10 Best Root Garden Vegetables to Successfully Grow

Start Easy With Radishes Before Advancing to Carrots

root vegetable assortment

The Spruce / K. Dave  

Growing root vegetables, also called tubers or bulbs, such as carrots, beets, turnips, and onions, are generally easy to grow, but they have some unique challenges. The edible part grows underground out of sight, so you do not know if there is a problem until you harvest them. To get started, build a good seedbed or raised bed. Start as early as the ground thaws in the early spring, and thin and weed appropriately. You can also plant in the late summer as the weather cools.

Radishes and turnips are among the easiest to grow, and potatoes and carrots are some of the hardest. Radishes grow fast, usually ready to harvest within 30 days. Turnips take about 60 days and require a lot more space than radishes. Potatoes and carrots are harder to grow because they are prone to pests, disease, and in-ground growth issues that are difficult to monitor and control.

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)

    harvested beets

    The Spruce / K. Dave 

    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 pluck them 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

    The Spruce / K. Dave  

    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 seeds are also tiny and slow to germinate. Sow some radish seeds among your carrots to help identify your rows. Thin carrots to give the roots enough space to grow. Work some sand into the carrot bed before planting if your soil is thick or compacted.

    • 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

    The Spruce / K. Dave 

    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 roots in the ground, they 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, dig up the horseradish patch, 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)

    onions

    The Spruce / K. Dave 

    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, transplants, or 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 tiny thin sprouts are prone to damping off.

    Onions come in three separate categories according to the length of the daylight they need to mature. These include short day, long day, and medium day. Length of the day and the 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.

    Shallots are mild-tasting, somewhat gourmet onion-type plants that grow like garlic. You can grow shallots as quickly as any other onion, but shallots are generally planted in the fall. Each bulb produces 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)

    parsnips

    The Spruce / K. Dave  

    Parsnips grow well in most areas and 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 may be harvested earlier. The flavor of parsnips makes them worth the effort and the wait. Different varieties can be mildly nutty to honey-sweet. Parsnips can be eaten raw, mashed, sautéed, 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)

    potatoes

    The Spruce / K. Dave  

    Potatoes are a stem tuber, not a root crop, but they are grown and harvested like other root crops. They are quickly started from pieces of actual potato and grow fairly easily, although several pests find them as tasty as you do.

    There is an incredible diversity of potatoes; the only way to sample them is to grow them yourself. You should purchase seed potatoes for planting. Commercial potatoes sold for eating are sometimes treated to discourage sprouting. When cutting seed potatoes for planting, include two eyes in each cut piece. Let the cut pieces dry for a day or two, so the cut side forms a hardened surface. This drying-out period protects your "seed" from soil-borne diseases and rot.

    Plant your seed potatoes cut side down and start mounding soil up around the seedlings as soon as the leafy green portion breaks ground. Potatoes also grow well 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)

    radishes

    The Spruce / K. Dave  

    Radishes are quick growing and delicious popped into a salad. They are one of the easiest vegetables to grow and are a great plant for a child's garden. They require cool temperatures to prevent bolting, so you want to get your seeds in as soon as the soil warms. A wide variety of radishes 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)

    rutabaga

    The Spruce / K. Dave 

    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. Easy to grow with relatively few pest problems, they 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

    The Spruce / K. Dave 

    Sweet potatoes are tuberous roots 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, some varieties are better suited to northern gardens, and it is pretty easy to start plants in containers and move them out when the soil has warmed.

    You can quickly grow your 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 the 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

    The Spruce / K. Dave 

    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 the most nutritious part of the plant, but some delicious dishes can also be created using the turnip root. They will keep resprouting if you harvest the greens while they are young. And not all turnips are white with purple tops. There are sweet tiny golden turnips and creamy, bright red turnips too. They are all easy to grow and fast to mature. You could be eating turnips within two months of planting.

    • USDA Growing Zones: Any
    • Sun Exposure: Full to partial
    • Soil Needs: Fertile, slightly acidic, well-draining soil 
Article Sources
The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Root for your Root Vegetables. Michigan State University Extension.

  2. Pests of Carrots. North Carolina State Extension.

  3. Potato Pests and Disease. The National Garden Association Learning Library.

  4. Fiers, Marie & Edel-Hermann et al. Potato soil-borne diseases. A review. Agronomy for Sustainable Development - AGRON SUSTAIN DEV, vol. 32, no. 1, 2012. doi:10.1007/s13593-011-0035-z