Return to the Vegetable Gardening Forum | Post a Follow-Up

Giving up on root vegetables FOREVER! (Help?)

Posted by jdreinstein Green Country, OK (My Page) on
Sat, Aug 14, 10 at 11:22

I am so frustrated.

I have attempted to grow a variety of root vegetables in almost every imaginable soil-based method, and I have never had success.

Here's what happens:

Regardless of which type of root, turnips, radishes, whatever - they only grow a small tap root underground, and then seem to grow the rest of their root (the red portion that should bulb and become the edible portion) ABOVE ground, and then have a stem and leaves. This results in no edible root formation.

I have:

- Direct-sowed via broadcast, in various sized rows (which were thinned), in various sized holes, started indoors in cups, peat pots, and plugs. I have bad clay soil, so I grow in super-amended and well-fertilized beds of peat moss, well-rotted compost, straw, sawdust, and manure. The soil is exquisitely soft and nutrient-filled.

In each of these cases, the turnip (or whatever) would end up exposing the majority of its root with only a small portion underground.

I have actually transplanted several of these results, burying the entire root up to where the leaves start. The transplants grew great leaves, stems, and seemed to flourish. However, even months later (even with RADISHES!), no root forms - it remains small and un-swollen.

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Giving up on root vegetables FOREVER! (Help?)

What was the weather like? This has happened to me when I try to grow radishes or beets when it's too warm.

RE: Giving up on root vegetables FOREVER! (Help?)

  • Posted by twc015 7b/8a SE Arkansas (My Page) on
    Sat, Aug 14, 10 at 13:02

It would help if you tell us when you have tried to grow the root crops. Most of these grow best when high temperatures are 70F or cooler.

Also, many root crops grow the edible portion above the ground. I can always see the roots of radishes above the soil.

RE: Giving up on root vegetables FOREVER! (Help?)

"The soil is exquisitely soft and nutrient-filled."

You might have better luck growing radishes and turnips in the "bad clay soil" or, at least, in amended soil with a fairly high clay content. I never had trouble with root crops failing to "bulb up" until I moved from heavy clay to light sand.

You are not alone. A lot of people have posted about this problem over the years.


RE: Giving up on root vegetables FOREVER! (Help?)

Since your root crops never bulb up it's not possible to say how much of it would be above ground or below. It is in my experience very normal for a good portion of the "root" to be above ground early on. Then when bulbing happens I end up with beets 50% above ground and 50% below. Actually more above ground since the top half is wider. The problem you're really having is that your root crops just aren't bulbing up. You need to figure out why. Probably due to lack of general health and vigor. Do your other vegetables grow healthy and vigorous? In the same locations?
I had to plant beets 3 times this year because they lacked vigor due to something nibbling on their roots. Eventually they became vigorous enough to withstand whatever was eating their roots because the days became longer and I added chicken manure to the bed, or the predation stopped. I can't ever really know for sure but now I have baseball sized beets that stick quite a bit out of the ground.
Very often when plants fail to thrive it's because of something eating at their roots. Try digging out some of your plants being careful to get all the roots. See if they're long and healthy looking, or on the other hand if they're scarred and knarly. Another sign is roots that are stubbed off while other roots higher up grow to replace them. You may even find the culprit.
Where I live there are various root maggots that love to eat turnips and radishes. I can't grow a decent radish because of them. However, I can grown monster rutabagas simply because they are so vigorous that they laugh off any root maggot predation. And boy howdy do they grow above the ground. Like they're just sitting on top of the soil with a tap root at the bottom.

RE: Giving up on root vegetables FOREVER! (Help?)

Concur turnips, rutabagas, kohlrabi, radishes are cool waether crops.In Oklahoma you should be growing these in early spring and late fall. They are also designed to grow with the top portion out of ground. Bury them and they will not form. Good reference is the Purple Top/White Globe turnip. The white portion forms in the ground but the purple portion above ground.
Rutabaga Purle Top/White Globe Sparkler

Thanks for advice - is more specificity available?

