Today we are going to be talking about vegetables that are grown underground. Also known as “root crops.” The list is very long and includes carrots, radishes, beets, parsnips, turnips, rutabagas, sweet potatoes, regular potatoes, onions and garlic.
All root crops prefer a loose soil that is well draining but will hold moisture. All that means is that after a good rain or watering the roots hold onto enough moisture to keep them moist but not enough to create puddles.
Varying factors include temperature, amount of sun the plants get and how dry the soil was before watering. So in cooler time of the year you can water less and as it heats up toward summer you will definitely have to water more. Adding compost to your soil from your compost pile will help with allowing good drainage in the soil.
Root crops grow best in cool weather. It would be best to plant them after the last freeze in late winter or early spring. Even though they prefer cooler temperatures you cannot plant them when the temperatures are below freezing so you do have wait until after the last freeze.
Beets and turnips have edible leaves which you do not want to freeze but other than that root crops are for the most part very hardy plants which can be left in the garden throughout the summer and harvested in the fall. Since they are grown underground they could have problems with them but there is no way of knowing until you harvest them.
One thing vegetables grown underground do not like is acidic soil and most soil starts out acidic because soil acidification is a natural process due to the concentration of hydrogen ions and the inefficient use of nitrogen. Acidic soil does not give up nutrients to your plants as well as a well-balanced soil does. Look for a PH range of 6.0 to 6.5. A good PH METER will tell you acidity of the soil in just a few seconds.
Adding GARDEN LIME to your soil is the best way to turn you garden more alkaline. The best way to add it is to spread it thoroughly over your garden and work it inches deep and then give a thorough watering. This should be done a week or two before planting to allow the lime to mix with the soil.
Carrots, beets and parsley should be planted 2″ apart and pushed into the ground about 2″. Larger root crop like potatoes, rutabagas and sweet potatoes should be planted 8″ apart. They are best harvested using a spade fork to help loosen the soil before pulling them out of the ground.
All root crops contain vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, phytonutrients and dietary fiber. They are helpful in fighting cancer, diabetes, obesity inflammatory based disorders like heart disease and arthritis.
Turnips contain calcium and phosphor, potatoes contain complex carbohydrates and vitamin B6, carrots contain beta-carotene, and radishes contain folate.
Sweet potatoes contain vitamin A, vitamin C, manganese, copper, panothenic acid, potassium, niacin, vitamin B1 and B2 and phosphorous along with dietary fiber.
Garlic contains manganese, vitamin B6, vitamin C, selenium, calcium, copper, potassium and a little bit of fiber.
I do love cooking with garlic and I really love eating sweet potato fries.
Whether you are growing root crops or just regular vegetables I think everyone should grow your own if you have the room. That way you are in control of the pesticides used and the right time to harvest your crop.
With over 7 billion people on this planet right now and every one of them needing at least one meal a day, or sometimes 2, 3 or 4 meals a day, the need to be prepared for food shortages is greater than ever. Regular farming for the most part has been replaced by industrial farming. That brings with it soil that has a lot of the nutrients leeched out of it, crops that are picked before they have a chance to fully ripen, Industrial pesticides used on them and the use of GMO’s which are genetically modified organisms.
GMO’s have been around for decades. They have their good points and their bad points. GMO’s are plants that have their genetic altered by having a gene from a virus or bacteria inserted into it. This allows the plants to produce their own type of pesticides, which is an all-inclusive term that includes herbicides, insecticides and fungicides however since this genetically altered plant is different from what human beings have been eating for tens of thousands of years our bodies are not used to digesting these new substances and as a result studies show they link to cancer, neurological diseases, such as Parkinson’s, and other detrimental risks to your health.
GMO’s do allow for bigger crop yields and longer freshness time to help this growing population of ours. GMO’s aren’t going away and with ongoing research and development they can be used to help fight various human diseases.
Growing your own vegetables in a backyard garden is a very rewarding undertaking. Along with growing your own vegetables you get fresh air, sunshine and exercise which will make you hungry to eat your fresh vegetables.
A good book with a lot of delicious recipes for cooking with root vegetables is “Roots: The complete guide to the underground superfood.” It can be found at Amazon.com<
If you prefer to grow an underground vegetable in a container a new product on the market is called the Grow Bag or the Garden Planter Bag and is basically used for potatoes, onions, carrots, garlic and sweet potatoes or any other vegetable that grows underground. They range in size from 5 to 10 gallons and are well made.
What makes them different from regular grow bags is that they have an easy access flap on the side of the container you can use to harvest your root vegetables once they ripen. In general these bags help promote a healthier root system through better breathability and they also help to dissipate heat faster.