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. 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 50–70°F. After emergence, root crops like a deep, thorough watering every week or so. This encourages the roots to go deep. Thin to 3–8 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). A row cover 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 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.

SEED SPECS: Minimum germination standard: 75%. Usual seed life: 2 years.

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
Having a good supply of carrots on hand during the long winter is truly a blessing. Carrots are a versatile and nutritious vegetable; delicious raw and in a wide range of cooked preparations—from stews to cakes to juice. At Territorial we've carefully field evaluated carrots, looking for the best selections specially bred for autumn, winter, and spring harvest.

CULTURE: Best sown mid-June to early-July.

STORAGE: In mild climates, cover carrots in the garden with straw or even newspaper for winter protection. If you garden in an area where temperatures go below 10°F for an extended period, consider digging them for storage. Without cleaning the roots you can store them in damp sand or peat moss, and keep them at 50°F or less. They should store until April.

SEED SPECS: Minimum germination standard: 75%. Usual seed life: 3 years.

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 are a high value food crop for the winter months. In fact, in Europe they were a main winter staple until the arrival of the potato. Other winter vegetables do not benefit as much from cold weather as do parsnips. Their flavor improves with each cold snap as starches turn to sugar.

CULTURE: For winter harvest sow April to July 1st. If sown later, you'll have baby parsnips. Direct sow seed and keep consistently moist for the entire germination period of three weeks.

STORAGE: Excellent storage in ground.

SEED SPECS: Minimum germination standard: 65%. Usual seed life: 1 year.

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. Our radishes are specially selected as the best performers for autumn and winter harvest.

STORAGE: You can store radishes in the ground down to about 15°F. Much below that, harvest and store until needed. Leave a bit of soil on them and store in damp sand or peat until March. They will produce pale leaves, which are tasty in salads.

Rutabagas & 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″

Rutabagas: Brassica napus
These classic root crops can store long-term in the root cellar, or right in the ground for milder regions, providing winter fare with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that boast a whole range of health benefits. This cross between turnip and wild cabbage is sweeter and even more nutritious.

Turnips: Brassica rapa
These classic root crops can store long-term in the root cellar, or right in the ground for milder regions, providing winter fare with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that boast a whole range of health benefits. Turnips are grown for their top greens, as well as their roots.

CULTURE: Rutabagas and turnips are fast growing and require a fertile, well-dug, well-drained seedbed that has a pH of 6. One cup of our complete fertilizer dug into 10 row feet will give the plants adequate nutrition. Sow the seeds thinly in rows 12–16 inches apart. Keep seedbed moist. Sowing indoors is not recommended.

INSECTS: Cover the rows with Reemay, Grow Guard 20, or an insect barrier to reduce root maggots. Floating row covers prevent flies from laying their eggs at the base of developing plants. Flea beetles can be controlled with a floating row cover as well, or by applications of Pyrethrin.

DISEASES: No common problems. Consult your local county extension agent with specific problems.

HARVEST: By October–November, rutabaga roots will be tender and tasty from a well-thinned sowing in July. The roots are sweetest when small, so pick early. Also, when larger, root maggots can become a problem. Organic turnips are often easier to grow for greens than for roots. Sometimes root maggots leave the gardener too few undamaged turnips. Turnip greens can be picked when young and tender. Both root crops are best stored at 33°F and 90–95% relative humidity.

SEED SPECS: Minimum germination standard: 80%. Days to maturity are calculated from the date of direct seeding. Usual seed life: 3 years.