Growing Root Crops

Root vegetables, which include crops such as carrots, parsnips and turnips, are reasonably easy to grow provided your soil is deep and not too stony. Root crops are biennial, which means that during their first year they build up reserves in a storage root to enable them to flower well the following year. Most root crops prefer an open, sunny site. The soil should be light, and should not have been recently matured. Root crops prefer a moist soil, so you may have to water them in dry weather. They are usually hardy, and the vegetables can be left in the ground over winter, to be harvested as needed.

In very stony ground, root crops such as parsnips and carrots may fork and produce rather stunted growth. To avoid this, use a crowbar to make deep holes at the correct planting distance and fill them with potting compost soil mix so that the seeds can be sown in this. As the leeks grow earth hill them up by pulling the soil up around the stems to blanch them. This will give the leeks a better flavor. Once the shoots of container grown shallots are about 4 inches high, plant out in the garden, spacing them about 6 inches apart, in rows that are 9 inches apart.

Pinching out the tops of broad fava beans is good practice because ti discourages aphids. The tops can then be boiled and eaten. Taller varieties of broad beans will need supporting with string tied to canes, which should be set at intervals along the rows. Wire netting can be used to support shorter varieties of peas. Loosen the soil with a fork or trowel. It is best to lift each plantlet individually with a trowel, but if they have not been thinned sufficiently this may be difficult.

Plant with a trowel and firm the soil well. A convenient way to firm soil around the roots is to insert the blade of the trowel about 2 inches away from the plant and press it firmly towards the roots. Brassicas need to be planted firmly. Test this by tugging a leaf after planting. Always water in thoroughly after transplanting. Cabbages and cauliflowers are often raised in modules so that the seedlings receive less of a shock when they are transplanted. Many modules are designed so that you can remove the plant by gently squeezing the base while gently supporting the plant at the top.