carrots, parsnips, radishes, turnips and rutabagas are all commonly
known as root crops. These vegetables offer a prolonged harvest
season and, for the most part, a long storage life. They also produce
a large amount of food in a small amount of space.
crops require a soil pH between 6.0 and 6.5. Have your soil tested
by the Cooperative Extension service (see our GreenShare Factsheet
on soil testing for more information)
and follow the recommendations given. Strongly acid soils should
be limed according to test results. Lime (if needed) is most effective
when mixed thoroughly into the soil in the fall.
addition to organic matter and lime, broadcast 1-1/2 pounds of 10-10-10
fertilizer per 100 square feet just prior to planting your seeds.
is also a good idea to sidedress the plants with the same amount
of fertilizer when the plants have reached about one-third their
growth. To prevent burning the roots, however, apply the fertilizer
three to four inches away from plants.
Crops grow best in well-drained, loose soil. Drainage is important
because these crops are among the earliest planted and the latest
harvested. If the soil is have (clay) you might want to build a
raised bed four to five inches high and 12 to 24 inches wide. Raised
beds will help to reduce soil compaction, permit easier digging
and will allow carrots and parsnips to attain greater length and
be smoother in shape. Add sand and organic matter, such as manure,
to heavy soils to improve drainage.
following steps may be used to prepare soil prior to planting in
two to three bushels of well-rotted manure or compost per 100
square feet. (If carrots are to be grown, apply the organic matter
in the fall prior to planting in the spring.)
recommended amounts of lime.
everything into the soil
recommended amounts of fertilizer just prior to planting seeds
and work into the soil.
Note: Using organic matter or manure that is not well-composed
as a fertilizer for carrots can cause the roots to become rough
fertilizers can be very effective when the right choice is made
from the many types available. See our GreenShare Factsheet on Fertilizing
Vegetable Garden Soils for more detailed information.
crops will not do well in a dry seedbed. The seedbed must be kept
moist during the germination period. Therefore, you may need to
sprinkle the bed with water every day until seeds have germinated.
Some gardeners place a clear plastic sheet over the row after the
seeds have been planted and watered. This warms the soil and conserves
moisture. The sheet should be removed as soon as seedlings emerge.
This procedure is especially useful for root crops such as carrots
and parsnips which have a long germination period.
cultivation (one to two inches deep) when weeds are small is best.
Pull weeds when they are small, because as they get larger they
compete with root crops for water and mineral nutrition.
seedlings are up, a mulch material such as compost or straw can
be used to suppress weeds and conserve moisture. Only mulch a moist,
Some major insect
pests include root maggots on turnip, rutabaga and radish, leafminers
on beets and carrot rust flies on carrots
crops should not be put in storage until late fall. These crops
withstand autumn frosts and are better off in the garden until nights
are cold enough to permit proper storage temperatures. Dig root
crops when the soil is dry and prepare them for storage. Cut the
plant tops about 1/2 inch above the crown and do not wash until
crops keep best between 32 and 40 degrees F. They require high humidity
to keep from shriveling.
and rutabagas give off odors; do not store them in your basement
or home cellar. You may store them with other root crops in an outdoor
cellar or pit. All other root crops can be stored in your home cellar
if it is cool enough. Root crops keep their crispness longer when
bedded in layers of moist sand, peat or sphagnum moss.
GreenShare Factsheet on Beets for detailed
GreenShare Factsheet on Carrots for
Hollow Crown, Model, All America
Sow parsnip seeds 1/2-inch deep at a rate of 1/2-ounce per 100
feet of row. Since parsnips are slow to germinate (approximately
two weeks), quick germinating radish seeds can be sown along with
the parsnips. The radishes will mark the rows and permit earlier
cultivation. Note: if your garden soil is heavy, cover the seeds
with sand, vermiculite or fine peat rather than soil.
As soon as plants reach a height of two to three inches, they
should be thinned to stand two to three inches apart. Since parsnips
require a long growing season, there is only one seeding which
should be made as early in the spring as the ground can be worked.
More than almost any other vegetable, parsnips are improved by
cold or even freezing. The roots can be left in the ground until
late fall or on through the winter. I f left over winter, they
should be covered with a mulch to prevent alternate freezing and
thawing and deterioration of the root. They should also be harvested
early in the spring before new growth starts.
Round--Cherry Belle (red), Comet (red), Scarlet Prince
(red), Sparkler (red/white), Giant White Globe (white), Round
Black Spanish (black)
Oval--Early Scarlet Globe (red), Cavalier (red)
Turnip-Shaped Scarlet Turnip White-Tipped (red/white)
Oblong--French Breakfast (red/white), Chinese rose
Sow seeds 1/3-inch deep at a rate of one-ounce per 60 feet of
row. Radishes will germinate in four to five days. Thin seedlings
shortly after emergence to avoid disturbing the root system of
radish plants left in the garden. For a continuous supply, make
plantings every 10 days during the early spring and again starting
in August. Radishes grown during midsummer produce woody and pithy
Radishes can be harvested at any stage.
Turnips (Brassica rapa):
Purple Top White Globe (white-fleshed), Snowball (white-fleshed),
For greens: Shogoin, Seven Top
Sow seeds 1/2-inch deep in rows 15-inches apart at a rate of 1/2-ounce
per 100 feet of row. After the plants become established, thin
plants three to five inches apart. Plant turnips in early spring,
then again in summer for a fall crop. In hot weather, the roots
are often strong or bitter in flavor and become pithy when they
reach maximum size.
Turnips reach a good size and are ready to harvest in 60 to 80
(Brassica campestris var. napobrassica):
American Purple Top Laurentian
Plant rutabaga seeds from mid-June until July for fall harvest.
Sow seeds 1/2-inch deep in rows 24-inches apart at a rate of 1/2-ounce
per 100 feet of row. Thin seedlings to a spacing of six to eight
The roots should be allowed to reach full maturity before they
are pulled, usually in late September and October, in order to
be sweet and of peak quality. They do not become pithy if overmature
as turnips do.
Adapted from the University of Massachusetts Cooperative Extension