10 Root Vegetables You Can Successfully Grow

Tips for How to Successfully Grow Root Vegetables and Herbs

Root Crops Harvest
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Growing root vegetables, such as carrots, beets, and turnips, poses a unique challenge. The edible part grows underground out of sight, so we often do not know if there is a problem until we harvest them.

Tip

Your soil needs to be loose enough for root crops to send down roots. If the soil is compacted or rocky, the roots will become distorted and forked.

Here are some tips to get you growing root vegetables for your kitchen.

  • 01 of 10

    Beets (Beta vulgaris)

    Beets
    Kevin Summers / Getty Images

    Beets are considered a root crop, but the leaves are edible too. Probably the hardest thing about growing beets is thinning the plants. Like its cousin Swiss chard, the seeds form in clusters and if you do not break the clusters apart, the sprouted seeds will be too crowded to develop into bulbs. Soak seeds overnight in room temperature water to aid germination. Beets grow quickly and taste best when harvested small and young. Succession plant as you harvest for a continual harvest. For such an earthy vegetable, they are surprisingly sweet, especially when roasted.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 2 to 11
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun or part shade
    • Soil Needs: Loamy soil
  • 02 of 10

    Carrots (Daucus carota)

    Harvested carrots

     

    samael334 / Getty Images

    Carrots are a popular vegetable, but the long, thin carrot we most commonly see takes several months to mature—and there are many pests above and below the soil that do not wait for maturity to start eating your carrots. If you have had poor luck growing carrots, you might have more success growing one of the shorter varieties like 'Paris Market' or 'Little Finger.' They mature faster, are just as sweet and crunchy as longer carrots, and you can be eating earlier and succession planting throughout the summer. Carrot seed is also very small and slow to germinate. Sow some radish seeds among your carrots to help identify your rows. Carrots should also be thinned to give the roots enough space to grow. If you soil is thick or compacted, work some sand into the carrot bed prior to planting.

    • USDA Growing Zones: Any
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
    • Soil Needs: Loose, well-draining soil
  • 03 of 10

    Horseradish (Armoracia rusticana)

    Horseradish Root
    aloha_17 / Getty Images

    Horseradish is very easy to grow, but a little goes a long way. Unfortunately, it can be hard to grow just a little horseradish. The plants are perennial in most areas, so if you leave some root in the ground, it will re-grow and spread quickly. But do not let that deter you. You can always grow it in a pot. Or take a tip from commercial growers and dig up the whole patch of horseradish, treat it as an annual plant, and start from scratch next season.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 9
    • Sun Exposure: Full to partial sun
    • Soil Needs: Loose, rich soil
  • 04 of 10

    Onions and Shallots (allium cepa)

    Italian Torpedo Onions
    Marie Iannotti

    Onions are fairly easy to grow. It is planting them that takes a lot of work. You have three options: You can start them from seed, from transplants, or from sets, which are tiny cured onion bulbs. The transplants are the easiest (though most expensive) to plant and the quickest to mature. When growing from seed, water judiciously as the small thin sprouts are prone to damping off. Onions also come in three separate categories according to length of day. These include short day, long day and medium day. Length of day and available sun will determine the success of your onion plants so be sure to choose from the correct category for your climate and growing season. You can grow shallots as easily as any other onion, but shallots are generally planted in the fall. This mild tasting, somewhat gourmet onion type plant grows like garlic, each bulb grows offsets to be harvested the following summer.

    • USDA Growing Zones: Adaptable but best in zones 5 and 6
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Firm, acidic soil from sandy loam to heavy clay
    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10

    Parsnips (Pastinaca sativa)

    How to Grow Parsnips
    Marie Iannotti

    Parsnips grow well in most areas and they will store for months, even getting sweeter with a little chilling. They have been overshadowed by carrots and potatoes, which are easier to grow and can be harvested earlier. The flavor of parsnips can make them worth the effort and the wait. Different varieties can be mildly nutty to honey-sweet. Parsnips can be eaten raw, mashed, sauteed, and are especially good when roasted. One caveat is that they take 3 to 4 months to mature. So, get your seeds in early, then sit back and wait for a treat.

