Easy root crops like beets, radishes, turnips and carrots pack a punch of earthy flavor. They're economical to grow from seed–a packet costs around $1.99 depending on variety–and contains enough seeds for a healthy crop. They're best in well-amended soil; raised beds are ideal, and with a short window from seed-to-harvest, they're a satisfying crop for those looking for quicker gratification.
Here are a few favorites:
Beets are a love-it-or-hate-it crop, aren't they? Most often pickled; we're used to finding them in jars of deep wine-red juice. Did you know, though, that beets go beyond the red? Try a golden variety such as this 'Burpee Golden' for a new take on the flavor–a bit more like a very sweet carrot.
If you're not a fan of the pickled beet, check out our February Food Garden board on Pinterest for out-of-the-ordinary takes on how to cook them. Oh–and the tops of beets are nutritious, too–and in the case of 'Bull's Blood–very ornamental.
Carrots are always a favorite and so easy to grow, too. Fresh, roasted or steamed, they're a nutritious snack straight from the soil. For best results, be sure your soil is well-amended and loose to a depth of at least 10"; the roots will fork or warp if they encounter rocks or clumps while growing. For a new take on the plain orange carrot, try an alternative variety such as 'Cosmic Purple'.
Radishes are another love-it-or-hate-it, but the variety 'French Breakfast' could make the latter group convert. Steamed with a bit of butter to enhance the earthy flavor, radishes offer a quick crop for any gardener, new or seasoned.
Be sure to thin your seedlings well; crowded root crops won't develop as well and can sometimes not produce at all. Scatter seeds in well-amended soil and cover lightly, thin out by plucking seedlings to a spacing of 3" or so after true leaves appear.
These and other root crops are entering their prime window for direct-seeding straight into the garden. We'll say it again–amend your existing soil well with organic compost and consider adding trace minerals–valuable for root crops–with Lava Sand. Check some of our favorite recipes for root crop inspiration on our February Food Garden Pinterest board, and enjoy!