Five Root Crops to Plant Now for a Fall Harvest - Modern Farmer

Five Root Crops to Plant Now for a Fall Harvest

Root vegetables are sweetest and juiciest when harvested in cool weather.

Photography ulrich22/Shutterstock

Many root vegetables are considered “cool weather” crops—they grow lush and juicy when daytime temperatures are in the seventies, but barely muddle through hot weather. Which is why we plant them as early in spring as possible. But fall is just as suitable a growing season; this is when, in times past, we would be filling our “root cellars,” after all. 

The trick is that you have to start the seeds while it’s still summer. Otherwise they might not mature before freezing weather ends the growing season. Exactly when to start them is a function of how long the crop in question takes to grow and where you live. Simply work backwards from the average date of first frost in your area (find it here), subtracting the “days to maturity” listed on the seed packet to arrive at the planting date. It’s wise to subtract an additional two to three weeks in case cold weather comes earlier than usual.

For a fall harvest, fast-maturing crops are best. Avoid varieties that require more than 75 days to maturity (potatoes, parsnips, celeriac and fennel bulb). And stay away from heat-lovers that hail from tropical locales (sweet potatoes, yams and jicama). Most root vegetables in the Brassica family (turnips, beets, radishes) are fair game, as are carrots. Below are a few unique varieties, both heirloom and modern, to consider.

If growth is slow or you get them in late, you may end up with “baby” roots, but these will be sweet and succulent. You can leave them in the garden and harvest as needed throughout fall (and into winter, until the ground freezes), so they’re always fresh. Cover with a layer of straw to prevent damage on frosty nights.

Photo by Kaiskynet Studio/Shutterstock

Purple Daikon

Shorter and plumper than the usual long white varieties, heirloom purple daikons are an excellent choice for adding to kimchi and pickled vegetables. 40 days to maturity.

Oasis Turnips

Similar to the famed Hakurei turnips, this is a small, sweet variety suitable for eating fresh in salads. 50 days to maturity. 

Chioggia Beets

Also known as candy cane or candy-striped beets, this heirloom may be cooked, but is often consumed raw or pickled. 60 days to maturity.

Watermelon Radish

The color alone makes this radish worth growing, but it is also known for being on the sweet side. 60 days to maturity.

Cosmic Purple Carrot 

There are many purple carrot varieties out there these days, but this newer one, which has yellow-orange flesh, matures faster than most, making it an ideal choice for fall gardening.

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Michelle Campbell
3 years ago

Until American farmers diversify to more crops, they will be slaves to trade policy.

Jim Costello
3 years ago

I planted 13 tomatoes and they all produced something, 11 produced a lot. I think I’ll try some of the cool weather crops. We’re in coastal California so few frosty here.

3 years ago

I live in the California Central Valley and plan on adding garlic to this list … although that is a bulb … lovin the garden life and modern farmer is always a treat to read

2 years ago

I thought it was interesting when you explained that the best plants to use for fall harvest are ones that will mature quickly. My brother owns a lot of property, and he is thinking that it would be a good idea to start growing some crops on it. If he does move forward with his idea, it would be a good idea for him to find an insurance company that can cover his farm should something go wrong.