Top Tips for Growing Root Vegetables
Watch healthy potatoes, carrots and other root crops flourish with these simple ideas.
Easy to grow, most root crops simply need to be sown outdoors and kept free of weeds and pests to do well. With carefully selected varieties and sowing that occurs in succession, you can harvest root crops all year.
Site and Soil
Many root crops like well-drained, slightly acidic soil that holds organic matter, with some nutrients dug in. Potatoes, however, crop best on recently manured soil. Brassica root crops may succumb to clubroot in acidic soil that has not been limed. Stony soil may cause malformation of long-rooted crops.
Most root crops can be grown from seed outdoors from early spring. Sow into drills at a depth of about 3/4 inch (2 cm). Potatoes need a depth of 4 inches (10 cm). Cover with soil and water in. Sow carrots, beets, turnips and radishes every few weeks for a continuous supply.
Care and Potential Problems
Thin seedlings out, leaving strong plants to grow on at the correct spacing. Keep the surrounding soil weed-free and moist, watering in dry spells. Protect potato plants from frost and cover their lower stems and leaves with soil as they grow.
Growing Roots in Pots
Carrots, beets, and radishes all grow happily in containers at least 10 inches (25 cm) wide and deep—larger pots are needed for potatoes—as long as they are kept well watered. This is a good way to start the earliest crops under cover.
If earthing up potatoes sounds like too much effort, try planting your crop through holes cut in a layer of thick black plastic—push the edges into the soil to secure the plastic in place. This keeps out the light and helps warm the soil for a fast-maturing crop.
Choosing Root Crops
- Potatoes: Early varieties suit small gardens since they are harvested by midsummer, whereas maincrops tie up the soil until mid-fall.
- Beets: Not all beets are red, so you can choose unusually colored varieties and opt for bolt-resistant types for early sowings.
- Parsnip: These roots will stand in the soil through winter with a covering of straw, but seeds need to be sown the previous spring.
- Radishes: Sow radishes in succession for crops over a long season. Exotic hardy winter radishes can also be sown in summer.