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?


33 Comments so far. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. Anonymous September 20, 2010 at 2:05 pm -

    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!

  2. Mike Lieberman September 20, 2010 at 2:24 pm -

    Word. They’ve been totally eaten πŸ˜‰

  3. Anonymous September 20, 2010 at 4:17 pm -

    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.

  4. Mike Lieberman September 20, 2010 at 5:21 pm -

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

  5. Anonymous September 20, 2010 at 6:01 pm -

    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 πŸ™ 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!

  6. Jennifer September 20, 2010 at 6:19 pm -

    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. πŸ™‚ I’m hoping the ones I’ve left will be decently sized.

  7. Mike Lieberman September 20, 2010 at 6:37 pm -

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

  8. Mike Lieberman September 20, 2010 at 6:37 pm -

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

  9. Jennifer September 20, 2010 at 10:10 pm -

    I’d just pull them out and eat them.

  10. Mike Lieberman September 20, 2010 at 10:13 pm -


  11. Char(PSI tutor:Mentor) September 20, 2010 at 10:44 pm -

    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…?

  12. Abigail September 21, 2010 at 3:19 am -

    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.

  13. Prue September 21, 2010 at 3:51 am -

    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.

  14. Mike Lieberman September 21, 2010 at 4:45 am -

    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.

  15. Mike Lieberman September 21, 2010 at 4:46 am -

    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.

  16. Mike Lieberman September 21, 2010 at 4:47 am -

    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.

  17. Sukrita September 21, 2010 at 5:08 pm -

    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. πŸ˜‰ 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 πŸ˜€

  18. Anonymous September 21, 2010 at 5:34 pm -

    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…?

  19. Mike Lieberman September 21, 2010 at 7:04 pm -

    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.

  20. Mike Lieberman September 21, 2010 at 7:04 pm -

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

  21. Sullivus September 22, 2010 at 5:50 pm -

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

  22. Mike Lieberman September 22, 2010 at 6:14 pm -

    You growing in containers too?

  23. Alicia Ghio September 23, 2010 at 7:40 pm -

    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.

  24. Mike Lieberman September 23, 2010 at 9:13 pm -

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

  25. Brian Schamp March 29, 2011 at 9:38 pm -

    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

  26. Mike Lieberman March 29, 2011 at 11:20 pm -

    Thanks for the tips.

  27. Sheila August 14, 2011 at 11:19 am -

    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?

  28. Mike Lieberman August 15, 2011 at 12:10 am -

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

  29. Anonymous August 16, 2011 at 5:13 am -

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

  30. Mike Lieberman August 16, 2011 at 2:14 pm -

    thanks for the tip. Know for next time.

  31. Health By Design December 6, 2011 at 10:19 am -

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

  32. Mike Lieberman December 6, 2011 at 7:09 pm -

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

  33. schrodie March 28, 2017 at 8:27 am -

    Sounds like too much nitrogen. That would explain the ‘super bushy’ tops and small roots.Too much nitrogen will also make for “hairy” carrot roots. Carrots are a root vegetable, so you want to feed for more root development and less “green”. That means feeding with more phosphorus and potassium, and reducing the nitrogen. On your bag of fertilizer, you’ll see the letters N-P-K, and 3 numbers… 10-10-10; 3-6-6, whatever. The N stands for nitrogen, the P stands for phosphorus and the K stands for potassium– just like in chemistry class. For root vegetables, you want a modest N, but a higher P and K… a ratio of 1-2-2 (or multiple… the P and K should be twice as high as the N). This will feed your roots while not overfeeding the leafy parts. Carrots don’t need a ton of leaf to grow well. They need some leaves, just like any plant, but they don’t need to be a lush bush. In fact, they shouldn’t be. Bone meal is great for root vegetables (not BLOOD meal– that’s nitrogen). If you are seeing lots and lots of green leaves, take that as a sign to add some phosphorus and potassium to balance out the nitrogen

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