Planting Root Vegetables from Seed
Fall is an ideal time to start root vegetables from seed. Favorites are
carrots, beets and onions.
Onions do best planted by seed or transplants in the fall. If you are using
transplants, it is not necessary to ensure they stand straight up. You can
plant them in a 1 ½ to 2" trench by laying them sideways. Cover the root
end with earth and water. In a couple days, the seedlings will stand up by
The small onion bulbs called sets are also available but these
will only develop into green spring onions if planted in the fall, they are
best set out in spring if large bulbs are desired. Thin onions to 4"apart
for bigger bulbs. Unlike carrots and beets, feed onions regularly,
especially early in the season.
Beets are notoriously cranky about germinating. Each seed is actually a
cluster of seeds in a husk. There can be as many as 6 seedlings that emerge
out of each one! Because of this husk, it is best if the seed can be soaked
for 24 hours prior to planting.
Amend the soil as for carrots. Water the
bed well prior to seeding to further stimulate that husky seed to sprout.
Plant the seeds deeply, about 1" (that’s about the depth of the first
knuckle on your finger). Again, thin seedlings to a gradual spacing of 2"
and eat the thinnings.
Carrots require deep sandy loam to produce long roots. If your soil is
clay-like, you will need to amend it with a good amount of compost, Planting
Mix, or Loam Builder. You may want to plant dwarf varieties such as Danver’
s Half Long if your soil is not crumbly and loose at a 1 foot depth.
EB Stone All Purpose Organic (5-5-5) fertilizer and Kelp Meal (1-0-1) when
the soil is prepared. Carrots love potassium which is the third fertilizer
number on the box. Too much nitrogen will produce roots that have many
hairy roots and fork so don’t feed regularly after they emerge as you would
leafy vegetables. The seeds should be planted very shallowly as they
require some UV light to germinate.
Sometimes it is best to sprinkle the
seeds on the prepared surface and dust them with no more than ¼“ of potting
soil or fine vermiculite. It can take up to 14 days for germination to
occur, so be patient. You can mark your row by planting fast germinating
radish seeds in front or at the sides. Once your seeds sprout and produce
the first true leaves, you can begin to thin them. The carrot thinnings and
the baby carrots can be added to soups. Ultimately, you will want 1" between
Keep all root crops well watered. Do not let the soil become dry between
irrigations. This will cause cracking and corkiness in roots and reduced
bulb size in onions.
The pleasure of eating fruits, herbs and vegetables harvested yourself is so sublime that sometimes mere words cannot do this experience justice. These are the fruits of your gardening labors and you should plan for them. Go ahead and dream of backyard strawberries, tomatoes in containers or herbs sprinkled onto the evening salad because now is the perfect time to get ready for edible gardening.
Need help growing your own? Stop by any Sloat Garden Center location with questions. We can help!
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