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Soda Bottle Carrots: a Very Small Kitchen Garden

Seventeen days after I planted carrots in a sawed-off soda bottle, young carrot tops had sprouted on the windowsill in my basement.

I encourage people who have little space that they can still grow small kitchen gardens. To that end, on May 1st I cut the top off of a two-liter soda bottle, filled the bottle with soil, and planted carrots in it. I described this project in a post titled Small Kitchen Garden Carrots in Containers. I mentioned my container carrots again on May 18, and again on June 17. It has been an interesting project, and I encourage you to try it. I want to relate what to expect.

Mature Container Carrots

After three months of growing, a carrot of nearly any variety should be mature. By “mature” I mean the carrot plant has sent up a flower stalk and is making seeds. I would rather eat an immature carrot than I would one that has flowers. In fact, I’ve only let my carrots flower once, and I vowed that season never again to do so.

After three months of growth, my container carrots have pathetic tops. These are no better than a third the height of my in-ground carrots. I planted the in-ground carrots fully a month after the soda bottle carrots; and woodchucks have dined twice on the in-ground carrot tops.

So, my container carrots—a variety that matures in 65 days—ought to be dropping seeds all over my deck. That’s hardly the case. Rather, the carrot tops started to look stressed some time in June, and now they look very stressed. These stressed plants have very short tops compared to free-range carrot plants. Those tops have fewer fronds than my in-ground carrots do, and many of the carrot fronds are turning yellow or purple or some other color that isn’t green.

The good news is that those sickly-looking carrot tops protrude from very pronounced orange carrot shoulders. It should follow that there are whole carrots in the soil beneath those shoulders, albeit rather small carrots.

Pushing Plants

When my container carrots started to look bad, I took some steps to pep them up: I pulled a carrot to provide a bit more space in the soil (I’d planted 11 seeds). I also made a mixture of compost and water and poured it into the carrot container to provide an infusion of nutrients. The carrot plants weren’t impressed.

So, I decided that the container carrots are done: there are too many carrots growing in too small a space. I harvested them to put the poor things out of their misery. My suspicions about crowding were oh so right: I shook the soil out of the planter, and it came out in a cylindrical brick. You could use several hundred of these carrot planter bricks to build a small sod house.

The good news: my soda bottle carrot plants have shoulders!

The largest carrots were only four inches long, but it’s clear they would not have grown longer. Regardless, they taste grand as all fresh, young carrots do.

More Small Kitchen Garden Carrots

This carrot experiment was very satisfying. You know what I did? I cut the top off of a three-liter soda bottle, filled it with soil, and planted some carrot seeds in it. This time, I planted fewer seeds… in a bigger container. There may be only 70 days remaining in our growing season, but I’m hoping to get bigger carrots from this planter than I got from the first one.

If I don’t? No matter. It’s still likely to produce a handful of three-bite carrot snacks. Not bad for such a small kitchen garden.

As my soda bottle carrots slide out of the planter, I feel considerable heat in the soil. I’ve often touched the side of the planter to gauge whether it was overheating in direct sunlight, but it has never felt as hot as the soil does in my hand. I suspect being pot-bound was only half the stress my carrots experienced. The insulating plastic of the soda bottle concealed from me the extent of the greenhouse effect taking place around the carrots’ roots. The root ball has me musing about growing pre-formed sod bricks… it would be so much easier than cutting them out of prairie grass.


I always marvel that so much of what matters in life involves dirt. No, OK, I’m a purist: I grow food in soil. But when soil ends up on your hands, your clothing, your kitchen floor, or YOUR FOOD, it’s dirt. These little snackers are sweet and delicious.

More thoughts on growing carrots in a small kitchen garden

  • Grow your own in local skips – Gardeners are being encouraged to grow carrots in skips on building sites and tomatoes in hospital car parks under new plans to increase the amount of land available for grow-your-own vegetables. The Government is setting up a national …

  • How to Grow Carrots – How to grow carrots in the vegetable garden: fresh-carrots. carrots like a sunny spot; dig soil in autumn & break soil down to fine, crumbly seedbed before sowing. carrot-bed. sow outdoors from March to August – if in March cover with …


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34 Responses to “Soda Bottle Carrots: a Very Small Kitchen Garden”

  • I wondered how these would turn out! Thanks for sharing this fascinating experiment.

