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Root Crops Not Developing Well

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Root Crops Not Developing Well

Post  bullfrogbabe on 7/21/2010, 9:18 pm

My root crops are growing decent tops but the roots are staying skinny.

This seems to be happening with most of my radishes, beets, and white turnips.

I get the occassional radish or turnip but most of them have skinny roots and big tops. I keep leaving them in hoping to get some root development but they never produce a root and eventually just bolt / then flower.

I have tried adding bone meal and additional compost in case there is a phosphorus deficiency but it doesn't seem to be making any difference.

I did add 3 types of compost into the beds before seeding them this year. Is my compost lacking something??? I don't make my own compost and have to buy it in bags from the nursery, coulld this be the problem? I use mushroom compost, cow manure compost, and sheep manure compost all mixed together.

My tomotoes, cucumbers, various squashes, peas, lettuce, onions, and carrots are all doing fine. My broccoli had great leaves/stems but only produced main heads that were the size of $2 coin. It has been hot the last couple weeks but I have been watering anywhere from 1-3 times a day as needed.

This also happened last year....so is this a nutrient problem? What should I be adding to my Mels mix to make it better? I didn't think adding fertilizer was going to be necessary.

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Re: Root Crops Not Developing Well

Post  Patty from Yorktown on 7/22/2010, 7:21 am

Hi,
I am not the best to diagnose plant problems on the computer but I will try. Some crops just do not like the heat. I tried to get carrots to grow for a summer, before I learned that in the south they are a winter crop. Now they work just fine. They had a lot of tops and no roots. Sometimes your soil can be too rich. Check out other local gardens are folks growing what you are trying. If they answer is no, then your timing might be off. I hope this helps some.

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Re: Root Crops Not Developing Well

Post  LaFee on 7/22/2010, 8:29 am

Me, too on the weather -- my first crop of radishes were plump and looked gorgeous -- the second crop (from the same envelope) were small, twisted, and went to seed before they were big enough to eat, so the whole two squares' worth went straight to compost.

If it's too warm, root veggies just can't cut it.

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Re: Root Crops Not Developing Well

Post  Weedless_ on 7/22/2010, 9:59 am

My radishes are same way. Leafy, and not rooty. My guess is HEAT.

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Root crops

Post  junequilt on 7/22/2010, 5:28 pm

Root crops need a different balance of NPK than most above-ground crops. Gardens Alive sells a balanced organic fertilizer called Root Crops Alive. I bought some this spring but never got a chance to use it because by the time I was ready to plant, the season was way too advanced. I'm going to use it this fall on carrots. Potatoes too, if I can find any seed potatoes at this time of year!

Our ground (sand) is so lacking in nutrients, I've never gotten a single root crop to produce, so this will be a grand experiment!

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Re: Root Crops Not Developing Well

Post  bullfrogbabe on 7/27/2010, 10:43 pm

Thanks for the advice everyone!

I am not certain that heat is the culprit, as I am in Canada and it's not very hot here. Plus last year it was the exact opposite with a very cool, dark, rainy growing season but the same thing happened. The root crops took a very long time before they went to seed, well over the 3 weeks it should have taken to produce a root. Even my earlier crops didn't produce.

Junequilt you mentioned that root crops need a different NPK balance, do you happen to know what the magic ratio is? That might help me find the right supplement to add. I don't think I have ever seen any fertilizers just for root crops here.

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Re: Root Crops Not Developing Well

Post  Chopper on 7/28/2010, 1:25 am

If you have root crops that develop a root in three weeks, I want some of those seeds. I usually expect 2-3 months. My root crops are the slowest growers of everything I have.

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Root crops NPK ratio

Post  junequilt on 7/28/2010, 1:06 pm

Root Crops Alive's NPK ratio is 3-4-3. Phosphorus (think: bone meal) is the element that is essential to good root development. Be aware, however, that phosphorus doesn't move down through the soil as other elements do. It has to be in the root zone to be useable. So you have to get it there before you plant.

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Re: Root Crops Not Developing Well

Post  bullfrogbabe on 7/28/2010, 7:11 pm

Yes you are right about the 3 weeks thing...I was generalizing based on radishes that can produce roots within 3 weeks....beets definately take longer. The radishes are the only ones that bolted....but it didn't happen until long past when they should have had roots -- over 3 months since planted from seed, they had lots of time to grow.

I have added some bone meal but I'll need to mix it in better or add it when the next batch of seed goes in. We'll see what happens.

Thanks for the advice!

