Carrots, beetroot, parsnips, celeriac, swede and turnips will all benefit from much the same growing conditions. We take a quick look and give some specific top tips for particular crops too.
Root crops will really benefit from good quality soil. If you have heavy clay soil, or if you have lots of stones in the soil, it is a good idea to EITHER dig it over really well, adding plenty of organic matter, OR opt for no-dig and simply cover the soil with a thick (e.g. 10cm) layer of compost before planting your roots. Alternatively, you can grow in pots/containers or grow bags if you turn them up on their side so that you get more depth.
The trick to good roots is consistent watering. If the soil fluctuates from very dry to very wet you will find that the roots split. Aim for consistently moist soil, and your roots will do much better and will grow well. The only exception to this is parsnip, which is more drought tolerant.
Parsnip Top Tips
Parsnips in particular will need well draining soil. If you don’t have this, then a good tip is to build a ridge of soil before planting, and then plant the parsnips into the top of the ridge. Watch out for canker which can be a problem particularly in wetter conditions – if the shoulder of the parsnip is exposed you may see it turning a yellow/brown and starting to rot. To avoid this, pull the soil up around the root to prevent it from being exposed in the first place.
Carrot Top Tips
Carrots should be protected from carrot root fly. There are all sorts of theories about this, but we find the simplest thing to do is simply cover the row of carrots with a sheet of horticultural fleece. Easy.
Turnip & Swede Tips
These plants are from the brassica family, and should be protected from all the classic brassica pests – the easiest thing to do is cover them with a mesh netting. This should help minimise damage from pigeons, butterflies/caterpillars and flea beetle.
Celeriac Top Tips
The main thing to remember is that celeriac needs a lot of water and that lack of moisture will prevent the roots from swelling properly. Celeriac will really benefit from a mulch to keep moisture in the soil, and of course, during dry spells be sure to water thoroughly and regularly.