Tag Archives: root crops

Turnip Gardening

Turnip Gardening

turnip gardening patch

Turnip, Brassica Rapa, is a herbaceous annual or biennial plant belonging to the Brassicaceae family. It has been cultivated as a cool-season vegetable for thousands of years for its edible leaves and roots. Historians believe that turnips originated somewhere in middle and eastern Asia. Today, they are grown in most temperate parts of the world for human consumption and livestock fodder. The plant forms short stems above the ground that bear light green leaves in the form of a rosette above the root. The taproot is round and plump with a combination of purple and white on the outer skin. Though it is a biennial plant that flowers and sets seeds in the second growing season, when turnip gardening the plants are often grown as an annual in early spring or fall and harvested after one growing season.

Types & Varieties of Turnip

Though you might have only seen half purple, half white tennis ball-sized turnips in grocery stores, there are tons of varieties beyond that. There’s a range of colors, sizes, and shapes to select from besides the flavors of roots and leafy tops and the time they take to reach maturity.

Common Varieties of Turnip:

Purple Top White GlobeThis is the standard turnip variety that you find in grocery stores. It forms a 4 to 6 inches wide globe underground with a white bottom and a purple top. It takes between 50 to 55 days to reach maturity and has a spicy flavor that works well in stews and broths.

Baby Bunch Turnips – With small globular roots, about 1 inch in diameter, baby bunch turnips are harvested when they are still much younger than standard turnips. The crunchy flesh is similar to radish and works great in salads and cooked recipes.

Tokyo Cross – This hybrid variety is an AAS winner for the uniform, fast-maturing turnips it produces with mildly sweet and crispy flesh. The turnips are 3 to 6 inches wide white globes that are ready to be picked in just about 30 to 35 days.

Scarlet QueenDifferent from others, this is a hybrid variety that produces turnips with bright red skin and white flesh. The turnips are slightly flat from the top and are harvested in 40 to 45 days.

For a self-sufficient garden, grow 5 to 10 turnip plants per person, spacing them 5 to 8 inches apart in rows. The rows should be spaced 15 to 24 inches apart.

Temperature and Timing for Growing Turnip

Turnip is a cool-season crop, best planted in early spring or fall when the temperatures are cooler. They take between 1 to 2 months to harvest and grow best when temperatures are between 40 to 70°F. For early season turnip gardening, you can sow the seeds in the ground 2 to 3 weeks before the last spring frost for harvesting in late spring. You can also plant them in late summers for an autumn harvest and in late autumn for a winter harvest.

Sun Exposure and Soil Requirements

Turnips thrive in full sun but will also grow well in partial shade. Well-drained, fertile soil with pH slightly on the acidic side (5.5 to 6.8) is best for turnip gardening. Prepare the planting bed well in advance by incorporating plenty of compost or aged manure.  If your garden soil is heavy or clayey, amend it with sand or gypsum for the roots to develop easily.

How to Plant Turnip

For turnip gardening, just like any other root vegetable, turnips don’t transplant well. They are best planted by sowing the seeds directly in the garden once the weather is favorable. Although nursery transplants are available, most gardeners grow turnips by sowing seeds in the garden as soon as the soil is workable in early spring or 2 to 3 weeks before the last expected frost date.

The seeds are sown ½ inches deep in the ground and 1 inch apart in rows. Space rows 15 to 24 inches apart. Once the seedlings emerge and are 3 to 4 inches tall, you can thin them to maintain a 4 to 6-inch gap between the plants. The thinned seedlings make an excellent addition to salads.

Water well right after planting and keep the soil evenly moist throughout the growing season. Underwatered turnips will produce small and woody roots and may also cause the plants to bolt. On the other hand, overwatering promotes diseases, so it’s important to maintain just the right level of moisture. Mulching can help maintain optimal moisture in the soil for the plants and also protects the turnips from frost damage. Since turnips have a rather short growing season, they don’t generally need any fertilization, especially if you grow them in rich, fertile soil.

For a prolonged harvest season, you can practice succession planting every 10 to 14 days, keeping in mind that they can come to harvest before the temperatures soar above 70°F.