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Same MM

Post  altagarden on 7/28/2010, 11:23 pm

You and I have the exact same ingredients of Mel's Mix and I am also in cool Canada. I have the same problem with carrots & radishes! My carrots did eventually grow about 4 inches but it took all summer (I added bone meal as a side dressing in July). This year seems to be the same thing. I am losing faith in MM on it's own and will try organic fertilizers next year. I might do one box root crops and peas, and the other salad crops, tailor the fertilizers to each and see what happens.

With our short growing season it's frustrating to see things fail cause you don't get a do-over.

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Re: Root Crops Not Developing Well

Post  altagarden on 7/28/2010, 11:38 pm

I forgot to mention that my onions have been a flop two years in a row. Did you have any success with those? I was also overwatering them I just realized.

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Re: Root Crops Not Developing Well

Post  bullfrogbabe on 3/20/2011, 8:55 pm

As a follow up to last years growing season issues.....and responses to a few of the additional questions.

Never got any beets and only a few radishes, despite numerous squares -- lots of leaves but no bottoms. This has happened both years of my SFG adventures 2009 and 2010; the timing spring, summer, late summer didn't make any difference with the radishes.

2009 was a cool/overcast, short growing season (snow-free mid-April, late spring frosts in early June, too much rain/no sun, and early fall frosts at end of September) and 2010 was a warm, longer than average growing season (snow-free mid-March, last spring frost mid-May, regular rainfall but lots of sun, no fall frost until early October).

Ditto for broccoli transplanted into garden in early June in 2009 and early May in 2010....lots of leaves but very small or no broccoli heads both years.

I have had no problems with white onions grown from sets but they didn't get very big (I used them as green onions). I also planted some from seed but they were still pretty skinny by fall but I have read that onion from seed takes 2 years to get white onions, so we'll have to see what 2011 brings on this front. I transplanted the onions grown from seed (started March inside) amongst my strawberries.

Carrots and parsnips grew fine too -- various types of nantes all produced carrots by fall (they are small carrots to begin with). Carrots and parsnips take the whole growing season here from May or June until August, Sept or Oct anyway (they take 16 weeks plus). All carrots planted in May and June produced nice carrots from August to October. I left one square in ground to overwinter for early spring harvest to see how they taste.

Search up my posts in the Canada forum to see the photos of my late summer and fall harvests. I did make some watering errors (watered with sprinkler on a timer late summer while away on vacation) that rotted flower buds and runners off my vine crops (squash), but I don't think this really changed my already poor success with radishes, beets, and broccoli.

After a bit of reading the following tid bits about nutrients caught my attention:

N=nitrogen, P=phosphorus, and K=potassium

  • Ideal nutrient balance for potting soil or to enrich raised beds (N:P:K) is 5:5:5 or 7:7:7
  • Bone Meal (N:P:K) is 0:10:0
  • Blood Meal (N:P:K) is 12:0:0
  • Potash (N:P:K) is 0:0:60
  • Many potting soils and seed starting mixes also have a bit of lime (calcium oxide or calcium hydroxide) -- it is alkaline so I assume it is to raise the pH / make it less acidic?
  • Leaving compost laying around in bags or in tarps can take away its nutrient value.
  • Nitrogen is what boosts the growth of leaves and stems
  • Phosphorus is what stimulates flower and root crop production
  • Legumes (peas and beans) can produce their own nitrogen and can add nitrogen to the soil they are grown in
  • Deficiencies in trace elements may also affect root or plant production -- sulfur (S), sodium (Na), boron (B), manganese (Mn), zinc (Zn), calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg), choride (Cl), copper (Cu), molybdenum (Mb), and iron (Fe)
  • Manure is a good source of Copper and Zinc (needs to be composted at high temperatures to get rid of weed seeds)
  • Micronutrients / trace elements are more readily available to plants when soil pH is neutral or slightly acidic (not available when pH is high or extremely alkaline)


Not sure how I'll use this information but I either need to locate a better mix of fresh compost(s) this year or consider experimenting with soil enhancements.

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Re: Root Crops Not Developing Well

Post  camprn on 3/20/2011, 10:06 pm

Bravo BFB!! I think your post above deserves a sticky somewhere. thank you, thank you, thank you!

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Root madness

Post  altagarden on 3/20/2011, 10:24 pm

Thanks for your post. It's nice to think about springtime! If you look up to an earlier post you will see that we have the same Mel's Mix.

