Spring vegetable gardens are fun for families to plant, and it’s exciting to see vegetables begin to grow. But have you ever thought about growing a winter garden where vegetables are not seen growing until harvest in late fall or early winter? Root vegetable gardens have the edible part of the vegetable (the root) grown below the soil. Root vegetables do have greens that grow above the soil while the root stays buried until harvest.

Your children can visualize these gardens as buried treasure with a yummy surprise hidden below the ground! Some of the more familiar root vegetables include carrots, beets, parsnips, radishes, rutabagas, and turnips. Many seed companies have entertaining names for their root vegetables:

A MEDIEVAL ROOT GARDEN COULD CONTAIN:

Spanish Black radish, Ruby Queen beets, Romeo carrots, Scarlet Queen turnips, Gladiator parsnip, and Crimson crunch radishes. Imagine these varieties for a buried treasure garden.

You could make up names for your own root vegetables, like Cathy’s carrots, Bobby’s beets, Tom’s turnips, Pam’s parsnips, Rebecca’s radishes, or Randy’s rutabagas. Then have your children make garden signs with these names on them.

Most children love carrots, but how do you get your children to try other root vegetables? Beets are sweet after cooked, sliced, and served in salads. Turnips, parsnips, and rutabagas have a slightly sweet, sometimes nutty and buttery taste. They taste yummy when peeled, finely chopped, and added to soups. Try peeling, boiling, or roasting turnips, then mashing and adding butter for a similar texture and taste of mashed potatoes.

SEPTEMBER IS A GREAT TIME TO PLANT ROOT VEGETABLE SEEDS IN THE SOIL. LET’S GET STARTED!

  1. Choose a space in your garden. Containers can be used, but need to be 12 inches deep and the root vegetables spaced 2-8 inches apart depending on the root vegetable.
  2. Root vegetables like deep, loose soil. Amend your soil with purchased soil amendment or compost. You and your children need to dig deeply, making sure the soil is mixed in well with the amendment. Rake to smooth the planting surface.
  3. Planting the seeds: A good recommendation is to plant 2 or 3 seeds in each hole to ensure germination. Then take out the weakest seedlings after germination, leaving one strong seedling, which will be the greens on top of the soil.
  4. Root vegetables need about 1-inch of water weekly. Drip irrigation is ideal, but watering by hand also does the job. If watering by hand, make sure there is a “water bowl” around each plant to help the water slowly sink below the soil.
  5. Now comes patience. Some root veggies germinate faster than others, and some will be harvested before others. When harvesting time is close, your children will be able to observe the root pushing out of the soil.

Always check the seed package for planting information. I find that it is easier for children to plant several seeds spaced at the recommended vegetable spacing (at harvest) rather to thin and transplant delicate seedlings like most seed packages recommend. Have fun digging for buried treasure!

ROOT VEGETABLE PLANTING AND GROWING CHART

Seed Spacing

Vegetable Seed Depth For Harvest Days to Germination Days to Harvest
Beet 1/2″ 3-4″ 5-17 55
Carrot 1/2″ 1-3″ 6-21 70
Parsnip 1/2″ 3-4″ 14-21 105-115
Radish 1/2″ 1-2″ 3-7 28
Rutabaga 1/4″-1/2″ 3-6″ 5-17 90-110
Turnip 1/4″-1/2″ 3-6″ 5-17 30-75