You don’t need a garden to grow carrots! This popular root vegetable is easy to grow in containers, window boxes, and planters. Growing carrots in containers is a fun way to grow food in the smallest of spaces as well as on decks, patios, and balconies. And with a little planning, you can succession plant pots of carrots for a non-stop harvest from early summer through late fall.
Why grow carrots in containers
There are many reasons to consider growing carrots in containers. First, you can grow them anywhere you have a bit of space and some sunshine. You don’t have to worry about rocky, weedy, or infertile soil as you control the growing medium when planting in pots. And because you’ll be growing them in stone-free soil, the roots can grow straight and fork-free.
Because carrots are slender plants, you can also pack quite a few in a single pot! A 10 gallon grow bag is around 16 inches across and can hold 24 to 36 carrots depending on the variety. Plus, I find my container-grown carrots are bothered by fewer pests like slugs or larger critters like rabbits and deer.
This is also a great DIY for kids! Carrots are easy to plant and grow, and kids will have a lot of fun caring for the container and eventually harvesting the roots. Who knows, they may even EAT the carrots they grew!
The best pots and planters for growing carrots in containers
Carrots can be grown in any type of container, but you need to select pots that are deep enough to accommodate the roots of your chosen variety. You’ll find plenty of details on the different carrot types and varieties below, but root length ranges from 2 inches to a foot or more, so choose accordingly. I use large pots or planters for my carrot crop. Not only do they accommodate the length of the carrot roots, they also hold a larger volume of soil. And more soil = less work for me because the pots don’t dry out as quickly between waterings.
The container material can also have an impact on the care and maintenance of your potted carrots. Containers made from porous materials like clay need to be watered far more often than pots made from plastic, fiberglass, or metal. I have used plastic containers to grow carrots and other vegetables, but also like fabric pots which come in many sizes and shapes. Ten gallon fabric bags are my standard for potted vegetables but you could also use a Smart Pot Long Bed or other fabric container.
You can also upcycle materials like 5 gallon plastic buckets for growing carrots and other vegetables. Before filling them with the growing medium, make sure they’re clean and have drainage holes on the bottom. You can add drainage holes quickly and easily with a drill and a half inch drill bit.
Planting carrots in containers
Carrots are a cool season vegetable and can be planted from mid-spring through mid-summer for delicious roots from early summer to late autumn. I like to sow a new container of carrots every three to four weeks for a non-stop crop of sweet roots. My first planting of the year is a week or two before my last expected spring frost, early to mid May in my northern garden.
One of the advantages of growing carrots in containers is that you control the soil. A lightweight, loose, and well-draining potting mix is perfect for growing straight roots. I blend the potting mix with compost; two-thirds potting mix and one-third compost. I also add some bone meal to the container, mixing it into the growing medium. Bone meal provides phosphorous, which is essential when growing root crops like carrots. You can also use an all-purpose organic vegetable fertilizer but avoid those high in nitrogen which encourage healthy carrot tops but can result in smaller roots.
How to plant carrots
Once the pots are filled with the growing medium, water and mix to ensure it’s evenly moist. Level the soil and sow seeds a half inch apart and a quarter inch deep. When growing carrots in containers, I plant the seeds in a grid formation, not in rows, so I can fill the entire container. Carrot seeds are quite small and you may prefer to use pelleted seeds or strips of seed tape to make planting easier. Try to plant carefully so the seeds are evenly spaced. Seed planted in dense clumps will need careful thinning.
One the pot is planted, water with a fine spray of water from a watering can or a hose nozzle set to the mist or shower setting. Avoid watering with a hard jet of water as that can dislodge the small seeds. Like garden carrots, those grown in containers need at least 6 to 8 hours of sun each day so move the container to a spot where it receives plenty of light.
Growing carrots in containers
Once the seeds have germinated and the plants are growing well, there are a few ongoing tasks you can do to help ensure a bumper crop of potted carrots:
- Watering – Carrots appreciate lightly moist, but not wet soil. Pay attention to soil moisture, watering when the soil is dry about an inch down (stick your finger into the potting mix to check). The roots of drought-stressed carrots can fork or twist but checking the soil every day or two helps to ensure healthy root development.
- Thinning – Once the seedlings are two to three inches tall, thin them 1 1/2 to 3 inches apart. I use garden snips to cut the unwanted seedlings off at the soil surface. Pulling them out may damage nearby seedlings if their roots were entangled. For narrow carrot types like Imperator and Nantes, a 1 1/2 inch spacing is fine. For wider carrot types like Chantenay and Parisian, space them 3 inches apart.
