Root Vegetables–Quick Guide On Growing

Root vegetables do well in fertile garden soil but there should be no hard band of gravel or clay beneath the top spit nor should the top soil contain a high percentage of large stones. Often some deep digging is necessary to prepare a garden soil initially for first-class root vegetables. No manure or garden compost should be applied to spots in the garden where root crops are to be grown that season. Grow root crops in soil to which manure or garden compost was applied for a different crop in the previous season. Where potatoes or winter cabbage were grown are suitable sites for root crops. After the digging of the whole kitchen garden in winter or early spring just rake level and remove any largeer ones before sowing root vegetables.

Root Vegetables


Beets may be round, cylindrical or long. Quick-to-mature beets for summer salads are round. ‘Crimson Globe’ is an example. Newer is ‘Boltardy’. `Spangsbjerg Cylinder’ may be grown for summer beet and also for storing. Long beets are not now in favour among gardeners. Beetroot is usually deep red in colour. Very new to Britain is ’13urpee’s Golden’ with orange red skin and Yellow flesh.


  • Beet seedlings are noted for ‘bolting’ if seed is sown too early. The introduction of ‘Boltardy’ now permits seed to be sown as early as the first half of April. In the north cloches come in handy for this early sowing. Other beets should not be sown until the second half of April or early May.
  • A quick maturing round beet may be sown again in late May and in June.
  • Sow seeds thinly in 1-in. Deep seed drills spaced at 12 in. apart. If you sow under cloches leave only 8 in. between rows.
  • Hoe between rows to keep down weeds. If you have sown too thickly pull out some seedlings when the soil is wet. Do not thin seedlings too drastically. Pull young beets for summer salads in July just as soon as they are large enough to cook. Continue to pull roots as and when wanted in the kitchen.
  • Lift beet for storing during October. Twist off the foliage and rub off any dry soil adhering to the roots. Store, sandwich fashion, in dry ashes or peat. Apple and orange boxes are useful storage containers. House them in a cool but frost-free place.


For summer use a quick-to-mature stump-rooted carrot such as ‘Amsterdam Forcing’ which is popular. For maincrop a longer intermediate is grown. James’s Scarlet Intermediate’ is the best known.

  • Varieties such as ‘Early Scarlet Horn’, ‘Amsterdam Forcing’ and ‘Early Nantes’ may be sown in a frame or under cloches in March. Pre-warm the soil by having the light on the frame and cloches in position for a week or so before you sow. These early varieties may be sown outdoors during April, May and June. Sow maincrop carrots in early May.
  • If you are sowing in a frame or under cloches make 1-in, deep seed drills at 6 in. apart. In the open garden allow 12 in. between rows. Do not sow too thickly. Mixing the small seeds with some dry sand or dry soil prevents a thick sowing. Carrot seeds are also offered in pellet form. Pellets can be sown at 4-1 in. apart. When sowing pelleted seeds the soil of the seed drill must always be quite wet. Flood seed drills with water should the soil be dry. Sow when the water has drained away.
  • Prevent weeds from developing by hoeing. Pull young carrots for use as soon as they are large enough. Maincrop carrots are thinned in July. Spread this job over several weeks, thinning so that finally carrots are about 4 in. apart.
  • Only immune varieties should be planted in soils known to be infected with wart disease fungus. Never accept a gift of potatoes for planting in your garden if there is any chance that they were grown in soil infected with wart disease. Buy Ministry of Agriculture certified seed potatoes each season.
  • Use a garden line to make straight rows and use a draw hoe to make 6-in, deep furrows.
  • Carrot flies can cause much damage. The female flies are guided to carrots by the odour emitted from the foliage. Eggs are laid and the maggots tunnel into the roots. The foliage yellows and plants die. To prevent a strong carrot smell attracting the female flies always thin carrots when the ground is moist, try not to break any carrot foliage when hoeing or thinning and always bury young foliage inside a compost heap or in a hole in the ground.
  • Dig carrots on a dry day in October. Cut back the foliage to r in. from the crown of each carrot. Store carrots in a pit or in boxes sandwich-fashion between damp sand. Keep boxes in a cool place such as an out-house, shed or garage.


Most gardeners favour a long rooted parsnip such as ‘Hollow Crown Improved’ and ‘Tender and True’ (Sutton’s). Shorter-rooted sorts are better where the garden top soil is shallow. The new ‘Avon-resister’ has short, thick roots.


  • Parsnip seed may be sown as soon as the soil is workable in March or in April. Sow fairly thinly in 1-in, deep seed drills spaced at 12 in. apart. Pelleted seed is on offer. Sow pellets at 1 in. apart.
  • Hoe to keep down weeds. Thin parsnip seedlings twice, first in April, to leave seedlings at about tin. Apart and again in late June when each plant left to grow on should be about 8 in. from its neighbours in the row.
  • Dig parsnips for use as and when wanted during winter and early spring. Any parsnips still in the ground in March may be dug up and heeled in a trench.
  • Parsnip canker is a common physiological disorder of parsnips, not a disease. Brown patches occur on the parsnip skin. A bad attack leads to rot. If this is your problem in parsnip growing change to ‘Tender and True’ or ‘A vonresister’. Both show resistance to canker.


