Fall & Winter Growing Guides

Root Crops

The sweet taste of a winter carrot or the hearty flavor of a Thanksgiving-dug parsnip will be enough to make you want to winter garden just to relive the experience! Other fall and winter delights are the fast maturing radish and the many colorful beets, rutabagas, and turnips. Protected by the soil in zones 5 and above and with the protection of 1-2 feet of straw down to zone 4, root crops are a great addition to the winter garden.

CULTURE: For best performance, all root crops require a light, rock-free soil that has been dug to a depth of 10-18 inches. Avoid fresh manures, as they tend to cause forking and hairy roots. Most of these varieties can be sown until August. Soil should be amended with 2 cups of our complete fertilizer (ZFE250) for every 10 row feet and well dug in. One-half cup bone meal or other high phosphorous fertilizer every 10 feet will also supply the needed nutrition. The pH should be adjusted to 5.5-6.5. Sow into shallow furrows, 1/2 - 3/4 inch apart in rows 12-20 inches apart, and keep the soil surface moist to prevent crusting until germination. Days to emergence: 6-21 days when soil temperature is between 55-70°F. After emergence, root crops like a deep, thorough watering every week or so. This encourages the roots to go deep. Thin to 3-6 inches apart, depending on your ideal mature size.

INSECTS: Flea beetles will attack radish seedlings, and the carrot fly can be troublesome to both carrots and parsnips. Both can be controlled by frequent sprays of Pyrethrin (ZIN482). Reemay (ZRC811), Grow Guard 20 (ZRC823), or Summer Insect Barrier (ZRC819) placed over the row prior to emergence will also help.

DISEASES: Many root crop diseases can be avoided by practicing a 3-year rotation and with proper garden sanitation. Consult your local county extension agent for specific problems.

HARVEST: Radishes can be harvested as early as late fall, other roots can be harvested through the winter and into spring. Harvest all root crops when they have reached their desired size. Like cole crops, most root crops have a sweeter, fuller taste after 1 or 2 freezes. In colder zones, a covering of 1-2 feet of straw in the late fall and winter will keep the soil from freezing and will allow you to dig your roots all winter.

STORAGE: If your soil is well drained, the best location for root storage is in the garden under a protective layer of straw. If your soil is extremely wet, dig the roots, cut off the tops, and store the roots in a cool, dark, location at 95% relative humidity.

SEED SPECS: Minimum germination standard: 75%. Usual seed life 2-3 years when properly stored.

Beets

Seed DepthSeed SpacingSoil Temp for Germ.Days to Germ.Thin Plants To Approximately 30-75 seeds per gram.
1/2″1″50-75°F5-173-4″

Beta vulgaris A summer sown crop of beets will have you eating beets until March or April.
CULTURE: Sow May for enormous roots, June for large roots, July for smaller roots going into winter.
STORAGE: If you are in a temperate climate, and your soil is well drained, your best location for root storage is in the garden under a protective layer of straw. If your soil is extremely wet, or in a cold northern climate, you will want to dig and store them. Beets are best stored at tennis ball size, and should be harvested before temperatures drop to the 15-20°F range. Storage at 40°F is ideal.

Carrots

Seed DepthSeed SpacingSoil Temp for Germ.Days to Germ.Thin Plants To Approximately 650-750 seeds per gram.
1/4″4 per in.55-80°F6-211-3″

Daucus carota, var. sativus
The fresh crisp taste of carrots for munching or salads is a welcome treat in the dead of winter. Our winter carrot trials and selections are made based on flavor and the ability to store in the ground until you're ready to harvest. Each year we grow dozens of varieties in search of improvements to offer you. We also strive to fill slots where there have been traditional holes in carrot maturity. We believe our selection of top quality carrots is second to none.

Parsnips

Seed DepthSeed SpacingSoil Temp for Germ.Days to Germ.Thin Plants To Approximately 175 seeds per gram.
1/2″1/2″55-75°F15-283-4″

Pastinaca sativa Parsnips provide a reliable source of food during the winter months. The long white roots are wonderfully sweet tasting.

Radishes

Seed DepthSeed SpacingSoil Temp for Germ.Days to Germ.Thin Plants To Approximately 80 seeds per gram.
Three grams will sow 7-8 row feet.
1/2″1/2″45-80°F4-111-2″

Raphanus sativus Radishes grow best when sown in spring or late summer so that they mature when days are shorter, sunlight is weaker, and temperatures are lower. Modern breeders consider short tops desirable in radishes because small–topped plants can be spaced closer, resulting in higher yields. However, when the gardener is unwilling or unable to spray repeatedly for flea beetle control, short tops are a serious liability.

SEED SPECS: Approximately 80 seeds per gram; 28 grams per ounce.

Rutabagas

Seed DepthSeed SpacingSoil Temp for Germ.Days to Germ.Thin Plants To Approximately 265-400 seeds per gram.
1/4-1/2″1-2″55-75°F5-176-8″

Brassica napus
This cross between a turnip and a cabbage will produce enormous crops in a small space. Dependably stores outside in the ground.

Turnips

Seed DepthSeed SpacingSoil Temp for Germ.Days to Germ.Thin Plants To Approximately 265-400 seeds per gram.
1/4-1/2″1-2″55-75°F5-176-8″

Brassica rapa