  • Dava:

    Do you think you could grow carrots like this on a windowsill during the winter? It would be neat to grow a little salad in the kitchen during the cold months when I am longing for the summer garden.

  • admin:

    Daisy: Thank you for checking back to see. I’ll probably mess with this approach on into next season and try to come up with a “best practices” list for soda bottle carrot planters.

    Dava: Two challenges with winter windowsill gardening: 1. There really isn’t enough sunlight to get vegetable plants to store food (and so, make vegetables). 2. Windowsills can be pretty cold, and that can slow down growth.

    That said, I think soda bottle carrot planters would produce snacking carrots over the winter if you provide supplemental lighting, and if you keep the soil temperature at at least 70F degrees.

    Carrots don’t mind a little cold, so the 70 degrees isn’t mandatory, but the cooler the soil, the more likely you’ll still be waiting for carrot shoulders to form as the temperature rises in the spring.

    Tell you what: I’ll plant soda bottle carrots on my south-facing windowsill in October and write about its progress in this blog. I’d be thrilled to hear about it if you do the same.


  • Good post. There are benefits to the dreaded soil though, as it contains a whole array of microbes that assist digestion, or so I am told.

  • Great pictures and article! I want a small herb garden, but didn’t want to start digging up the clay soil. Using soda bottles as containers will work. We have big window sills!

  • Lynn C Behnke:

    Great information. I’m collecting garden ways of reusing plastic bottles. One question: Were there drainage holes in your bottle?

  • admin:

    Lynn: Thanks for visiting! Yes, I gave complete details on creating the soda bottle carrot planter back in May: Carrots in Containers. Since my soda bottle planter lived outdoors, I didn’t need a bowl or basin to catch the runoff. Of course, we had so much rain this year that a container without drainage holes would have been a swamp. I wrote about drainage holes here: Container Garden Drainage.

  • good to see carrots with soil on!

  • This is a very cool idea. Thanks for sharing! They’re so cute :)

  • I would wonder about BPA and other chemicals leaching from the plastic. I realize they are soda bottles, but they also aren’t meant to be left in the sun where the UV rays break down the plastic. Of course, that said, I’ve certainly used otherwise not-so-useful plastic totes for growing potatoes…

  • Daniel Gasteiger:

    trashmaster46: Your comment has piqued my curiosity: I don’t know whether BPA or other questionable chemicals leach from soda bottle plastic. The bottles seems to be very stable; I’ve used several in direct sunlight for years and they seem as strong and flexible as ever… compared to milk jugs that become quite brittle after a single season in sunlight. This winter I’ll do some research and post my findings on the blog. Thanks for raising the question!

  • Amy N:

    I found this post through Pinterest. Have read through quite a few of your posts and find your writing voice enjoyable. I was wondering if you might try spraypainting the outside of the bottle white – that should cut down on the heat gain and might make the soil environment a little more friendly for your carrots.

    I cut down a plastic cat litter bottle and have planted some seed-tape carrots. So far so good – we have young carrot plants!

  • monica:

    Crazy as it sounds, i wonder if you added a couple of worms to the soil if it would help maintain aeration under ground and perhaps sand in the bottom of the bottle before your composting mixture might provide a drainage system. This is something i will try.

  • di koehler:

    I would go with a 3 liter bottle and not over plant them. I would also wrap the bottle in something to keep the light off the soil–if you have kids it is removable if not just paste it on (unless you are a kid too and want to look) I grow short carrots in tubs around the yard. they like a bit of 3-4-3 before planting and about 4-6 weeks along. If you use prefertilize potting soil be sure it is not too high in N.

  • [...] Your Small Kitchen Garden: Soda Bottle Carrots: a Very Small Kitchen Garden [...]

  • Newsitian:

    I wonder if you could cut the top off off a gallon jug and grow radishes? They need a wider space because they are bigger round, thus the gallon jug. Any opinions?

  • KIM:

    Why not re-use burlap bag to wrap the bottles?

