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Growing Carrots in a Container

Growing Carrots in a Container
sliced carrots atomic red carrots
sliced carrots
Freshly-pulled carrots: from backyard barrel to skillet in no time.

I usually stay away from gimmicky gardening tips, the ones fraught with the requisite hoop-jumping to pick a mere peapod or pull a pound of potatoes. The truth is (at least from my experience) that most vegetables benefit from being grown in the ground as opposed to a container. As for my apartment dwelling pals, stick with containers and keep up the good fight. There’s nothing like plucking a sun-ripe tomato from a fourth-story balcony.  Gardening triumph in the city!

easy as growing carrots in a barrel
Overwintering carrot tops die back but the roots are alive and well and ready to harvest.

Now back in the country, I rely on good ol’ Mother Earth to provide my planting canvas, except when it comes to growing carrots. I prefer to scatter seeds chockablock in a large barrel or plastic pot filled with potting soil. Carrots are quite happy in this uptown home.

tip top carrots
Tip-top carrots

Why grow carrots in a bucket or barrel?

  • Good soil tilth and drainage
  • Easy to start seeds
  • Carrots thrive in light, rock-free soil
  • Easily harvested as needed
  • Successive planting, one in spring (summer crop) and one summer (winter crop)
  • Easier to control pests like grubs, wireworms and moths
Carrot Dragon: Red is the new Orange.

How to Grow Carrots in a Container

  • Choose a wide container at least two to three inches deeper than the mature length of the carrot cultivar you’ve chosen.
  • Fill with bag of potting soil, leaving two-inch rim to allow for watering.
  • No need to put rocks in the bottom or shards of clay pots (not necessary).
  • Plant seeds around last frost date in your area. (Carrot seeds can handle cold weather.)
  • Scatter seeds carefully about one inch apart over entire area.
  • Cover seeds with more potting soil, but very lightly, only about 1/4 inch.
  • Lightly water surface area. Carrot seeds can float away, so gentle watering is the key until sprouted.
  • Don’t let soil dry out for more than a day during the germination period.
  • Once sprouted with two to three leaves, thin out any crowded carrot plants, leaving an inch or two between plants.
  • Keeped watered but not waterlogged.
  • Carrots prefer cooler soil temperatures so a mixture of sun and shade is good.
  • I don’t fertilize carrots as that usually promotes green leafy growth and spindly roots.
  • To deter pests, cover container with reemay, which lets light in, and keeps bugs out. (Optional: This may not be necessary in all areas.)
  • Sample your carrots throughout the growing season and harvest as you wish.
  • Carrots usually take anywhere from two to four months to reach mature size.
into the sink
Bath time for my garden friends

Carrots come in many colors, including red, yellow, white and purple. Last year I tried some unusual varieties like Dragon, Cosmic Purple and Atomic Red, and all were quite tasty and fine performers in my carrot container garden. So give it a try if you’ve found growing carrots difficult in the past. Corralling your carrots may just be the trick.

Tall Clover Recipe Favorites: 

red carrots
Rooted in tastiness

Carrot Seed Sources

Fun Fact About Carrots

“Carrots are more nutritious cooked than raw. When cooked whole, they have 25 percent more falcarinol, a cancer-fighting compound, than carrots that have been sectioned before cooking.”

-Jo Robinson, author of Eating on the Wild Side.


  1. What a good idea! As my to-grow wish list has continued to expand my gardening space has not, alas, so last year I moved all the lettuces to containers, as well as a few tomato plants and more of the herbs. Carrots do so-so in my rocky soil. What did you think of the atomic red (flavor- and cooking-wise)? This year I’ve got some dark purple carrot seed from Johnny’s; I’ve grown dragon carrots for a number of years and only wish they held their color when cooked. (I grew those after reading somewhere that planting a baby tooth in the garden would yield a baby dragon; I convinced my son one year when he was little that we should have a go. Never did see a dragon, although a salamander popped up one day; the dragon carrots were a consolation prize. But carrot cake, we find, can soothe away some disappointments.)

    • Hi Anne, you know, the atomic red was okay, good, but not the sweetest carrot in the patch, more earthy tasting than I recall in other varieties. Love the story about the dragon tooth. Maybe this year you need to plant some magic beans. 😉

  2. I learned a neat trick for carrots many years ago, from a wonderful garden book by Thalassa Crusoe (Making Things Grow): after you sow the carrot seeds and cover them with that thin layer of soil, pour boiling water over them to speed up germination. Carrot seeds are famously slow to germinate, and this trick really makes a difference. I boil the water inside in a kettle, then pour it into a metal watering can with a rose, to water the little darlings.

    • Kathy I’ve never heard of this practice. Fascinating. I’ll check it out and try it as you are so right that carrot seeds are stubborn germinators. Thanks for the tip!

      • It also works really well for parsley seeds, which reportedly were said to have to go to the Devil and back before they germinate.

    • Hi Mary, wow, that has me stumped. The roots turn up to the light? I would try a couple things. Use a light loamy potting soil in the pot so roots have an easy path down. Keep well watered, not soggy but make sure the plants get a regular watering and are allowed to dry out between waterings. Once carrot tops start growing, add mulch to the top of the soil to keep the soil temperature cool, which is what carrots like. Hopefully these tips will help. Good Luck! Tom


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