How to Harvest and Store Carrots

Carrots fresh dug
Carrots in the garden

Harvest carrots when they develop their color and the tops are 1 inch in diameter or smaller. Carrots can be lifted as soon as they are a usable size.

Carrots are ready for harvest 60 to 90 days after sowing depending upon the variety; they will continue to grow and enlarge if you leave them in the ground–but they usually do not get tastier and may get bitter.

When to Harvest Carrots

• The best way to know when your carrot crop is ready for harvest is to lift one or two every few days and taste them. Begin your harvest when roots are sweet.

• Carrots planted for summer harvest should be pulled frequently once they are sweet.

• Carrots grown for fall and winter harvest can be left in the ground until you are ready to use them. (Once the weather grows cold, carrots will not continue to grow significantly.) But if you live where the ground freezes, you should harvest your crop soon after the first heavy frost unless you can protect them.

• If you have carrots in the ground when a hot spell or hot weather arrives for the summer, it is best to lift the whole crop; heat can cause carrots to be bitter flavored. Spot check and sample your crop every few days; harvest if the heat causes sweetness to subside.

• The best time of day to lift carrots is in the late afternoon or early evening when sugar in the roots is concentrated.

Carrot harvest
Harvest carrots when they develop their color and the tops are 1 inch in diameter or smaller. Carrots can be lifted as soon as they are a usable size.

How to Harvest Carrots

• Harvest carrots by gently pulling or lifting them from the soil; if they don’t pull free easily, loosen the soil surrounding the roots with a hand fork. Jerking or tugging carrots can break the roots.

• Wash the roots and remove the leafy tops before storing; leaving the greens attached will draw moisture and flavor from the roots. Damaged or bruised roots should be eaten soon after harvest; they will not keep well.

Carrots to store
Nantes carrots. Carrots stored in cold moist conditions will keep for 4 to 6 months.

How to Store Carrots

Store carrots in a perforated plastic bag in the vegetable drawer of the refrigerator. That will keep carrots cold and moist (32°-40°F/0°-4°C and 95 percent relative humidity). A refrigerator provides the cold, but will also have dry air. Placing carrots in a perforated plastic bag in the refrigerator creates a cold and moist environment.

Carrots can be stored for winter use in several ways:

  • Store carrots in the ground during cool winter months unless a freeze is expected; if frost is predicted and the roots can’t be protected, dig them up and store them elsewhere. If carrots stay in the ground all winter, harvest them before new top growth starts in spring. Roots stored in the ground through winter should be eaten very soon after harvest; they will not keep well.
  • Store carrots in the ground where the soil freezes if the ground can be insulated from freezing cold. Keep the soil at 35° to 40°F by putting a 10- to a 12-inch-thick layer of hay, leaves, or straw mulch over the rows; extend the mulch on both sides of each row by another 18 inches or more. This should protect roots even beneath two feet of snow. Dig roots through the winter as needed.
  • Store carrots in a root cellar or basement or in a garage where the temperature is about 32°-38°F during the winter; store roots in a bucket or wooden box filled with either sand, peat moss, or sawdust; pack the roots so that they are standing upright or vertical and insulated and covered and do not touch one another; some moist air must be able to circulate so don’t completely seal the container. Before storing the carrots, allow the skins to cure or dry a few days before storing them in the root cellar. Do not wash the carrots before storing; simply brush away any soil.

Carrots stored in cold moist conditions will keep for 4 to 6 months.

Carrots exposed to very cold temperatures will become bitter tasting. Carrots left in the ground too long will be tough, woody, and may crack.

Check roots during storage and remove those that begin to deteriorate.

More tips: How to Grow Carrots.

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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