Root vegetables are edible plants that are grown underground. Since the large plant is grown out of sight, they do not receive as much appreciation as other vegetables. Some of the more popular root vegetables are carrots, radishes, onions, and beets. Many find growing these plants more challenging when compared to peas or string beans because you can’t see if there is a problem until you harvest them. If you are up to the task you will find it rewarding to grow these vegetables.
Root vegetables are cool weather plants, which means they are grown in the spring and fall. When planted in the spring you will have a summer harvest and if you plant them in the late summer you will get a fall harvest that can be stored for the winter. With your plantings of fast-growing crops such as carrots and radishes, you might want to consider sowing your seeds every two to three weeks to have a steady supply of them. Other root vegetables like parsnips and onions take longer to grow and you will want to plant them as soon as the danger of frost passes.
Here is a list of popular root vegetables to grow:
- Celeriac (Celery Root)
- Sweet Potatoes
Here are tips for growing great root vegetables:
Seed Sowing: As we previously mentioned there is a challenge to growing these vegetables and one of the reasons is because the seeds need to be sown directly to grow properly. The roots of the plants need to be able to grow unobstructed and unconstrained. With the exception of beets, the plants do not do well when transplanted.
Sunshine: A full sun is best for these vegetables. If they get too much shade the plants will suffer and underperform.
Bed and Soil Preparation and Weeding: This is one of the most important components for growing successful root vegetables. These vegetables need deep, loose, and well-drained soil. Loosen the soil and pick out the rocks then firm the bed before sowing so that you’ll get good seed-to-soil contact. Two to three weeks prior to planting make sure you weed where you are going to plant. You might have to water once to get the weeds to grow. If you have problems with your soil you can plant your vegetables in a raised bed. Just make sure your raised bed is at least 10 square inches.
Planting and Thinning: Even though it might be easier, it is optimal to take some extra time and plant the seeds closer to the appropriate spacing of what you are growing. This will save you time in the thinning process later.
Thinning is the process of pulling out small plants to give the roots of other plants the room to grow. If you leave them crowded the crop will be spindly-looking and the harvest will suffer. One good thing about thinning root vegetables is you can eat them. They are “baby greens” and they can be added to salads. Thinning can be done when they are big enough to easily be pulled with your hand. Most of these vegetables can be thinned to two-inch intervals. Rutabaga needs eight inches of space. Carrots and parsnips take time to germinate, so be patient.
Watering: Consistent watering is crucial for a successful harvest. If it comes from rain or irrigation it is important to soak the soil with water, so it seeps down to the roots of the plants. If you just do a surface watering the roots will develop too close to the surface which will cause the plants to be small, misshapen, or dried out.
Harvesting: Beets, carrots, radishes, and turnips can be harvested whenever they reach their usable size. Be sure to check your seed package for maturity dates. Don’t let them overgrow as they can lose their flavor. Rutabagas and parsnips, on the other hand, can stay in the ground until late fall. Most roots will come out of the ground easily when pulled, but the longer ones, like carrots or winter radishes, can be stubborn. Many root vegetables have edible tops so give them a try.
Storing: These vegetables can be stored indefinitely as long as they are refrigerated or placed in a root-cellar. If you don’t have a root-cellar a basement or even a cooler will work as well. They like to be kept in temperatures between 32 and 40 degrees and humidity between 80 and 95%.