How to grow root vegetables
Radishes are an easy crop and can grow in almost any soil. Try to give them shade and moisture in summer but full sun in early spring and autumn.
You can scatter the seed straight into rows in the ground in early spring. The rows can be 15 cm apart. Thin the rows as they grow. Harvest the radishes regularly to avoid the roots becoming hot and woody.
Carrots are also easy to grow and you should be able to get a crop year round as the roots keep well in the ground till you want them. Carrots are an excellent source of vitamins and dietary fibre.
Make sure that the soil you put them in has no un-rotten compost or manure in it as this will cause your carrots to fork. Sow your seeds into shallow rows 23cm apart in early spring. Thin the rows when they are just big enough to eat to 8cm apart.
Pull the carrots out the ground while they are still young and have their best taste – before they get bitter. Do not leave them in the ground for too long as they may split and attract pests.
Celery is a swollen stem that grows just above the ground so is not technically a root vegetable, but I put it in this section anyway as it grows in a similar way. Celery needs plenty of sun and water-retentive soil rich in organic matter.
Sow the seeds in a protected place in seed trays in mid spring. Plant it outside in late spring 30cm apart with 35cm between rows. Harvest the crop regularly once it is mature.
Many of the root vegetables such as turnips are ideal winter veggies as they are protected by being underground and not as affected by frost and cold. So although they grow well all summer long, I prefer to plant them in late summer and early autumn and enjoy them all winter long in soups and stews.
Sew your seeds in shallow rows any time from early spring to early autumn. Leave 30 cm between rows. Thin these rows to give each plant enough space to mature, but the roots will also push each other away as they grow making sure they get the space they need.
Pull your turnips when they are between golf-ball and tennis ball size.
Beetroot is another very nutritious vegetable that can be enjoyed hot or cold or even pickled. Sew your seeds into the ground in early spring. The seeds come in clusters so place a lustre every 8cm in 2,5cm deep rows 30 cm apart. Thin the rows by pulling the young fruits when they are golf-ball size. Harvest your beetroots at tennis ball size.
Potatoes are a staple part of our diet here in South Africa and is therefore definitely worth growing yourself – especially since potato prices have risen astronomically lately. However, what makes them difficult to grow at home is that they need so much space. A good crop of potatoes needs lots of room to grow, but they can be stored for a long time once harvested.
You can buy special seed potatoes that are sold for planting, or you can use your old potatoes from home that have been left in a cool dark place to sprout eyes. I even cut my old potatoes in half and used one potato in two different holes – as long as each half has sprouted at least one eye.
Potatoes need a water retentive soil with plenty of organic matter for best results. If you don’t have enough manure or compost for the whole potato patch, place it directly into the holes that the potato will be sown in.
Plant the tubers into holes in the ground 30cm apart in early spring. Keep them well watered and keep pushing sand up around the plants to ensure the roots are always covered. Dig up the potatoes when the plants have died about ¾ months later, or you can leave the potatoes in the ground until you want to eat them and harvest them a bit at a time.
Store them in a dry dark place.