Some home gardeners find it difficult to figure out when their root vegetables are ready to harvest. Home gardeners want to enjoy all the health benefits of gardening instead of just buying their vegetables at the market. Below are a few tips that will help you in picking some ripe root vegetables.
There are some new gardeners that do not think to hold on to those empty seed packets they just planted in their vegetable garden. It is a good idea to save those packets in a folder or a jar for easy reference. It is a better idea to have a notebook on the root vegetables you have planted in the garden. It is easier to thumb through a notebook than scrounging in a jar for that one particular vegetable. Most seed packets will let you know when the vegetable will be ready and you will begin to start checking for ripeness.
Sometimes the leaves will give you a clue as to when it is ready for harvesting. Onions, parsnips and shallots are usually ready to pick when the leaves die down. Shallots and onions need to be kept in the ground for about 2 weeks after the leaves fall over. After the two weeks you can harvest them and dry them for storage. Parsnips are ready for picking and eating after the leaves have died down. You can leave them in the ground longer as long as you cover the tops with a thick layer of straw or hay so they will not become damaged by any frost. The foliage of potatoes also gives you a clue to ripeness. On the early varieties of potato you should wait until the flowers or buds have wilted. You can dig away some of the soil to check the size of the tubers but do not do this before June. The best time to harvest will depend on the size of the potato variety you planted. Potatoes are usually harvested from September on when their foliage starts to turn yellow and die.
Some root vegetables are very good when they are still immature such as beetroot, carrots and turnips. If you 'thin' out a root vegetable garden by digging some of the small, young roots you can eat them as baby produce; the remainder can grow to maturity. It is a delicious way to enjoy sweet tidbits early in the season. Carrots can be picked any time the tops have sprouted and beetroot can be picked once a golf ball size is reached, but not bigger than nine inches, before mature harvesting. Baby turnips can be ready roughly six weeks after planting.
If you are not sure when to harvest those roots gently loosen the soil around a root with a garden fork and carefully work it free. Carrots are said to be mature when they reach about 1 inch in diameter or you can allow them get bigger if you wish. Carrots, just as the parsnips, need some protection from frost; a covering of straw will allow them to stay in the ground over the winter. Rutabagas can be harvested when they are large enough to use or you can leave them in the ground and harvested when you need them all the way to spring.
Many gardeners will leave the harvesting of rutabagas and parsnips until late fall. These vegetable roots can be ten to twelve inches long, so be careful not to break the root while harvesting; the easiest way is to dig them up using a spading fork. Radishes are ready for harvest just three to 5 weeks after planting. They can be pulled at any time once they reach a usable size. If you leave them in the ground too long they become strong tasting and are very pithy.
Home gardeners will have some good produce if they decide to harvest on a dry day if possible. In order to store these roots in a dark place they will need to dry out first. Some home gardeners have discovered if the roots are properly stored they will last for a longer period of time and they still have root vegetables to enjoy after the winter holidays.