Root Crops - University of Maryland Extension

Root Crops!
Jon Traunfeld [email protected]
College of
Agriculture and
Natural Resources
Reasons to grow root crops
• Some are double-duty crops…eat tops and
roots: beet, sweet potato, radish, celeriac,
onion, leek, garlic, turnip
• Many are cool season crops- can be grown in
spring and fall
• Most are storage crops that can feed you yearround!
Tips for success
• Need at least 8-in. of loose, fertile soil (carrots
and parsnips will do better with 12 inches.
• Push garden fork into the soil and rock it back
and forth to loosen subsoil. Then add compost
and mix in with topsoil.
• Cover seedlings with floating row cover to
speed up growth and protect plants from
• Thin out seedlings so that you end up with the
correct spacing between plants.
Cold tolerance of common root
• Hardy (can tolerate heavy frost)- garlic, leek,
multiplier onion, turnip, radish
• Half-hardy (can tolerate light frost)- beet,
carrot, parsnip, rutabaga
• Half-tender (frost injures plant)- potato
• Tender (frost will kill plant)- sweet potato
• Can overwinter in garden- garlic, leek,
multiplier onion, carrot, turnip, radish (daikon
will begin to decompose by mid-winter)
Spring planting
• Read and plan- seed catalogs, seed packets,
plant date charts.
• Radish, beet, carrot, turnip, onion can be
planted 4-6 weeks before last expected frost.
• Plant every two weeks if you like the crop!
• Hold off on planting potato until soil warms
Pre-germinating seeds
• Works well for slow-growing seeds like beet
and carrot.
• Gives plants a head start.
• Soak seeds overnight in water or in a
moistened paper towel enclosed in a plastic
Fall planting
• Vegetables take longer to mature.
• Cool nights slow plant growth.
• Days grow shorter, less sunlight energy for
• These environmental conditions cause
conversion of starch to sugar.
Short-day factor for fall planting.
• First frost date for your area
• Days to maturity, germination, transplant
• Add 14 days for Short Day Factor
Days to maturity + Days to germinate + Days to
transplant + SDF=Days to plant before frost
Sample calculation for sowing
turnip seeds
• Days to germination:
• Days to maturity:
• Short Day Factor (SDF):
68 - 76
I can sow seeds between 68 and 76 days before the
first frost – about Oct. 20 for Ellicott City.
Counting back from Oct. 20 the dates to sow are about
Aug. 1 to August 13.
Sowing seeds for fall crops
• Soil is hot and dry.
• Clay soil forms hard crust.
• Seeds need cooler temperatures and
moisture to germinate and grow.
• Slow growing beets and carrots will suffer
setbacks if soil is dry.
Tips for sowing seeds in
• Water soil before sowing.
• Sow in the late afternoon so germination will begin
• Plant seeds slightly deeper than in spring.
• Can cover seeds in furrow with potting soil or
• Keep soil cool and moist. Cover seeded area with
burlap, newspapers, boards, or light mulch.
Floating Row Covers
• First line of defense against frost- spring or fall
• Hastens germination
• Protection for tender plants/seedlings from
• Excludes pests
• ‘Hold-ups’ (support); examples:
pvc pipe, reinforcing wire, and
nine gauge wire
few; be creative!
Interplant- spring or fall
• Use shade from existing
• Sow fast growing greens
between slower growing
root crops.
• Plant a row of carrot and
then plant radishes in a
parallel row 3 inches from
the carrots. Radish
germinates more quickly,
will help mark the carrot
row and will be harvested
by the time the carrots
need extra room.
Tips for effective use
of cold frames
• Wetter isn't better: allow soil to become
nearly dry to encourage deep roots
• Don’t be mean…lean: no footsteps inside;
lean in or install stepping boards
• Survive a freeze, you’ll be pleased: throw a
blanket or old carpet on top to retain heat
• High/low will show: place a high/low
thermometer for easy monitoring
Cold frames must be vented to let hot air out
on sunny days!
Garlic- # 1 fall crop!
• Purchase bulbs to plant in October from a
seed/plant company; not from grocery store!
• Choose full sun location
• Weed area and amend soil with compost
• Separate cloves and plant them pointed end
up, 2 inches deep and 5 inches apart
• Top dress with compost or mulch to deter weeds
• In spring add fresh layer of compost or mulch
• Remove and eat flower stalks
(scapes) to insure large bulbs
• Harvest late June-early July
Gently dig up
bulbs with garden
Cure bulbs on porch or wellventilated room. Lay plants
on window screen or hang
them. Cut tops off after 2-3
weeks and store in dry cool
Beets come in
different colors and
sizes; baby beets can
be grown in
Potato seed pieces are cut and planted
8-12 inches apart in tranches at this
UME Master Gardener demonstration
garden in Montgomery Co.
Vole feeding can be
prevented with snap
traps, live traps (above)
or tight mesh fencing.
Parsnips are delicious and underutilized in most home gardens
and kitchens. Seeds are are slow
to germinate.
Turnip and carrot are
two fabulous crops to
roast in the oven.
• Radish is a great beginner cropfast and easy.
• Top right is a forage radish
(edible) grown to improve soil.
• At right is a Salad Table full of
healthy radish plants.
Sweet potato can
tolerate hot, dry
weather. The foliage is
rampant and can be
harvested for excellent
greens- raw or cooked.
Stir-fried sweet potato
roots and tops above.
Sweet potato fries are
Other root cropsceleriac
Also known as celery
root. Slow-growing with
soft celery flavor. Eaten
raw or cooked. Leaves
are also edible.
Other root crops-leek
Planted in spring and harvested fall through
the following spring.
Other root crops- yacon
One of the “lost crops of
the Incas”; eaten raw.
• Grow It! Eat It!
– We have all types of practical food gardening tips and
information. Check out our popular blog!
• Home and Garden Information Center
– Here you will find factsheets, photos, and videos. You
can also subscribe to the free monthly e-newsletter.
– We answer gardening questions 24/7…just click
“Ask Maryland’s Garden Experts”
• Maryland Master Gardener Program
– Consider becoming a trained MG volunteer!
Many thanks to Grow It Eat It bloggers and
Calvert County MGs who provided photos and
Erica Smith (head blogger), Nancy Robson, Kent
Phillips, Nick Tardiff, Lena Rotenberg, Butch
Willard, Sabine Harvey, Bob Nixon
Powerpoint by Jon Traunfeld, Extension Specialist;
March, 2013
This program was brought to you by the
Maryland Master Gardener Program
Howard County
University of Maryland Extension
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