Since turnips are small plants, you can easily grow them in containers. Small roots can grow in pots that are at least 8 inches deep. For larger varieties, you’ll need to choose bigger containers.

Harvest

As the growing season approaches a successful end, the plump turnips roots are ready to be picked from the ground. Here’s how to harvest turnips:

  • You can start harvesting the leaves and stems once they are at least 12 inches long but allow the roots to develop further. However, only remove the outer leaves, letting the inner leaves to continue growing and producing the energy that will fuel root growth. 
  • Depending on the variety, turnips take between 30 to 60 days to come to harvest after sowing the seeds.
  • As the turnips approach harvest, their purple shoulders will push out of the soil and are visible above the ground.
  • Lift the roots from the ground using a garden fork once the shoulders are 2 to 3 inches wide. Take care not to puncture the roots with your gardening tools.
  • Fall crop should be harvested after a few light frosts but before a hard freeze since extreme cold can cause the roots to crack or rot.

Storing

Turnip greens will only stay fresh in the refrigerator for up to a week. The roots can last for months if you store them properly. The ideal temperature for storing turnips is between 32 to 35°F. A small harvest can be stored in the fridge, but if you have lots of turnips to store, a cool, dark place such as a root cellar or garage will be ideal. Remove and consume the green tops before storing the turnip roots since the leaves will continue drawing energy from the roots if left attached to them.

Pest and Diseases

Pests

  • Caterpillars, including cabbage loopers, diamondback moths, and beet army worms love eating turnip leaves. The most straightforward approach to get rid of them is to handpick and destroy them. Alternatively, you can spray the plants with Bacillus thuringiensis.
  • Aphids suck the sap from the leaves of turnip plants, leaving behind a sticky substance called honeydew that promotes the development of molds on the plants. Small infestations can be catered to by removing the infested leaves. In the case of large infestations, hose them off with water or spray the plants with neem oil.
  • Root maggots attack the roots and are, therefore, more problematic than other pests. The flies of these worms lay eggs around the plants. The larvae feed on the roots, leaving tunnels in the flesh and causing the plant to shrivel and die. Remove and destroy the infested plants to prevent the spread to the surrounding plants.

Diseases

  • White rust fungus can affect turnips and is observed by the development of white spots on the upper surface of the leaves and yellow spots on the underside. The disease is not serious, and the roots typically remain unaffected. Buy disease-free seeds and plant them in a well-drained garden bed free from any previous season’s debris. 
  • Downy mildew can affect turnip crops in cold conditions and is a serious disease because it can destroy the roots. It is identified as yellow, brown spots on the leaves that expand as the disease progresses. Preventive fungicide sprays can control the spread to other plants if you suspect the disease in your garden. Control weeds and excessively moist conditions to prevent the disease from occurring in the first place.

That’s all the information about turnip gardening that you’ll need to get started on your own. Follow all the tips and enjoy loads of juicy, spicy homegrown turnips!

Beet Gardening

Beet Gardening: How to Plant Grow and Harvest Beets

Beet gardening these tasty vegetable can seem like a love hate between you and the people you cook for. Beets, also known as “beetroots,” are a cool-season crop that prefers full sun. It is easy to grow from seed in well-prepared soil and can tolerate cold and near freezing conditions but does best with temperatures from 50°F to 65°F. They are a perfect option for spring and fall crops in northern zones or as a winter crop in zone 9 and higher. In addition to being a good table food, beets are used to make food coloring and are used as a medicinal plant.

Types & Varieties of Beetroot

Beets contain iron and are high in fiber, vitamins A and C. They come in a range of shades, shapes, and sizes, with deep red, yellow, white, or striped roots. Here are some widely used types of beetroot.