I will try to answer questions posed and provide some additional info. At this point, it seems like they are intentionally throwing the dirt off of their own roots, so I'm happy with everybody's willingness to help so far. If you can SOLVE this puzzle, I have TONS of bed space waiting for fall plantings, and I will personally overnight you my first whole crop of gourmet radishes in 45 days!

More details about my soil:

I have tried growing in just clay amended to be light enough for carrots (which are actually doing OK...)

The "exquisite" bed soil is as follows:

Well-rotted straw-manure-sawdust with sphagnum and peat compost, some mushroom compost to even the pH from the peat,

All nutrients are regulated with drip fertigation and soil tests.

I do grow edibles bulb ABOVE ground - I have wonderful success! My Kohlrabi are great and healthy. I have loads of ripening melons of all varieties. Beans, peas, summer and winter squashes, tomatoes, herbs, lettuces, okra, peppers, eggplant, corn - ALL Of these things I am able to grow.

To answer regarding vigor and roots - all crops that i took to harvest time had very high vigor, plentiful green leaves without chlorosis or veining, and otherwise good color.

And yes - I have failed with both Detroit Dark Red beets and Purple Top White Globe. I just pulled up and threw out a mess of seedlings that had about a quarter millimeter of root in the ground.

From everybody's comments and the pictures above (THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR PICS!), it seems as if I should be growing most of the roots above ground. How, specifically, should they look? Should the "purple tops" remain straight above the ground? Mine lay down and become crooked as they grow. Some times the leaves wind up laying all over the ground and rotting. Turnips should be staked, or caged? :)

Ah - one more note - all vegetables were grown in ideal light conditions, so cross that one off also.

This year, I have been trying steadily since April. I have not actually heard much on actual heat INTOLERANCE by radishes - is this the case? It's pretty damn hot here - the melons love it.

RE: Giving up on root vegetables FOREVER! (Help?)

Radishes don't like heat. NT

RE: Giving up on root vegetables FOREVER! (Help?)

  • Posted by twc015 7b/8a SE Arkansas (My Page) on
    Sat, Aug 14, 10 at 22:55

I think the reasons why you are not having much success with root crops is your planting dates. April is too late to start many of them. I would try to plant the root crops in February and March for the spring crop. You could also try planting these crops soon for a fall crop. I would wait on radishes until at least mid-September and October is even better.

RE: Giving up on root vegetables FOREVER! (Help?)

Sounds like you may have made your ground excessively rich for root crops, also. They don't need or want much nitrogen.

RE: Giving up on root vegetables FOREVER! (Help?)

I had exact same problem. While planting dates/cool weather may be a contributing factor also, I was advised to have my soil tested as it may be lack of potassium, which I think is the root stimulant in all N-P-K ferts.

Also, my soil can be described much like yours and apparently a lot of these root veggies like lousy soil. Go figure.

RE: Giving up on root vegetables FOREVER! (Help?)

Everyone gets excited in the spring and plants everything. However, the proper time for half of the plants is fall planting. Late in the year is much better than in the early spring for many veggies.

They want to bulb up in cool temperatures. Keep working at it until you get to christmas. Eventually you will hit the right time to plant.

Also radish grow above ground and Daikon grow deep below ground. If you want deep radishes try Daikon. Some will grow 2 and 3 feet down below soil.

Here is a link that might be useful: Daikon Radish seeds

RE: Giving up on root vegetables FOREVER! (Help?)

I think that it's very important to note that there are different planting times all across the country. For example planting times for us here in the Southern Nevada desert are completely different than most of the rest of the country. While we can grow almost all year, fall - winter and spring are our best growing times, so planting seeds and transplants are at different times of the year. It's also not a good idea to go by what it says on the seed packet as it may not apply to where you live.

Southern Nevada

Thanks all!

Thank you all for your advice. With what you've told me about the heat/cold thing, I did more research, and now armed will order further turnip and radish seeds (including daikon) with my fall carrots and my lettuce, spinach, and cabbage. I plant those successively as soon as the weather drops down to about eighty degrees high, which gets us down to the fifties in the lows within a few weeks. Oklahoma has a really rapid drop into crip temps in the fall.


