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Gardeners Monthly-Growing root vegetables in containers
April 06, 2010

Do you lack the room to grow some nice root vegetables. Then you need this information. A small patio or a balcony will do and you can raise some great and tasty vegetables in containers.

A container garden maybe your answer

This newsletter was going to focus on growing root vegetables in your garden. Then I got to thinking about those of you that have little or no room to grow root vegetables in a garden situation. This led me to investigate growing root vegetables in containers and I found this can be done.I am so excited about this method that I will be reporting on this as I expand this in my own garden.

Now I know most of you know what a root vegetable is but there are those who may not so these are the root vegetables we will be covering in this newsletter. This includes the following but may not be limited to these but the list here seems to be the best choice for container gardening. The list includes: carrots,radishes,potatoes,turnips,beets,parsnips and sweet potatoes.


When planning to plant and grow root vegetables,a larger depth is required then for other container grown flowers and vegetables. You will need a depth of anywhere from ten to twelve inches deep. If it is your intention to grow potatoes or sweet potatoes, you will need a half-barrel or a garbage can. You heard me correctly a garbage can. We will cover that a little later in this newsletter.

The question of drainage is an important factor in raising root vegetables in this fashion since your dealing with a vegetable that is growing underground and can end up in with excess water in the root area. This may require you to add more holes to whatever type of container being used such as plastic,wood,paper,or ceramic. Ceramic may require you to add rocks or pot shards to the bottom of the container.


Plastic pots are inexpensive but they may absorb excess heat or keep the soil way too wet. Red clay pots are good because they are definitely easy to acquire in many sizes and shapes but you must take care of breakage. Tubs and half barrels are nice and solid and much less susceptible to wind blowing them over and making a mess of your root vegetables. Just make sure that your placement allows for at least six hours of sun per day because these will indeed be hard to move.

Color of a container should also be a consideration when planning to grow root vegetables in containers. Dark colors absorb heat which is good for the growth of the root vegetables but may be way overkill in the heat of the summer.White is good for reflection of deep summer heat and you may want to consider repainting some containers if you feel it is too heat absorbing. I don't feel this would be necessary with a natural wood finish such as cedar.


A great deal of attention needs to enter the formula when considering the proper soil mix. The potting mixes used should have good drainage be lightweight and the ability to hold water without it running straight through your container. Whatever don't use garden soil as you will be asking for trouble with pests and diseases lying dormant in the soil. The only way it would be acceptable is if you have a method to sterilize it which is not all that easy to accomplish.

It would be best to purchase a soiless median that has fertilizer already a part of the mix. Also don't buy soil mixes with lots of bark or other coarse materials in them. You have no idea what is in this type of mix as far as dormant diseases or insects. You can actually start your root vegetables from seeds,plants, roots or in the case of potatoes eyes. Carrots and beets are best grown from seeds. When using seed,it is common to over-seed and then thin back to the proper amount of plants suitable for the container.

The best container for potatoes is a garbage can throughly washed even if it is new. You will need to drill holes in both the base and sides for good drainage. Fill your garbage can within five inches of the top with a good potting soil and fertilizer should be included.

Plant the potatoes sixteen to eighteen inches in depth with the eyes facing upwards. Some potatoe starts have eyes on both ends and these need to be cut in half. As the potatoes begin to grow beneath the surface,you may notice tubers peaking out of the soil. Apply more soil to the can to cover the tubers because your potatoes could end up with some green color on the tops.

Root Vegetables Such As Beets In Container

The first requirement for beets is to make sure your container is at least 9 inches to 12 inches deep. You should soak your beet seeds in water for twenty-four hours which assists in germination. This particular root vegetable should not be overcrowded as it will impact the root development. Sow the seed about one-half inch below the surface and make certain you water the soil completely but in no casedo you want to soak the soil.

Turnips,a root vegetable,planted in container

The right container is one in which your turnip plant or seeds have enough room to grow. The depth of the container should be twice the depth of your plant so a container which is approximately twelve inches deep should be sufficient.

Make sure the container has enough holes on the bottom to assist in the draining of your container. The bottom of your container should be lined with several layers of newspapers to prevent the soil from leaking out of the base of your container. It would be best if you place some fine stones on the bottom of your container to assist the soil in soaking up water to prevent a soggy soil.

In planting turnip seeds,sow the seeds one-half inch from the top and plant two to three seeds in the middle of the container. I would plant them one inch apart. After a couple of weeks pull out the middle one leaving the other two to grow.

It is extremely important to fertilize your turnips lightly every couple of weeks because of the inability of your root vegetable turnips to reach out for more nutrients in soil.

Your root vegetable chart

The depth of the container should be as follows:

Vegetable Type Plant Spacing Soil Depth
Beets 3"apart 9"to 12"
Radishes 1"to 2"apart 9"to 12"
Carrots 2"apart 9"to 18"
Potatoes 6"apart 16"to 18"
Turnips seeds at one-half inch from top 1"to 3"apart
Parsnips one-half to three quarter inch deep 1"to 2"Apart
Sweet Potatoes Tubers 6"deep 3 tubers to 18"pot

I covered here in detail those root vegetables that are most important or ones you may not be familiar with in detail I included parsnips in the chart because they can be grown in containers but are difficult because of the root system so you can only safely plant one in a container. However I am going to investigate planting them in a large container like garbage can. I hope this information is helpful.

Happy Gardening


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