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BONNIE’S GARDEN – How to Plant Edibles From Roots or Sets

By Bonnie Pega
Bonnie's Garden

What is tastier than asparagus straight from the garden—or strawberries still warm from the sun; spring onions so fresh that soil is still clinging to them? There are a number of edibles that are grown from packaged roots. They are easy, inexpensive, and fun to grow. Some are even perennial and will provide delicious vegetables for many years.

ASPARAGUS

Perennial—Plant roots in full to part-sun in soil amended with compost or composted manures.  Asparagus prefers soil with a pH of 6.5 to 7.5 so have the soil tested and amend, if necessary (we can test your soil pH here).  Loosen the soil to a depth of 12 inches and plant crowns two inches below the soil surface, spaced two feet apart.

Asparagus hates competition so mulch well and keep weeded.  Do not harvest spears the first year.  Allow foliage to grow undisturbed.  The second year, harvest no more than two or three spears per plant.  Thereafter, you may harvest until new spears are no bigger around than a pencil—usually four to six weeks.

HORSERADISH

Perennial—Loosen the soil to a depth of 10 to 12 inches and set roots two inches deep and at least 18 inches apart.  Plant roots at an angle, thin end down.  Horseradish, once established, can be a rampant spreader to keep this in mind when choosing a location.  Horseradish prefers full to part-sun.

ONIONS, GARLIC, SHALLOTS

Plant sets four to six inches apart, one inch deep in full to part-sun.  For garlic, separate head into individual cloves before planting.  All prefer well- draining soil so add brown sand, if necessary.  Harvest when tops die back.  If planting onions for scallions harvest when the top is the desired size.  Onions prefer a pH of 5.5 to 6.5.

RHUBARB

Perennial—Loosen soil 1o to 12 inches deep and plant crown two inches below the soil surface, spacing two feet apart.  Slightly acidic soil close to a pH of 6.5 is best.  Like asparagus, rhubarb hates competition, so mulch well and keep weeded.  Do not harvest the first season—allow to grow undisturbed.  Only the stems are edible—do not eat the roots or leaves.

POTATOES

Plant seed potatoes in full sun in a six-inch deep trough, 12 inches apart, and cover with four inches of soil. When foliage is six inches tall, makes “hills” around the base of each plant to just beneath the bottom leaves.  Continue to “hill” as plants grow until they begin to bloom.  When plants begin to bloom, new potatoes can be harvested by gently feeling in the soil around the stems.

Mature potatoes can be harvested when the tops die back.  If the soil is not too damp, they can be left in the ground for an additional week or two for the skins to “set”.  Potatoes should be watered about one inch of water once a week.  Feed regularly until mid-summer, then stop feeding.  Feeding late in the season will induce top growth at the expense of the potatoes.  Discard any green potatoes as they are not edible.

Because potatoes are related to tomatoes and prone to the same diseases, do not plant potatoes where you’ve had a problem with a tomato disease.

STRAWBERRIES

Plant as soon as available in full sun, with the crown at the soil surface.  Strawberries prefer well-drained soil to which compost has been added.  A pH of 6 to 6.5 is best.  June-bearing plants will produce a larger crop over a shorter period of time so are best if you are making jams or jellies.  Everbearing plants produce over a long period of time so are better for fresh eating.

The first year pinch off flowers on everbearing strawberries until July.  Pinch off both flowers and runners on June-bearing the first year for a bigger crop the next.

Everything tastes better when it’s fresh.  What could be fresher than picking it from your own backyard?  All of these varieties just came in.  Come by now for the best selection!

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