I SHOULD have a one-inch portion of red (or purple, whatever) "root" section above the ground - this is the part that should bulb up in correct temps to stimulate "dormancy" in the plant.

I SHOULD NOT re-bury this portion of the root far below ground, as this will prevent proper bulb formation (with the exception of Daikons, which would be replanted at a different proper growing depth like carrots...)

Final Questions:

HOW MUCH should the actual tap root delve into the ground?

WHEN should I expect the roots to start bulking? (Turnip, radish, beet, etc?)

WHAT TEMPS are IDEAL for bulking roots? (Daytime high? Nighttime low? Sustained low?)

Thanks again - I came for information and was not disappointed!

RE: Giving up on root vegetables FOREVER! (Help?)

"HOW MUCH should the actual tap root delve into the ground?"
Depends on the cultivar most will go 6-10 inches. Some the big winter radishes will go two feet.
"WHEN should I expect the roots to start bulking? (Turnip, radish, beet, etc?)"
European type radishes one month, turnips two months, beets 2-3 months, rutabagas three months, winter radishes two-three months.
"WHAT TEMPS are IDEAL for bulking roots? (Daytime high? Nighttime low? Sustained low?) "
day average 84, night average 50. All will stand temps into middle 20's

RE: Giving up on root vegetables FOREVER! (Help?)

I do believe that soil that is too loose isn't as good for some of the root onions. I have found that out again for the second time.

RE: Giving up on root vegetables FOREVER! (Help?)

Particularly when it comes to beets, the tap root can (and should) go quite deep down. Outside of the potential heat issues already mentioned (and that is a valid concern - hot weather and many roots don't mix), I'm curious as to how far down your soil is loosened up. Have you tilled it? Double dug it? Have all your amendments gone into only the top few inches?

i got bulbs! thanks to all!

Hello All,

I'm back, and munching on a well-bulbed turnip planted in November or so.

I actually planted three beds of cold-weathers; beets, chard, and turnips. I harvested all of the chard in baby form and it was great. I neglected to cover all of these in time to catch the first wet frost (worst than a hard freeze, covers everything in ice - what we get first in Oklahoma), and so lost all the beets - and I thought all the turnips as well.

So I left them uncovered, never watered, and leaves fell on them. Out of curiosity, I moved some leaves a few weeks ago and WHAM - mid-sized, baby turnip bulbs.

Note that these were never thinned heavily planted stands, so as soon as I thin these out, start watering (they've had none, believe it or not) weed them, and then cultivate between the stands, I'm sure they'll freak out and bulb up huge in this weather. We're averaging around 40-50 during the days and 30-40 at night, aside from random storms. I have hoops up - just need to put the plastic on after I work on them!

So, thanks to all for the weather advice! Based on this, I'm tilling out more soil once this current frost breaks and transplanting some (SERIOUSLY hardened) radishes out!

Best Regards All!

RE: Giving up on root vegetables FOREVER! (Help?)

  • Posted by glib 5.5 (My Page) on
    Fri, Jan 21, 11 at 21:28

Way to go JDR. I planted some turnips in 90% shade in August from seed, and they made perfect bulbs of excellent size which I stored under leaves around Thanksgiving. It was just a try, I had no idea. Sure they like more cool and shade than we give them credit for.

 o Post a Follow-Up

Please Note: Only registered members are able to post messages to this forum.

    If you are a member, please log in.

    If you aren't yet a member, join now!

Return to the Vegetable Gardening Forum

Information about Posting

  • You must be logged in to post a message. Once you are logged in, a posting window will appear at the bottom of the messages. If you are not a member, please register for an account.
  • Please review our Rules of Play before posting.
  • Posting is a two-step process. Once you have composed your message, you will be taken to the preview page. You will then have a chance to review your post, make changes and upload photos.
  • After posting your message, you may need to refresh the forum page in order to see it.
  • Before posting copyrighted material, please read about Copyright and Fair Use.
  • We have a strict no-advertising policy!
  • If you would like to practice posting or uploading photos, please visit our Test forum.
  • If you need assistance, please Contact Us and we will be happy to help.

Learn more about in-text links on this page here