Beets, carrots, parsnips and radishes are just some of the root crops that you can grow at home in
your backyard. All these crops thrive in raised wide beds especially if
you have a heavy clay soil. As the roots grow, they need room to expand in deep, uncompacted soil which is just
what the raised wide bed provides.
Before planting prepare the soil and rake
the seedbed to smooth it and produce a fine tilth. Add some bonemeal or
super-phosphate and rake it into the soil (read the packet for quantities). Sow the seeds evenly over the bed and
cover with a thin layer of soil. Firm down the soil over the seeds and then water the bed. Keep the soil moist for
at least a week.
When the seedlings are nearly one inch tall, start thinning to give them room to grow. As the roots
start to develop, thin again to leave beet 2-3 inches apart. Carrots and parsnips should be thinned to a 3 inch
spacing. The quick-growing radish which is ready to eat in 20-30 days has large seeds which should be planted two
inches apart and so will need little thinning.
Another approach is to mix a small amount of radish seed in with the seeds of the larger roots and
sow them together. The radishes will germinate first and act as markers for the slower crop. Many insect pests tend
to be drawn to the first crop they see, so often attack the radish leaves and then ignore the crop that follows. In
addition pulling the radishes will help to loosen the soil for the larger roots.
Other root crops that can be cultivated in a similar manner are salsify, turnip and rutabaga.
Potatoes, which need cool conditions and so are grown chiefly in the north, and sweet potatoes which grow mainly in
the south for the opposite reason, require slightly different treatments which will be covered in a separate