Gardening Articles: Care :: Plant Care Techniques

Growing Root Crops (page 2 of 3)

by National Gardening Association Editors

Weeding

Most root crops grow very slowly the first few weeks, and they can't compete with weeds. But there are several time-saving ways to stay ahead in the weeding game.

Try this trick in the early spring before you even plant a seed: Wait a week or so between the initial soil preparation and planting day. During this time, go out several times and till or stir the soil. This exposes and kills the first batches of tiny "weedlings" lurking near the surface that may try to overrun your young seedlings.

Once your plants are up, you should stir up the soil within the rows every four or five days until the seedlings are well established. You can save a lot of bending over by using special hoes for weeding. Many have a strong, narrow blade with a curved gooseneck to let you pull weeds from even tight spots in the row without damaging the stems or roots of vegetables.

Once the plants get too tall to use a weeding tool, buckle down and hand pull every weed as soon as you see it. Keep in mind that any weed that grows in your garden is a robber, stealing sun, water and food from your crops, and in the end, stealing food from you.

To keep down weeds between the rows, stir the soil surface there, too. Or, you can put down a two- to three-inch layer of mulch (shredded leaves, straw, lawn clippings or even newspapers) between the rows to do the work for you. Mulch has the added advantage of keeping the soil moist and at an even temperature. Your root crops will really appreciate this.

Naturally, the more weed prevention you can accomplish early, the easier it will be later on. And by planting in wide rows, you'll have very little hand weeding to do. But you're bound to get some weeds, so go out to your garden daily and keep them pulled!

The Second Thinning and the First Harvest

Thin again by hand several weeks after the first thinning to give the remaining plants space to reach their mature size. (Enjoy the thinnings of these sweet, tender "baby" carrots and beets.) This is also when you would harvest the radishes planted as companion plants. In heavy soil, leave the White Icicle radishes until they're quite large, then pull them to create that beneficial void in the soil. The beets, carrots, parsnips or turnips left in the row will push the soil around them into the gaps as they grow.

The third time you go out to thin, you'll be harvesting for real. See how you can kill a few birds with one stone, as each chore combines with the others?

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