How to grow quick turnaround root crops and chit potatoes and kumara

Sowing and planting quick root crops
  • Full Moon is the best time to grow root crops because it’s the moon phase when the sap in plants flows downwards.
  • We’ve prepared our bed already. See here for how to prepare a garden bed. This week we’ve tilled it over to make it nice and friable for our root crops.
  • If you’ve struggled with root crops sizing up in the past, then it may be that you need to add extra phosphorus to your soil. If your soil is not too alkaline, wood ash will provide more phosphorus. Otherwise blood and bone is a good additive as it only has nitrogen and phosphorus in it.
  • We’re planting quick turnaround root crops which will be ready in 8-10 weeks, as we plan to use this bed for summer crops after that. That’s why we’re not planting carrots and parsnips now. They take at least 3-4 months to mature. And parsnips are best left over winter.
  • Firstly we put in Florence fennel. We plant it away from the other veges because fennel can inhibit the growth of other veges planted nearby. Also it has a long tap root of about 30-40 cms so it doesn’t grow well in a shallow garden or container. Plant seedlings about 15 cms apart.
  • To further reduce the possibility of the fennel impacting on the other veges, we plant a block of dianthus next. All vege beds need flowers in them to attract the beneficial insects and you can eat dianthus flowers too. Dianthus won’t grow very tall either so it’s not going to shade the fennel.
  • While fennel can be grown all year round, the variety Milano does better in the spring and summer and Romanesco does better in autumn and winter.
  • Next we plant some mini ‘Purplette’ onions because regular-sized onions will take a lot longer to mature. These minis will bulb up but we’ll be using a few at a time when we pick them (like you would with spring onions), so we plant them in groups of 3 or 4. Plant groups about 10 cms apart.
  • To sow the turnips and daikon, we make shallow furrows with our niwashi – you can use the handle of a tool or your hand just as easily. Use a small handful of seed and sprinkle evenly in the rows. Cover the furrows over by hand. Watering will compact them down.
  • And finally we plant some well-grown beetroot seedlings to get the beetroot crop underway quickly. These seedlings are Cylindra. Then we bareroot a punnet of smaller Detroit seedlings in a tub of water and, using a dibber, plant individual seedlings about 5 cms apart. We’ll harvest some of them as baby beets, when they’re about the size of a golf ball.
  • Give the whole bed a good watering.
Chitting potatoes and kumara
  • It’s time to chit potatoes ready for planting. If you live in a frost-free area and you’ve already chitted your potatoes, you could plant early season varieties now. We’re going to leave it for a month because of the possibility of heavy rain which could cause the seed potatoes to rot in the soil. In cooler climates you could still experience frost which will destroy the young growth, so it’s better for you to wait another few weeks too.
  • Chitting potatoes involves soaking them for up to 30 minutes in a bath of water to which we’ve added liquid seaweed at the ratio of 1 part to 100 parts of water. Then we set them out in egg cartons and leave them somewhere inside out of the sun and they’ll grow chits. For the next 3 weeks we’ll repeat the soaking in seaweed solution once a week. That strengthens the seed potatoes and makes for a healthy, productive crop. The seed potatoes will be ready to plant when there’s a good size shoot on them.
  • We prepare early variety Cliff’s Kidney – a waxy potato that’ll be ready for Christmas and the longer-lasting starchy Agria potatoes.


Camera: Davian Lorson
Editor: Thomas Asche