Harvesting Carrots That Are Too Small

Posted on Sep 20 2010 - 2:28am by Mike Lieberman

I harvested the first carrots from my container garden on my balcony. The carrots were way too tiny.

They were planted over four months ago in the beginning of May. I thought that this would be plenty of time for them to grow.

On the outside the carrot tops were showing and looked great, but when I harvested my first carrot it was mad small about an inch and very thin. I harvested two more carrots. One was a bit fatter, but still very tiny.

After I planted the carrot seeds, I didn’t do much beyond watering them. I think this might be the issue.

As the seedlings grew, they were never thinned out to allow for more space for the carrots to grow. Since they were all packed in to tight, their growth was stunted.

The container is plenty deep at about 14″, so I don’t think that’s an issue. I am going to let them grow until the end of the month to see if they grow anymore.

If they are still small, I will rip them up and start anew, but this time I’ll thin them out and take better care of them.

What are your thoughts?

  • Anonymous

    You can still eat them when they’re tiny, at least. Just don’t peel them, bc then there won’t be any carrot left. We used to get tiny carrots like that in our CSA basket from time to time, and they’re pretty tasty!

  • Mike Lieberman

    Word. They’ve been totally eaten ;-)

  • Anonymous

    Part of me prefers tiny carrots, bc I am lazy and don’t like to peel! Sometimes, I don’t peel full sized ones either.

  • Mike Lieberman

    I’m crazy. I never peel them…ok maybe just lazy.

  • Anonymous

    I haven’t tried carrot in a container…yet. Maybe the soil is too moist with your efficient pots (no dry out cycle)? My first 2 years of trying carrots were with an automatic drip irrigation system…tiny carrots for me too :( This year was a hand watering affair, lots of seed casting and accidental gardening. Some of the beds got pretty dry when we were busy and I wondered, but lo and behold carrots! They did best in the looser drier soil spots so give that a thought. I’ll let you know for sure next year…. Ours did take a long time this year too, just finishing actually. Peace!

  • Jennifer

    I’d thin them out now till there’s an inch or two between all of them, and eat the baby carrots that you thin out. Then maybe the ones you’ve left will grow a bit. I’ve pulled some carrots even tinier than yours, like the size of a pea. Still taste like carrots, though. :) I’m hoping the ones I’ve left will be decently sized.

  • Mike Lieberman

    People swear by growing carrots in containers. Def keep me updated on what you got goin on.

  • Mike Lieberman

    By thinning you mean pull up the ones in between or just clip the green part down by the soil?

  • Jennifer

    I’d just pull them out and eat them.

  • Mike Lieberman

    Word.

  • Char(PSI tutor:Mentor)

    I have never tried to grow carrots~ just eat the tops off the ones I buy ~:-) However, am told is normal for at least 4 months to grow and needs very rich compost soil.

    They look like they are growing well. Perhaps just a timing thing…?

  • http://lawrencepothead.blogspot.com Abigail

    I grew carrots in containers last year, and they were all like yours– super bushy and healthy on top, but just dinky on the bottom. I had to find a lot of recipes for what to do with carrot tops, to feel justified in growing this plant! (Made a pretty good tabouleh…) But I would have preferred bigger carrots, of course. I didn’t do much thinning either, so maybe that’s the problem. Next season I’ll try again. Curious to see how yours turn out.

  • Prue

    I grow carrots in containers all the time (it is all I can do without a proper garden) You definitely need to thin them, and they need a lot of sunlight and water. When I thin them properly and give them enough water/sun they grow well, when I get lazy and leave them to themselves they end up small. It might be best to start again, as I’ve left stunted ones before and they didn’t seem to grow much more no matter how much TLC I gave them. Good luck and happy gardening.

  • Mike Lieberman

    I think I may have jammed too many in there. You can also dry out the carrot tips and grind them up. Make for a good salad topper that way.

  • Mike Lieberman

    I hear ya on that. With the limited space want to grow the most possible. Will give another week or so, then rip em all out, start again and thin em out this time. That seems to be the popular answer.

  • Mike Lieberman

    Looks like I will likely have to start again like you said, but this time pay attention to them so they don’t have complexes.

  • Sukrita

    I’m growing carrots too. It’s just starting to be winter here, so they’ve just been planted… carrots are a winter season crop here. ;) Yours look really cute, I’d enjoy eating them.

    I rarely peel carrots, but usually do with the ones I get from the store – pesticides and such, you know. When I can get them fresh and clean, I don’t bother with that :D

  • Anonymous

    Hmmm, it would depend how many you had squished together. I’ve fairly successfully grown 3 or so too close together without much problem. I imagine if that was upped to 5 or more then it’d be a big problem.
    Are you growing anything else in the container with them? sometimes a larger plant’s roots will take the nutrients faster or block and stunt them. Also learned the hard way that if the soil is too compacted or thick they grow very weird.
    Also how much sun? Carrots seem to love sun and I think that helps the growth rate.
    Aaaaaand finally – are you sure you didn’t get a mini carrot type seed by mistake…?

  • Mike Lieberman

    I think they are jammed in there pretty tightly. Also only get 4-6 hours of sun a day. Might not be good growing conditions for them.

  • Mike Lieberman

    Yea no need to peel organic carrots. Good luck with your growing!

  • Sullivus

    I had the same problem! The greens were beautiful looking but the carrots themselves were pathetic.

  • Mike Lieberman

    You growing in containers too?

  • http://twitter.com/aliciaghio Alicia Ghio

    Same happened to me. I think thinning them out early on is key to getting anything other than itsy bitsy carrots.I’m new to growing my own food so it’s all a bit trial and error. I’m going to try again next year and just be more diligent about tending to them.

  • Mike Lieberman

    I’m gonna give it another go too. Keep me updated on yours.

  • http://www.InTheRaw.TV Brian Schamp

    My best experience is with a loose neutral soil ammended with worm castings. Definitely thin when favorable tops can be identified. The worm casting give a fuller ecosystem and readily usable nutrients. You will find you need to water less with more worm castings as they ecosystem retain and release moisture. The nutrients being readily usable without burning the roots help the carrot grow faster.
    Thank you for your article. I really enjoy your website.

    Brian Schamp @BrianSchamp

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    Thanks for the tips.

  • Sheila

    Snap! And I thought it was just me! Last year I grew the small round carrots, plenty of greenery up top and nice little round carrots come harvest time. Great as they were, I decided to give ‘normal’ carrots a go this year and did two plantings, first in seed trays that I then transplanted and second lot directly into the ground. Looked after them exactly the same as last years lot (which I didn’t thin out by the way) ie watered and fed with a general liquid fertiliser…they are soooo small! I guess no amount of TLC will alter that now, no matter how long they are left in the ground? Probably the same overcrowding issue others appear to have experienced?

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    I’ve heard that it’s best to do carrots directly in the ground.

  • Anonymous

    Carrots hate close neighbors.
    Liberal spacing is a must.~Martin

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    thanks for the tip. Know for next time.

  • http://twitter.com/HealthxDesign Health By Design

    I am having a similar problem with my jalepeno pepper.  Not space issue, I don’t think, but size.  The sucker just stopped growing when it got to be as big as my pinkie nail.  wth?  I am feeding it organic veggie supplements now…and working on a compost.  Wonder if it’s weather related here in So Cal?

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    Hmm. Not sure. I know for me it was not thinning them out. That was the big issue.