root food: now you see ’em, now you don’t

My foray into root veggies started with garlic.  (If you haven’t read that post, let me refer you to “getting ready for the

fresh carrots on growing grace farm, 2011

garlic” post.)  I didn’t really know what I was doing, but I figured anything you could put in the ground and grow without worrying about it was worth my while.  Plus, how many things can you throw in the ground in autumn and watch sprout from the ground before anything else is ready to peek through the cold earth?!

So, after successfully harvesting garlic, I was inspired to move on to potatoes.  I remember randomly texting friends when I turned over my first bucket of new potatoes.  Who knew a few potato slips would provide me with enough mashed potatoes for weeks on end, AND they tasted better than any store bought item you find in the produce section.

After that came carrots, leeks, and sweet potatoes.  I was addicted, like a child finding Easter eggs or looking for treasure.  Plus, they are so low maintenance, you almost forget they are out there growing for you!

So root veggies and plants, what to do?

  • Plant when directed.  I have found onions, leeks, and garlic to be successful when I plant in autumn and harvest in spring.  Carrots and sweet potatoes seem to work better planting spring/early summer and harvesting in autumn.
  • Give ’em room.  Seriously, they need it.  Being in shallow ground will stunt growth
  • Till or hoe the dirt.  I made the mistake of planting carrot seeds in unturned dirt.  My stubborn self wanted to see how strong carrots could be–could they defy dirt.  Well, yes, they did, but me, not so much so.  They grew down deep, but I ended up pulling out the hoe anyway to get them out.
  • Mulch anyway.  Regardless of the season, mulch you root food.  It will help them retain moisture as well as
    my first ever batch of sweet potatoes

    provide them with nutrients that they need to give you the nutrients you need.

  • Thin seedlings.  Just as you would with above ground plants, make sure you thin so they can reach their full potential
  • Water ’em.  They need plenty of moisture to promote healthy “root” development.
  • Watch the tops and bottoms.  Too much nitrogen in the soil will cause overgrowth in the top and deprive the bottom root growth.

So get ready–spring is almost over!  Run, don’t walk, to your garden and plant now.  You’ll be glad you did when autumn comes and you are enjoying roasted carrots and taters!

 

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