  • Wow…nice idea…am having a hard time growing carrots in my garden….my seedlings keep getting eaten up by bugs…no insecticides are working…I’ll definitely try this!!

  • Anina:

    Dear Admin
    Wow great what a informative article it is.
    thanks for sharing and giving such a wonderful article.I really appreciate your work.
    And I love to read your coming articles.

  • Daniel Gasteiger:

    Anina: Thank you for visiting, and for your kind words.

  • gwen gentry:

    I did this last year with 3 liter bottles. Did it this year also. I plant only 3 seeds per bottle. Usually only 2 come up. Seems to work ok. My carrots should be at least 1/2″ in diameter even a little larger. Don’t know how you could fit more than 3 in a 3 liter bottle.

  • Shelly Brandt:

    Why not add a worm or two to the mix as well? Just a thought.

  • bindu:

    i need help with my orange tree which has not grwon an inch in six yeras bloomed twice and gave 3 oranges so far. Any ideas.

  • nancy truax farmiloe:

    Great ideas you post! Thanks I have a sunny window to experiment with food plants. I started a fresh turmeric not doing well.

  • I commend your patience!!! About 90 days for a meh carrot, I am floored. I have a hard time waiting for my quick grass to grow for the kiddos Easter baskets, and that only takes about 10 days.

  • Natalie:

    great idea! And your carrots were not stressed after 3 months. They were doing what they were supposed to do: produce carrots and go dormant until the second year when they would bloom. Carrots are biannual and don’t bloom the first year. :)

  • Anna:

    I really liked reading about your experiment. This is my second year working with my preschoolers. In the process of planning our garden. The school has used the same garden area even before I started, but apparently my predecessor didn’t have much of a green thumb or stick-tuitive-ness. I’m still dealing with tons of weeds. Last year our attempt at carrots were completely choked out. This year, (1) I’m hoping the weeds will be easier to manage, and (2) I’m thinking using the bottles but still putting them in the ground will keep off the greenhouse effect, but also keep out the weeds.

  • Marivic:

    very helpful insights!

  • […] Kids Learn. Density experiment: Carrots vs. Celery from Surviving a Teacher’s Salary. Grow carrots in a soda bottle from Your Small Kitchen Garden. Make carrots bend and learn about osmosis from How to […]

  • Have never thought to grow carrots this way. But do use two liters for pepper starts after they outgrow solo cups. Amazing thing is the solo cup and the 2 liter bottle are about the same diameter. The 2 liter is just slightly larger. But the volume of room for roots is dramatically larger. The result is much larger plants in about the same square feet.

  • […] guide provided by the University of Florida IFAS Extension. Consider creating a small kitchen garden with your children. Get a head start by re-growing any of these 16 fruits and […]

  • Vicki:

    Regarding plastic leaching from plastic bottles:rnrnProfessor Dr. Willem Van Cotthem, who invented the bottle tower form of gardening, says the molecules of the chemicals that would leach are too big to be absorbed by plants.rnrnHis credentials list: Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development. Being a botanist, I assume he knows something about plant structure! LOL! :-) So this is where I looked when I had that question myself.rnrnYou can go to his website for a full explanation of why he is not worried about using plastic bottles, even if they do contain BPA: use the find on this page function in your browser and type safe. It will take you right to the info you want.rnrnHere are his instructions for the soda bottle towers if you want them: rnrn rnrn I have built several of these on my balcony using Wal-Mart brand Clear American flavored water bottles. They are compact and seem to work well. I will be planting them first with lettuce today or tomorrow…then eventually changing them over to warm weather crops. They are very easy to build. It took me maybe 5 minutes per tower, and I had no problems following the directions.rnrnHope this helps anyone looking for this type of information!

  • julipres:

    Hi goodmorning. Today I realized i need to plant my own carrots since i am pro health. I come up with this when i saw 500ml drinking bottle in the kitchen. Im an agribus.mgt graduate and working as DH in a small apartment. I have some planted plants already such turmeric,ginger, chives ,aloevera,ginger and celery.

  • Daniel Gasteiger:

    Julipres – Great to hear from someone with such enthusiasm. Having a small space can be challenging, and I admire when someone still insists on growing things to use in their kitchen!

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