Root crops are among the easiest vegetables to grow, and often the first and last vegetables in the garden to mature. Your garden may produce enough vegetables to take you through the entire year and, if kept correctly, root crops will last a long time in storage. These vegetables are great to grow, even in a small space. Most root crops are frost tolerant, and with many, the tops, or greens, are also edible.
What Root Crops Need
To get the best harvest of root crops, no matter which types you opt to add to your garden, you need to meet their cultural requirements.
Root crops grow best in deep, loose, rock-free soil that will allow the roots to form and grow easily. To nourish the plants, supplement the soil with plenty of organic matter. We recommend: Master Nursery® Bumper Crop® Organic Soil Builder (Eastern & Midwestern Regions). This nutritious soil amender has long been recognized as the best and most biologically diverse, OMRI-listed soil builder. Now with reduced peat moss, Bumper Crop® is even more sustainable! The new recipe is a balanced blend of aged wood fiber, cured compost, aged bark, lobster meal, worm castings, kelp, and dehydrated poultry manure. It is inoculated with endo- and ectomycorrhizal fungi to improve root function. Perfect, not only for root crops but all homegrown veggies. -Or- Master Nursery® Bumper Crop® Natural & Organic Soil Builder (Western Region) is a premium soil amendment. It contains only the finest natural and organic ingredients including aged fir bark, composted chicken manure, earthworm castings, bat guano, and kelp meal. Perfect, not only for root crops but all homegrown veggies.
Root crops require a high phosphorus fertilizer for optimum growth. Phosphorus is the center number listed on the fertilizer bag. Always apply fertilizer according to the directions provided on the product packaging, but because it is organic and therefore slow-release, Master Nursery® Bumper Crop® Tomato and Vegetable Food will eliminate the worry of burning your plants.
Most root crops are considered cool-season vegetables and are planted both early and late in the growing season. Warm days and cool nights are most beneficial for root expansion.
Full sun is best.
Seeds should be sown in the spring, 2 to 3 weeks before the last expected frost date. Subsequent plantings may be made every three weeks thereafter as weather permits (some exceptions apply) until the last planting in late summer for fall harvest. Planting depth varies depending on the type of plant; follow the directions on the seed packet. After seedlings emerge, thin to desired spacing as determined by the diameter of the root at harvest time. Beet and turnip tops that are thinned are edible raw as salad greens or they may be cooked. Root crops are generally not transplantable because they have a tap root.
Mulch plants, after thinning, with salt marsh hay to retain soil moisture and minimize weed growth.
- Pest Control
Maintaining appropriate cultural requirements will reduce or eliminate the need for pest control. As with all vegetables, it is important to rotate crops each year. Rotating root crops will discourage root weevils.
- Basic Storage
All root crops may be stored for a time before being eaten. In general, store at 32 degrees Fahrenheit and 95 percent humidity. Leave the crops in the garden as long as weather permits, then dig. Store the harvest in a root cellar or refrigerator.
Tips for Favorite Root Vegetables
- Carrots– Plant in sandy soil if you want the classic, long, narrow type.
- Beets– You may harvest one-third of the tops without affecting the root.
- Garlic– Best planted in the fall.
- Horseradish– Use caution when planting this aggressive perennial.
- Kohlrabi – Has a mild, sweet cabbage flavor.
- Leeks– Flavor is best if harvested after a light frost.
- Onions & Shallots– Plant from seed or sets.
- Potatoes– Best planted from ‘seed potatoes’ to match variety.
- Radishes– Mature in as little as three weeks.
- Sweet Potatoes– Warm weather root crop, will not withstand a frost.
- Turnips– For a fall crop, sow seeds in midsummer.
Try planting root crops this year with Master Nursery® Bumper Crop® products, and you’ll be enjoying your stored harvest year-round.
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