Root vegetables are hearty, delicious, filling and perfect from garden fresh summer meals to warming fall and winter soups and stews. Learn how to grow root vegetables including carrots, beets, parsnips, turnips, radishes, potatoes and many more to enjoy them all year long!
The great thing about root crops is that they grow well all the way from spring through to fall. Most root vegetables do well when planted directly into the ground as seed, but some gardeners have had luck with transplanting crops such as beets and carrots if they are put into the ground when still relatively small.
Site and Soil Preparation
Root vegetables prefer soil that is well-drained, so either loamy or augmented with sand. They prefer more alkaline soil at a pH between 6 and 6.5 that is high in nitrogen, which you can achieve by augmenting with agricultural lyme and well-rotted compost. All root crops prefer full sun.
Different root crops require different planting depths and spacing, so make sure to read the seed packet well. Familiarize yourself with planting methods for potatoes, as potato seed is essentially sprouted potatoes. For continuous harvests of root crops, make sure to plant them every three weeks beginning in April or May. The following will give you an idea of how long from sowing to harvest: Carrots, 54 to 75; parsnips, 110 to 120; beets, 45 to 58; turnips, 38 to 50; radishes, 21 to 30; rutabaga, 90 to 95.
Management and Watering
It’s best to thin root crops that have been seeded directly into the ground as soon as they reach an edible size. Thin to about 2-4 inches between each plant (depending on the mature size of the crop). Make sure to keep your root crop-beds weed free and allow for at least 1 inch water each week during the growing season. This promotes strong root development.
Growing in Pots
Although root crops do best in the ground or deep raised beds, you can grow root vegetables in grow bags or pots at least 10 inches deep. Make sure to keep the growing containers well watered!
Root maggots – these eat and destroy the roots of crops, especially carrots. Make sure not to leave your root crops in the ground too late into the fall to avoid these nasty pests.
Flea beetles – these eat the leaves of root crops like beets, radishes and turnips. Be on the lookout when crops are young, as they can inhibit growth.
Small roots – and all top leavescan be caused by not thinning or excessive nitrogen fertilization.
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Beets image via Shutterstock