    • USDA Growing Zones: Any
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
    • Soil Needs: Slightly acidic loose soil
  • 06 of 10

    Potatoes (Solanum tuberosum)

    Fresh Potatoes...
    johnnyscriv / Getty Images

    Potatoes are a stem tuber, not a root crop, but they are grown and harvested like other root crops. There is an incredible diversity of potatoes and the only way to sample them all is to grow them yourself. They are easily started from pieces of actual potato and grow fairly easily, although there are several pests vying for their attention. Seed potatoes should be purchased for planting as commercial potatoes sold for eating are sometimes treated to discourage sprouting. When cutting seed potatoes for planting include 2 eyes in each cut piece. Let the cut pieces dry for a day or two so that the cut surface forms a hardened surface. This protects your "seed" from soil borne diseases and rot. Plant your potato seeds cut side down and start mounding up around the seedlings as soon as the leafy green portion breaks ground. Potatoes also are easy to grow in containers, and it's easy to harvest them by simply tipping over the container.

    • USDA Growing Zones: Any
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Loose, loamy soil
  • 07 of 10

    Radishes (Raphanus sativus)

    French Breakfast Radishes
    Marie Iannotti

    Radishes are quick growing and easy to pop into a salad. They are one of the easiest vegetables to grow and are a great plant for a child's garden. They do require cool temperatures to prevent bolting so you want to get your seeds in as soon as the soil warms. There are a wide variety of radishes that come in all kinds of colors including long, sliver-thin radishes, spicy radishes, and winter radishes that make a wonderful roasted side dish.

    • USDA Growing Zones: Any
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich well-draining soil 
  • 08 of 10

    Rutabaga (Brassica napus)

    Rutabagas
    Joff Lee / Getty Images

    Rutabagas are a versatile vegetable that has a crisp cabbage-like tang when used fresh, and they sweeten up to almost a buttery lusciousness when cooked. They are so good they are used for pie. They are easy to grow with relatively few pest problems and do not require a lot of space. Rutabagas do need a growing season of 90 days or longer, so if your planting season is short, get your seeds in early. When stored properly rutabagas will keep for months.

    • USDA Growing Zones: Any
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
    • Soil Needs: Slightly acidic fertile, well-draining soil
    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10

    Sweet Potatoes (Ipomoea batatas)

    Sweet Potatoes
    Crystal Weddington / EyeEm / Getty Images

    Sweet potatoes are tuberous roots and are usually grown from slips, which are small rooted pieces of the tubers. They are not often grown in cooler climates because they need about a four-month growing season. However, there are varieties that are better suited to northern gardens and it is quite easy to start plants in containers and move them out when the soil has warmed. You can easily grow your own slips by placing a small sweet potato in a glass or small jar with one end submerged in water. In a few weeks the eyes on the potato will begin to send out new green growth. Cut the new vine from the potato leaving a small portion of potato attached. Plant in 4 inch pots or directly into the garden.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 8 to 11
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, well-drained, slightly acidic soil
  • 10 of 10

    Turnips (Brassica rapa)

    Turnips
    Marie Iannotti

    There is a lot more variety to turnips than you might think. For starters, you can eat both the greens and the root bulb. The green leafy parts of turnips are actually the most nutritious part of the plant but some very tasty dishes can be created using the turnip root as well. If you harvest the greens while they are young, they will keep resprouting. And not all turnips are white with purple tops. There are sweet tiny golden turnips and creamy, bright red turnips too. The really nice thing is they are all easy to grow and fast to mature. You could be eating turnips within two months.

    • USDA Growing Zones: Any
    • Sun Exposure: Full to partial
    • Soil Needs: Fertile, slightly acidic, well-draining soil