Root crops are popular with both commercial growers and home gardeners because they're versatile, delicious, and in many cases, perfect for canning or over-winter storage. Beets, Radishes, Turnips, and Carrots contain numerous vitamins and nutrients, offer a wide range of flavors and textures, can be enjoyed raw or cooked, and are wonderfully easy to grow!
Choosing a Variety
When choosing which Beets or Radishes to grow there are several factors you will want to take into consideration. First of all, both come in a variety of interesting shapes and beautiful colors, so pick whatever appeals to your eye! Also, Radishes offer varying degrees of heat and Beets have flavors that range from earthy to sweet. Smaller Beets are usually the best for canning and pickling, and many people enjoy the nutritious Beet greens as well as the root itself. As far as choosing a type of Carrot to plant, you will be deciding mostly by color and shape.
When to Start
Direct sow your root crops in early spring or late summer. They're cool-weather crops, most preferring temperatures of around 70 degrees F in order to germinate. All but Carrots will germinate in a week to ten days. Carrots can take up to 3 weeks.
How to Start
Direct sowing is preferable to transplanting because there is less root disturbance. Before sowing, cultivate deeply.
Beets: Soak the seeds in warm water for 24 hours before sowing -- this will aid in germination. Early spring is the typical time to sow your Beets, but in zones 9 to 10 you can sow outdoors in the fall. Sow at a depth of 4 times the size of the seeds, planting successively at 3-week intervals for crops throughout the season. Site in full sun in a loose, rich, well-drained soil. Expect germination in 10 to 15 days and harvests within 50 to 60.
Radishes: Early spring is the typical time to sow your Radishes, but in zones 8 and warmer you can sow outdoors in the fall for a winter crop. Sow at a depth of 4 times the size of the seeds, planting successively at 2-week intervals until mid-spring and then again in late summer. Site in full sun in a loose, rich, sandy, moist, well-drained soil. Expect germination in 6 to 10 days.
Carrots: Early spring is the typical time to sow your Carrots, but in warm climates you can sow outdoors in the fall for a fall crop. Sow at a ¼-inch depth, planting successively at 3-week intervals until early summer. Site in full sun in rich, loose, deeply worked and well-drained soil. Expect germination in 14 to 21 days.
Turnips: Sow in early spring after all danger of frost is past but while the ground is still cool. You can make successive sowings up to 5 weeks before temperatures are above 80 degrees F, then again in late summer if you want a fall harvest. In zones 8 and warmer you can also sow from early fall through spring for continuous crops over the winter. Sow at a depth of 4 times the size of the seeds. Site in full sun in fertile, moist, well-drained soil. Expect germination in 8 to 10 days.
Pests and Problems to Watch For
Purple Haze is a Nantes-type carrot, with strong growth and a delectable sweet flavor. Its rich purple color extends only as far as the core, which remains bright orange. And it tastes just like ordinary orange carrots . . . but you don't have to tell the kids that!
Purple Haze has been awarded a 2006 All-America Selection for its remarkable return to the original color of wild carrots, and I'm delighted to be able to offer it here in Park. To take advantage of its bright purple color, serve it raw, for cooking will dull it (though the flavor will still be splendid!). And if you're looking for more "wild" colored Carrots, take a look at amazing new Rainbow! Packet has 400 seeds.
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