‘Purple-Top’ is a popular swede. Very new and noted for resistance to club root is `Chignecto’. Sow seed in early June.


  • Sow thinly in 1-in, deep drills spaced at 18 in. apart. Hoe to prevent weeds from developing. Thin seedlings to 1 ft. apart.
  • Pull swedes for use in autumn/early winter. Any swedes not used by Christmas should be pulled up and stored in the same way as carrots.


There are two main classes. Early turnips for summer and autumn use are quick growers but do not store well. Examples are ‘Early Snowball’, ‘White Milan’ and ‘Tokyo Cross’. ‘Early Green Top Stone’ and ‘Manchester Market’ are two good storing main-crop turnips. ‘Hardy Green Round’ is the turnip to choose for an abundant supply of ‘turnip tops’.


  • Sow quick growers at any time between mid-March and July, sow maincrop in mid-July and to have turnip tops in winter and the following spring, sow seeds in August. Sow seeds in 1-in, deep seed drills spaced at 1 ft. apart.
  • Try not to sow too thickly.
  • Weed and water often in hot, dry weather.
  • Thin seedlings of summer turnips to leave strong plant at from 4-6 in. apart; thin maincrop turnips to 9 in. apart.
  • Do not thin seedlings of turnips being grown solely for the edible foliage (‘tops’).
  • Flea beetles make holes in leaves of many seedlings-cabbage, radish, cauliflower, wallflower, alyssum, iberis and turnip. Damage is usually serious if seedlings are left to become dry at the roots. Frequent waterings lead to quicker growth and the seedlings recover from beetle damage. Dusting with derris at weekly intervals helps to control this pest. Strong growing seedlings, although holed by these beetles, do not appear inconvenienced.
  • Pull summer turnips when they are quite young and tender. Leave winter turnips in the ground and harvest as and when wanted. If you wish, you may lift all remaining turnips in December and store as carrots. When pulling turnip tops try not to take more than a couple of leaves at any one time from each plant.


The potato plant needs a well-drained soil, but one which retains moisture in dry summer weather. For potato growing the texture of both light and heavy soils is greatly improved by regular dressings of strawy manure or garden compost. The site chosen for potatoes should always be dressed with either of these plant food-rich soil improvers during winter digging, but never limed.


  • Seed potato tubers should be bought in winter and stood in trays to sprout.
  • House the trays in a frostproof, light, cool, airy place.
  • Good Friday is the traditional planting time but delay planting for up to a fortnight if the soil is too wet and cold.


Potato varieties are divided into three groups:

  1. First Early
  2. Second Early
  3. Maincrop

All are planted at the same time.

  • FIRST EARLY: Arran Pilot*; Duke of York; Epicure; Home Guard*; Sharpe’s Express; Ulster Chieftain*; Pollock’s Pink Early*.
  • SECOND EARLY: Craig’s Royal*; Dr McIntosh*; Great Scot*; Mans Peer*; Mans Piper*; Pentland Dell*.
  • MAINCROP : Arran Banner*; Golden Wonder*; Kerr’s Pink*; King Edward; Majestic*; Pentland Crown*.

* Immune against wart disease.

  • Discard any tubers which have not sprouted or which show decay. Plant so that the end of the tuber where most shoots are is uppermost. Rake soil over the tubers to fill the furrows.
  • Hoe between rows to keep down weeds. When the plants are 9 in. or so high, use a draw hoe to draw up soil around them. This practice is known as earthing-up. Some gardeners earth up again a few weeks later.
  • After earthing up your potatoes do not use a hoe to remove weeds. Remove the few weeds which may appear by hand.
  • In the drier, eastern half of the country the potato bed should be drenched with water off and on in dry summer weather.

Apart from wart disease, potato blight is the most feared disease among potato growers. This fungus is unlikely to be troublesome in a dry summer and is a greater worry in western parts of the country than in the drier east. Where blight is a normal hazard of potato growing, fortnightly sprayings with Bordeaux mixture, maneb or zineb are often necessary between early July and mid-September. A power sprayer is needed to ensure that all of the foliage is well-coated with one of these fungicides. A first early potato, such as ‘Arran Pilot’ is seldom affected by blight. Among maincrop potatoes, the new ‘Pentland Crown’ appears to resist blight.

  • Before harvesting first early varieties wait until flowers die and fall. The popular ‘Arran Pilot’ seldom blooms but imperfect flower buds form and fall. The digging of first earlies usually starts in late June. Dig only sufficient roots for immediate use. Continue digging on and off as and when potatoes are required in the kitchen.
  • By mid-August all first earlies may have been dug. Second earlies may then be dug as and when potatoes are wanted. Lift the rest of second earlies along with maincrop in September.
  • Do not dig maincrop potatoes until the plants are brown, dry and shrivelled. Choose a dry, sunny day for digging the entire crop. Leave the tubers on top of the ground for an hour or so to allow them to dry.
  • Examine each tuber and put aside for immediate use any ivhich are damaged. Store undamaged tubers only in boxes or trays in a dry, cool but frostproof place. Drape black polythene sheeting over the storage containers to prevent the potatoes from greening. Green potatoes are not edible.

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