Soil and Fertility

Root vegetables tolerate a wide range of different soil types. Heavy soils (silt or clays) produce high yields while light sandy soils are more suitable for early spring, fall, or winter production. Root crops have high water demands, require deep, loose, friable soils, and soils with good moisture-holding capacity with excellent drainage. Soils prone to compaction, those with lots of stones, or those that lack good soil structure (crust easily) should be avoided, as these conditions affect seedling emergence, or root growth, or make harvest difficult.

For fertilizer needs, use a soil test to identify nutrient limitations. The following recommendations are general and applications should be adjusted based on soil test results.

  • Most root vegetables require 50-150 pounds of nitrogen per acre. Over-application of nitrogen results in excessive leaf growth at the expense of root sizing. Apply one-third to one-half this amount preplant, then sidedress with the remainder at 4 and 8 weeks after emergence. Use the lowest amount on radish.
  • Use less nitrogen if soils have had manure/compost additions or when grown after legume cover crops.
  • Soils should have adequate phosphorus (50-150 (P2 O5 ) lb./acre) and potassium (50-150 (K2 O) lbs/ acre). Adjust levels based on soil tests.
  • Apply higher amounts of phosphorus in cold soil conditions (early spring, late fall or winter plantings).
  • These crops grow best when soil pH is 6.5-7.5.
  • Root vegetables can be damaged by banded fertilizer. Place fertilizer to the side of the planting row.