My root crops were a disaster last summer (year two for me). Following Mel's advice I didn't fertilize, just mixed in more store bought compost, and so my plan this year is to fertilize and fertilize. My theory is year one exhausted the soil, which was only balanced enough in the first place for the salad greens since I had added blood meal. Peas seem to grow anywhere.

You can buy boxes of organic, natural fertilizer that you can mix in your squares before you plant, following the instructions of course. Then you can "side dress" your crops once they pop out with just what they need. (google that) Root crops and salad type crops need different things. I will also add my homemade compost, which should be ready this spring.

If you find the original square foot gardening book Mel spends a lot of time explaining how to naturally fertilize your veggie garden. I picked up a copy second hand. Wish he hadn't abandoned that chapter in his new book.

Here's wishing you a better second year than I had!

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Re: Root Crops Not Developing Well

Post  sceleste54 on 3/20/2011, 11:09 pm

My root crops also didn't turn out well this year.. I planted beets and carrots last October down here in Florida, and they did NOTHING all winter. Once the temps started rising in Feb everything took off and grew rapidly but I too got wonderfull tops and very little root crop. I will say, tonight I cooked Beet Greens for the first time and they were most tasty !! I will grow them again if only for the greens !

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Re: Root Crops Not Developing Well

Post  Old Hippie on 3/21/2011, 12:39 pm

My beets did really poorly last year too......nothing but tops, except for about a dozen or so that didn't quite make it to golf ball size. Just recently, I read in a gardening magazine that if the soil is too cold when you plant beets, they will not form a good root but will only produce leaves. Besides adding bone meal to the soil, which I will do for all my root crops this year, I intend to make sure that the soil is warm enough before I plant them. Hopefully, that will help. My DH wants beet pickles.

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Re: Root Crops Not Developing Well

Post  camprn on 3/21/2011, 4:31 pm

My beets did well, early and late. Shallots were on the small side. My carrots and parsnips took all summer. The potatoes? meh, I got out what I put in.

Old Hippie, I planted my beets the first of April last year, (5A) it was nippy then, so I don't know that the sowing whilst soil is cold yields mostly green is a valid statement. It could be, but last year I didn't have a problem.

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Re: Root Crops Not Developing Well

Post  staf74 on 3/21/2011, 4:50 pm

My radishes were awesome...both times....easy to grow. Two harvest in one season from the same square. No need to stagger really as they are so fast......you can almost see them growing daily !

but my beets.....another story....just like you old hippe......all tops and no root. 3 squares of nothing but leaves....nice but went straight back in the compost. I had loads of chard anyway so didn't needs those leaves.... oh well.

Carrots are good but took waayyyy longer to mature than I thought. Still picking them now actually from the fall. Down to about 25 left....must plant earlier this fall....learning curve

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Re: Root Crops Not Developing Well

Post  Old Hippie on 3/21/2011, 7:29 pm

@camprn wrote:My beets did well, early and late. Shallots were on the small side. My carrots and parsnips took all summer. The potatoes? meh, I got out what I put in.

Old Hippie, I planted my beets the first of April last year, (5A) it was nippy then, so I don't know that the sowing whilst soil is cold yields mostly green is a valid statement. It could be, but last year I didn't have a problem.

I know what you mean Camp....my mom and my grandmother both always planted beets early. Beets don't usually seem to be difficult to grow and in my mind, from past experience and what my mom always did, they seemed to be something you could plant early. I was surprised when I read that in this garden mag but since I could find no other explanation for why the beets did so poorly, I thought that could be it.

We'll see how they do this year.

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Re: Root Crops Not Developing Well

Post  boffer on 3/21/2011, 8:48 pm

Beets are one of those veggies that I stagger plant, not for the staggered harvest, but, because sometimes they sprout and develop harvest-able bulbs and sometimes they don't.

I have not figured out why. I can't isolate temperature conditions or soil quality. It just happens sometimes. I plant 3-4 squares at a time, 5-6 times between March and May. That gives the two of us enough beets to last through Feb-Mar of the following year. We like beets! Fresh, pickled, and frozen. And...they're good for you!

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Manure?

Post  ander217 on 3/22/2011, 8:50 am

Beets don't like manure. Too much can sometimes make black spots on them or keep them from bulbing, especially if the manure is not completely composted.

Overcrowding can cause that, too, in a row garden, but that shouldn't be a problem when planted by the square with proper spacing.

(From a woman who unthinkingly just planted three squares of beets in a bed of cow manure and rice hulls. I never said I was smart.)

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Re: Root Crops Not Developing Well

Post  camprn on 3/22/2011, 4:19 pm


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