Why Won't My Root Veggies Grow?

You’ve put in all the work, planted your root veggies with care and all season you’ve been eyeing their gorgeous leafy green tops and waited with anticipation for harvest time.  Then you go and start pulling up scrawny, diseased or misshapen root crops. Disappointed, you wonder where you went wrong.  Here are some common problems associated with growing root vegetables and important questions to consider.
 

Too much on the acid or alkaline side?

This is a very common problem that most gardeners aren’t aware of when growing their root vegetables. It is important to have your pH tested if you plan on getting “near perfect” root crops.  All root vegetables, except beets and parsnips, grow best in soils with a pH of 6.2–6.8; beets and parsnips require a pH of 6.6–7.2.  A soil test kit or portable meter will help you determine your soil's pH level.

Is your soil sandy or too compact?

Soggy & compact soils can cause rot and oddly shaped roots.  Loose soil will create straighter root veggies. Sandy soils are ideal, but your root crops will need more frequent watering.  Consider yourself lucky if your soil is sandy, you’ll have very little trouble growing your favorite root crops.  To only further your success you’ll have with sandy soil, add in organic matter such as aged manure or finished compost. Mulch around your plants, which will help the soil retain moisture and keep cool. 

Are your nutrients off-balance?

Root crops require about 1⁄3 pound of actual nitrogen, 1⁄4 pound of phosphorus, and 1⁄3 to 1⁄2 pound of potash per 100 square feet.  Plant them in the same area you do your leafy vegetables which generally requires the same type of nutrients. This will make fertilizing and amending the soil much easier.

Are the plants getting enough sun and water?

Root veggies like carrots, radishes, beetsparsnips, need at least a half day of sunshine. They also need at least 1 inch of water from rainfall or manual watering each week during the growing season. This may need to be increased if your soil is sandy and drains or drys out quickly.  

1 comment

Eleanor King

I have tried to grow radishes, carrots, beets in containers. I get healthy normal looking green tops but the root never develops. When you pull them up there is a straight thin root with about an inch of red color where the radish should have been. Same for the other root crops. I can often harvest the green tops for other uses but I would like to have the vegetables as well. Any suggestions? I have not tested my soil but do try to amend the soil in the containers each year.

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