How to store carrots from the garden, according to a fruit and veg expert

Discover how to store carrots from the garden and you can enjoy fresh and tasty crops throughout winter

Close up of shovel and harvested carrots in garden
(Image credit: Inti St Clair / Getty)

There are a couple of alternative techniques for how to store carrots from the garden. Both work equally well, so it comes down to which method works best for you.

The first method involves a large box and a bag of sand, and is a simple way of keeping carrots fresh. But it helps if you have a decent shed or garage so you can store your harvest until you have need of them. 

Alternatively, you can keep carrots in the ground and lift them as and when needed. But over the winter months, you'll need to insulate them against the soil freezing as outlined below, otherwise you'll find pulling up carrots a wholly unpleasant experience.

If you only grow carrots by the handful then organic fruit and vegetable expert Bob Flowerdew recommends simply packing them in plastic bags (perforated to allow a little airflow), which stops carrots from withering away rapidly.  

But for larger harvests over longer periods, the two main methods below are your best option. 

Headshot of Lucy Chamberlain
Lucy Chamberlain

Lucy studied horticulture at Writtle and Wye colleges, before going on to be a Horticultural Advisor at RHS Wisley for several years. She has been Head Gardener on a 100-acre private estate in Essex in the UK for the past seven years, and is the author of the RHS Step by Step Veg Patch. 
Here, she talks us through the two main methods for storing carrots once you've harvested them from your kitchen garden.

How to store carrots in a box

'Our household mostly eats carrots during the cooler months – diced into casseroles, blitzed into soups or supporting a hearty Sunday dinner,' says Lucy.

'If you’re of a similar mindset, then I’m hoping you followed my lead and sowed a few drills alongside the best companion plants for carrots, back in summer for winter harvests.

'If followed correctly, this method for storing carrots will allow you to keep them fresh into spring,' she says.

  1. Knowing when to harvest vegetables is key. For carrots, this can be throughout summer and fall, depending on when they were sown. Carefully lift your carrots from your raised garden beds, then check them over for damage. Any with skin wounds or holes are best preserved by pickling, or eaten straightaway. Sound roots are ideal candidates for winter storage. 
  2. Gently but firmly twist the leaves off. Try not to leave any little tufts as they can encourage rotting. Wash off any excess soil and leave them in the sun to dry for a couple of hours. 
  3. Fill a sturdy wooden box or tray. Or a plastic storage box like these 6 Quart Clear Storage Bins from Amazon (opens in new tab), with a 2in (5cm) layer of damp sand. Do not use soil as this can cause rotting. Lay the carrots, not touching, on this and then cover them over with more sand. Keep adding more layers of sand and carrots until full. There's no need for a lid.

Daucus carota 'Autumn King'. Storing carrots by layering roots in moist sand in a wooden crate.

Place each carrot in the sand making sure they aren't touching

(Image credit: Deborah Vernon / Alamy Stock Photo)

How to store carrots in the ground

'If you're lacking space in your shed storage, another method for how to store carrots is to leave them in the soil until you need them,' says Lucy. 'It can be a tad frustrating if you need to harvest them while the soil is frozen solid though, so insulating the roots is a nifty way to combat this.' 

  1. Cut the foliage off your carrots using a sharp knife or pair of the best secateurs, taking care not to damage the root itself. Then cover them with a thick layer of insulating material; this can be straw, bracken, or even layers of newspaper if that’s all you have to hand.
  2. To keep your insulating material in place, peg it down with netting, or weigh it down with bricks or planks of wood. This will ensure that even if there is a hard and prolonged ground frost, you’ll be able to gain access to, and lift your carrots.
  3. Whenever you need to harvest the carrots, simply peel back the insulating layer and then lay it back in place when finished. Your roots can remain in the soil right through until spring, after which point they’ll start sprouting into growth.

Carrots stored in the ground insulated with straw

Simply peel back the insulating layer when you want to harvest your stored carrots

(Image credit: Lucy Chamberlain / Future Publishing Ltd)

How do you store garden carrots long term?

To keep carrots fresh over winter once they've been harvested, horticultural journalist and gardener, Tamsin Westhorpe (opens in new tab) prefer to store them in boxes of sand.

'To do this I have removed their green tops, brushed off the soil and placed them in a wooden tray filled with sand. Large carrots store much better than smaller ones,' says Tamsin.

'If your box is deep enough you can store carrots on top of each other as well as side by side. This storage method keeps the crop protected from frost and gives you the chance to show off your perfect carrots at the Christmas table.'

Vegetable gardening expert in front of a bed of carrots

Store your carrot glut properly in fall and Lucy Chamberlain says you can expect to serve fresh, home-grown carrots at Christmas dinner (and maybe Easter lunch too!)

(Image credit: Future Publishing Ltd)