- Fertilizing – To promote healthy growth, fertilize the container every 3 to 4 weeks with a liquid organic vegetable fertilizer or compost tea. Avoid high nitrogen fertilizers which encourage lush tops but small roots.
- Hilling – As carrots grow the tops of the roots can sometimes push out of the ground. If you notice this happening, just add a bit more potting mix to cover the shoulders. If they’re exposed to direct sunlight the tops of the roots can turn green and become bitter tasting.
How to harvest carrots in containers
Most varieties of carrots are ready two to three months from seeding. Check your seed packet for specific ‘days to maturity’ information. Not sure if yours are ready to harvest? The best way to check is to pull a root and see how big it is. Of course you don’t need to wait until the roots have matured to start the harvest. All varieties can be pulled once the roots are large enough to eat. Baby carrots are a summer treat in our garden!
We don’t harvest the entire pot at once, but instead pull roots as needed. This allows the remaining carrots in the pot to continue growing. To harvest this way, remove carrots selectively by pulling every second root.
Types of carrots
While there are dozens of varieties of carrots available from seed companies, there are five main types: Imperator, Nantes, Chantenay, Danvers, and Parisian.
Imperator – Imperator is the type most often found in grocery stores and farmers markets. The roots are long and tapered with most varieties growing 10 to 12 inches in length. They can be grown in containers, but choose one that is at least 14 inches deep.
Nantes – I love Nantes types which have cylindrical roots that grow 6 to 8 inches long. These are the sweetest carrot varieties and I like to grow them in pots as well as in my garden beds and cold frames.
Chantenay – These are a fun type for kids to grow. The roots are triangular often growing 3 to 4 inches across at the top and just 5 inches long. You can grow Chantenay carrots in window boxes or shallow planters that are just 9 to 10 inches deep.
Danvers – Danvers varieties produce medium length roots about 6 to 8 inches long. They have the classic carrot shape; tapered with pointy tips.
Parisian – Also called round carrots, these rounded roots are perfect for containers. They grow 1 to 3 inches across and have crisp, crunchy roots. The skin is thin and doesn’t need to be peeled.
Growing carrots in containers: the best varieties to plant
Now that we know the various types of carrots, here are seven of my favorite varieties to grow in pots:
- Atlas (70 days) – This Parisian variety has cute rounded roots that can be harvested when they’re 1 to 2 inches across. There’s no need to peel the skin; just give the roots a quick rinse and enjoy the sweet crunch of Atlas.
- Yaya (56 days) – Yaya is a Nantes-type carrot with 6 inch long roots that are ready to harvest less than two months from seeding. This is a great variety to plant in mid to late spring for summer harvesting.
- Bolero (75 days) – Bolero is another Nantes variety with cylindrical shaped roots which grow up to 8 inches long. The flavor is excellent: sweet, juicy, and very crisp. It’s also resistant to many common carrot diseases.
- Adelaide (50 days) – If you love baby carrots, this is the variety you need to grow! Adelaide is a true baby carrot with cylindrical roots that grow just 3 to 4 inches long. It’s also super early to mature and ready to harvest in just 50 days.
- Oxheart (90 days) – A heritage variety, Oxheart carrots are short and squash with large cone-shaped roots. They typically measure 3 to 4 inches at the shoulders and are only 4 to 5 inches long. The compact shape makes them ideal for pots and planters.
- Thumbelina (65 days) – Kids will love growing this fairy tale carrot with small round roots that are 1 to 2 inch across. The flavor is excellent raw or cooked and they’re fast to grow.
- Royal Chantenay (70 days) – Royal Chantenay produces a reliable crop of carrots with roots that are 3 inches across at the shoulders and 6 inches long. If you like juicing carrots, this is the variety for you.
- Danvers Half Long (75 days) – A heritage variety, Danvers Half Long yields high-quality roots up to 8 inches in length and 1 1/2 inches at the shoulders. Sweet and tasty!
For more information on growing vegetables in pots, be sure to check out these articles:
- How to grow cucumbers in containers
- The best tomato varieties for containers
- Growing food in fabric raised beds
- Growing hot peppers in garden beds or pots
- How to thin carrots for a healthy crop of roots
Are you growing carrots in containers this summer?