For beet gardening, It will take approximately 2 ounces of beet seeds to plant a 100 foot row that will yield about 80 pounds of roots

• The most widely known beets are red/purple. They have the bonus of being excellent storage veggies. Detroit Dark Red is a prime example – it has a maturity date of about 60 days.
• Chioggia beet has a similar flavor to standard purple beets but is a little sweeter. The skin is a vivid pink/fuchsia color, with pink and white streaks on the inside when cut open. About 54 days to maturity.
• Golden beets are somewhat less sweet than red beets and they still have a mellower, less earthy taste. Burpee’s Golden has a maturity of about 55 days.
• Bull’s Blood is a stunning heirloom of dark maroon-red leaves that give a pop of color to salads. It is quick to mature at about 45 days.
• Lutz Green Leaf is a large plant with tasty green leaves. Its baseball-sized, heart-shaped roots are sweet and tender and it and stores well. With their large size, these beets take a bit longer to mature at about 80 days.
It will take approximately 2 ounces of beet seeds to plant a 100 foot row that will yield about 80 pounds of roots – excluding the greens. If you are planning to “year-round” food supply, plant about 10 – 15 feet per person.

Temperature & Timing for Growing Beetroot

Since beets are adapted to grow in cool climates, they are an excellent crop to plant in the springtime or late summer. The best temperature for daytime is 60° F to 70° F, and nights between 50° F to 60° F.

Sun Exposure and Soil Requirements

Grow beets in full sunlight. They require 6 hours of direct sun every day. Soil should be well-prepared and moist for proper growth. Soil should be free of rocks and other barriers to allow the beets to grow appropriately. Beets flourish in loamy, acidic soils with pH levels ranging between 6.0 and 7.5. Mix in an inch or two of compost, whether the soil is thick clay, rough, or alkaline. You can also add a pinch of wood ash, high in potassium, and promote root growth.

How to Plant Beetroot & Their Care

beet gardening

Starting beet gardening should be done as soon as the soil is workable in early spring. Plantings can be made every 2 weeks before mid-summer. They do not do well in hot weather. The heads can get tough and fibrous. One way to judge when to stop planting in the spring is to check average temperatures in your area. When the average temperature is expected to average over 80°F, count back 60 days – that should be the last date for spring planting. For Autumn planting, start sowing seeds 10 – 11 weeks before frosts are expected.
• Seeds should be sown 1/2 inch deep and 1 to 2 inches apart in rows about 1 foot apart.
• Beets prefer deep, well-drained soil. Use the slightly thicker soil when planting beets in the fall to help shield them from early frost.
• To ensure maximum germination, keep the soil moist. For best results, soak seeds for 24 hours before planting. Seeds should germinate in 7 to 10 days.
• An inch of water each week is recommended for proper growth. Too much water can result in insects and pest infestations.
• Beet “seeds” are a cluster of several small seeds together. When the seedlings are 2 inches tall pull the weaker ones to allow the strongest the room it needs.
• When the seedlings are 6 inches tall, pull every other plant. You can use what you pull.
• They will be ready for harvesting in 7-8 weeks. Gently dig them out once they reached their ideal size.

Harvesting

You should pull beets when the soil is dry. For your beet gardening, be careful when pulling or lifting roots from the ground, if you need to use a pitchfork or shovel, do so carefully. Do not to break or injure the beets.

The green tops are edible, and frankly very tasty. Leave an inch or two of the green stalks attached to the roots. If you cut away the top of the roots you will cause them to bleed.

Any roots that are damaged should be used within a few weeks, they will not store well and rot spots will start at any damage. To prepare any roots for storage, rub soil from the roots, try not wash but if you do, dry them.

Store beets in a cold moist place as near to freezing as possible without actual freezing, 32°-40°F and 95 percent relative humidity in a container—a bucket or plastic storage box or cooler with moist sand, peat moss, or sawdust. Don’t pack roots too tightly; if the roots touch they can start to rot; be sure to leave 2 inches (5 cm) of insulating material around at the top, bottom, and sides of the stored roots. Set the lid loosely so that there is good air circulation.

Problems: Fungal Diseases, Pests, and Insects

Your beet gardening will include pest and disease management. You’ll want to keep an eye out for and protect your crop from these top risks:

Pests

Flea beetles are the most common pest problem. They damage leaves by leaving numerous tiny holes in beet leaves. If the infestation is bad enough the plants can be killed. Two organic methods to control flea beetles are:

  1. using floating row covers to protect the plants and
  2. putting beneficial nematodes in the soil to attack and kill the beetle larvae.

