Growing Guide: Edible Plant Parts – Roots


  • Because root vegetables grow out of sight under ground, it is important to make sure the soil has been prepared to allow space to grow.  Root vegetables prefer well drained loose soil. Soil should also be able to retain moisture.
  • Check the PH of the soil to ensure it is between 6.0 and 6.8 as root vegetables prefer slightly acid soil.
  • All stones should be removed before planting to avoid growth deformities.
  • Soil should be deeply tilled, followed by smoothing the surface for sowing of seedlings
  • Choose to grow root vegetables near other strongly scented plants  such as sage, rosemary, and onions to deter insect pest which are attracted to aromas of root vegetables.

Growing Roots 

  • Seeds can be planted directly into the soil using the space recommendations according to its package. Most root vegetables are sown into the grown in the early part of spring.
  • Lightly cover seeds with soil, and water immediately.
  • Keep weeds out of the growing area especially in the early stages to avoid competition.
  • Once plants start to germinate, thin out clusters by leaving the the strongest plants. Thinning allows room for roots to grow.
  • Tips on thinning common root plants:
    • Thin carrots and radishes as soon as they reach a small, edible size
    • Thinning of beets and turnips can be delayed until they reach usable size
    • Carrots,  parsnips, radishes, and turnips should be thinned to a 2-inch spacing.
    • Rutabagas should be thinned to a 8-inch spacing.


  • Use a spade fork to loosen the soil around the crop to easily pull them from the ground.  Be careful not to puncture the vegetable.
  • Be careful not to break longer roots such as carrots during harvest.
  • Tips on harvesting common root plants:
    • Harvest carrots when the roots are ¾ inches in diameter at the top
    • Beets and turnips are harvested when they reach a usable size
    • Parsnips and rutabagas are usually left in the ground until late fall. The roots can be 10-12 inches long
    • Radishes are usually ready to be harvested in 3-5 weeks after planting. This veggie is great for school and beginner gardeners.
  • Remove all plant debris after harvesting to prevent disease


  • Cut root vegetables up and use them fresh in salads, cooked in stir fry or get creative and use them as paint art stamps!