones 0-5), use leaves or straw to mulch overwintered carrots and cover them with a tarp to protect the plants from extreme cold and moisture. You can also overwinter container-grown carrots by moving them to a slightly warmer place, such as a shed or garage, in late fall.
Tools and Supplies You Will Need
Before you begin, gather the following materials:
- Carrot seeds
- Appropriately sized plant pots or containers with drainage holes in the bottom
- Light, well-drained potting soil
- Organic compost
- Trowel (optional)
- Gardening gloves (optional)
Choose the Right Carrot Variety
There are five types of carrots you can plant. Imperator and Danvers tend to grow the longest, with roots seven to eight inches long. Nantes carrots grow six to seven inches long, while medium-length Chantenays grow four to six inches long.
The shortest carrots are Oxheart and Parisian varieties, which grow rounded, thicker carrots two to three inches long. Shorter varieties generally grow more successfully in containers, especially shallower pots. The longer the carrot, the deeper your containers will need to be.
Choose the Right Container
The depth of the container you choose will depend on the type of carrot you want to grow. A good rule of thumb is to choose a container that's twice as deep as the average length of the carrot type you'll be planting. Avoid terra cotta or other unglazed pots that will allow moisture to dissipate through the ceramic, as the soil tends to dry out too quickly.
Step 1: Fill Containers With Soil
Fill containers with a blend of one-third organic compost and two-thirds potting soil. Ensure that the soil line falls about one inch below the top of the pot.
Step 2: Plant Carrot Seeds in Containers
Sow carrot seeds one-quarter inch deep in the soil. Space seeds roughly one-half inch apart, seeding across the soil surface. Avoid planting seeds in clumps, which will require significant thinning once seeds sprout.
Step 3: Care for Carrot Seedlings
Move the soil to a spot outdoors that receives at least six to eight hours of sunlight per day. Water the soil with a mister, watering can, or hose attachment that will provide a gentle flow and won't disturb the seeds.
Keep the soil evenly moist but not soggy throughout the growing process. A good rule of thumb is to water carrots in containers when the top inch or so of soil has dried out.
You should see sprouts between one and three weeks after sowing carrot seeds. Feed carrots grown in pots with organic liquid fertilizer according to package directions every four weeks. If you notice the tops of the carrot roots starting to poke above the soil, hill the soil around them so that they're covered. This will prevent greening, which can cause an unpleasant flavor.
Step 4: Thin Carrot Seedlings
When the carrot seeds have sprouted and seedlings are about two inches tall, it's time to thin them. If the plants are too close together, none of them will be able to grow well.
Thin carrot seedlings by carefully cutting the tops off of the seedlings you'd like to remove, which won't disturb the carrots you'd like to keep growing as much as pulling seedlings would. Thin so that seedlings are one inch apart (for skinny varieties) to four inches apart (for the thickest varieties). Thin again to at least two inches apart when the remaining carrot tops are four inches tall.
Step 5: Harvest Carrots
Carrots grown in containers are ready to harvest between two and three months after sowing. Note that each variety has its own recommended days to harvest. Check seed packaging for the number of days to harvest for the varieties you've grown.
Harvest the largest carrots first, pulling gently at the base of the stem. Note that you may need to loosen the soil a bit with your fingers or a hand rake before pulling carrots. Shake soil from the roots and give them a wash before storing.
Step 6: Store Freshly Harvested Carrots
Wash carrots in cool water and dry them immediately after harvesting. Cut off the tops before storing carrots. Leaving them on will cause the carrots to soften and go bad prematurely as the leaves pull nutrients from the root. Stored in a sealed plastic bag in your refrigerator's vegetable crisper, carrots grown in containers can last two to three months.