    • Cabbage loopers, tiny green caterpillars that can destroy the plant. Use Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) to control.

    Disease

    • Different forms of soil-borne fungi that grow in wet, humid environments cause damping. It’s most likely damping off if the seedlings die unexpectedly not long after planting, and the plants look discolored and decaying. Enable the seed-starting mix to dry entirely before watering, and make sure your soil has good drainage. Do not overwater your plants.

    • Cercospora leaf spot is a fungus that occurs on the leaves as dark, patchy spots that may be yellowy in color. Remove the affected leaves and throw them out without affecting the healthy ones. If your beets are planted close together, thin them out, so crowded plants have a better chance to grow. Cercospora can be controlled by spraying Mancozeb

Radish gardening

Radish Gardening

Radish gardening is simple. They are among the fastest growing vegetables in the garden. These roots have a spicy, peppery flavor and the greens are super nutritious and delicious. Planting can be as easy as dropping seeds among slower growing vegetables like carrots or broccoli or cabbage – the radishes germinate and identify the row before the slower growing plants emerge.

The crunchy spring variety includes:

Cherry Bomb – maturity in 22 days

Crimson Giant – maturity in 30 days

Burpee White – maturity in 25 days

French Breakfast – maturity in 26 days

Early Scarlet Globe – maturity in 26 days

Organic Sparkler – maturity in 26 days

Where to Plant

Choose a site that gets at least six hours of sun a day. Spring radishes are not a finicky root vegetable. They do like full sun when the weather is cool yet will handle some shade when it’s warmer.

Because they are quick to sprout, simply sow them in any empty spaces in a bed.

Planting

Radish gardening - do not plant the seeds too deep

Since radishes like it cool and they grow fast, they are not candidates for starting in flats and transplanting. As soon as the garden’s soil is workable in the spring, you can plant a first sowing. Plant additional rows through early May for your spring crop. Autumn planting can begin again August 1 through September 1 for harvests into October and November.

Till the soil to a depth of at least eight inches, then make furrows about six inches apart and plant the seeds at a depth of about 1/2 inch and cover loosely with soil or peat moss (anything that will not clump up and make it difficult for the seeds to sprout). Allow about one inch between seeds in the row then thin to 2 inches as they mature.

Do not cultivate too deeply or you may damage the roots. Use a hand tool or a hoe and cultivate just deeply enough to cut the weeds off below the surface.

Sunlight and Soil Requirements

As previously stated, choose a site that gets at least six hours of sun a day. For the best radishes, plant them in a friable soil when the weather is cool and provide constant moisture. Any well-drained, slightly acidic to neutral soil with pH 6 to 7 will do for radishes. An overly rich soil will encourage lush foliage at the expense of crisp, tasty roots. If the soil is too dry, radishes may bolt and become pithy and too pungent to eat. If too wet, the roots will split and rot.

Succession Planting

Make small weekly sowings, trying different varieties to obtain a wide mix of radishes. Because most spring varieties mature in less than a month, succession plantings ensure a steady supply of radishes. When warm weather (65 degrees or higher) arrives, stop sowing as radishes will not tolerate heat and will rapidly go to seed. However, in late summer, you can start planting again for an Autumn harvest.  

Harvesting

Although radishes are easy to grow, when radish gardening knowing to harvest is the key to perfect radishes with crisp roots and mild flavor instead of hot as fire and as pithy as corks. Garden radishes are usually ready for harvest three to five weeks after planting. You can pull them any time they reach a usable size. They will get fibrous and develop a strong taste if left in the ground too long. Remove greens and wash roots well.

Problems

The worst invader of the radish patch is the root maggot. Luckily, this pest is easily avoided with a proper crop rotation. Never plant radishes in a bed that contained a cole crop in the last three years. If you incorporate some wood ashes in the soil, the maggots shouldn’t present a problem.

Flea beetles make tiny holes in the leaves, slugs and snails chew grooves in perfect roots, and a sudden deluge can cause radishes to split and start rotting.