A Guide to Growing Root Vegetables in Raised Beds

Have you joined the raised bed garden family and are ready to try something new? Join organic farmer Jenna Rich to hear about why you should and how to successfully grow root vegetables in raised beds.

A vegetable raised bed under bright sunlight; the lush green leaves soaking up golden rays.

Contents

One of my favorite things to harvest from the garden is root vegetables. They’re like little treasures magically growing beneath the soil surface, just waiting on you for the right time to appear. When our nephew was four years old, the look on his face when he harvested his first carrot from our fields was pure joy and disbelief. Oh, to be four years old again! 

You’ve likely heard about the benefits of gardening in raised beds, and there are even more benefits to growing root vegetables in this manner. Raised beds are beginner-friendly, add a lovely organized style to your garden, and are easy to maintain with practice. 

Let’s discuss why and how to grow root vegetables in raised beds and how to decide the best varieties of each crop. 

Why Grow Root Vegetables in Raised Beds? 

Healthy beets thriving in a wooden raised bed, their vibrant green leaves catching the sunlight.
Growing root vegetables in raised beds enhances their stability and growth.

Root vegetables grow best when the soil is loose and loamy, which is required for them to reach down in search of water and nutrients. Roots also keep all plants sturdy and stable, which is crucial since this is the bulk of root vegetables. In this article, I’ll discuss why growing root vegetables in raised beds is a great option.

Improved Drainage 

A wooden raised bed containing rich, dark soil, ready for planting vegetables in a garden setting.
Good drainage fosters strong, healthy root development and nutrient uptake.

The soil in raised beds is less compacted, negatively affecting the growth of healthy, robust root vegetables and proper drainage. Consistent, even, and deep root irrigation is required for adequate seed germination and healthy root systems, but the soil must adequately drain excess water for best results. Otherwise, you may notice poor germination rates, stunted growth, disease and pests, and plants performing poorly. 

Too much water in the soil can make the roots unable to breathe, essentially drowning the plants. Proper drainage allows plants to develop strong, healthy roots, breathe, and access nutrients from the soil. 

Get Planting Sooner

Neat rows of narrow greenhouse raised beds filled with vibrant green plants under soft, diffused sunlight.
Raised beds warm up faster than ground soil.

The soil in raised beds will warm up earlier than the ground soil. They are not surrounded by other cold soil but are hit directly by the spring sun. Install hoops and row cover when extra warmth is needed. This especially benefits northern growers, who can add their first succession of root vegetables in raised beds before they can access ground beds. 

Increased Soil Control 

A close-up of a trowel coated in moist compost soil, under sunlight, with a blurred raised bed in the background.
Gardening in elevated beds or containers avoids soil compaction from foot traffic.

Amend your soil according to your garden plans before sowing seeds. Need to lower the pH? No problem! Growing carrots? Add several inches of compost! Adjusting the soil is quicker, easier, and more economical than amending the soil in in-ground garden beds. 

Gardening in containers like raised beds also means you won’t ever need to step on the soil, which can’t be said about garden beds that are directly in the ground. As you shape beds, add hoops and cover, and harvest, you’re sure to step on the edge or get tripped up while stepping over a wide bed. Those who broad fork know it’s nearly impossible to perform this task without directly stepping on the soil, leading to some contact compaction. 

Increased Irrigation Control 

A raised garden bed filled with green plants, featuring a black drip irrigation system winding through the bed.
A variety of customizable watering kits ensure efficient watering.

Many gardening companies offer customizable watering kits. Cut the kit’s pieces to fit perfectly in your garden and easily connect it to a hose for easy watering. Automatic watering timers can also make life easier.

If this seems too advanced, grab an old-fashioned sprinkler from your local hardware store or try an olla watering jug that you fill with water and bury. The water stays in the raised bed and ensures your roots get the required water.

Garden Decor

A lush garden featuring verdant plants and vibrant purple flowers, centered around a raised wooden bed.
Enhance the area around beds with visually appealing elements.

Whether they’re made of wood or metal, garden beds can be considered ornamental pieces in the garden. Numerous variations in color, shape, size, and height can create an extension of your home by matching them to your house, perennial gardens, walkways, etc. 

Use the space around your beds to add more visually appealing elements like perennial flowers, edible flowers, hanging basket stands, pinwheels that double as bird and critter deterrents, rock gardens, or climbing plants

Easier to Thin and Manage

A hand gently places seeds into rich, brown soil, preparing for growth.
They alleviate strain by allowing gardening at a convenient height.

Many vegetables you direct sow will require thinning, or removing some of the seedlings by hand when they’re still small to ensure proper space. This gives plants room to grow, access to water and nutrients, and healthy airflow. Root vegetables like carrots, turnips, and beets are often direct-sown and benefit from thinning. Begin this process when seedlings are at least two inches tall to ensure all the viable seeds have germinated. Choose the thickest, healthiest seedlings to keep intact and remove others using small shears or pinch them with your fingernail. 

Elevated beds makes this task easier on your body and more enjoyable. No more extreme bending over or kneeling on rocky soil! If it’s more comfortable for you to sit, place a chair or stool next to your raised bed and sit as you work. 

A More Controlled Environment 

A man in dark long sleeves carefully fills a wooden raised bed with straw.
You control the content of your soil and nutrients.

Not only do you have soil nutrient control, but you also have more control over the type of soil you create in your raised beds. Root vegetables require loose, loamy, fertile soil to develop roots underground. Adding compost, organic matter like straw and leaf mulch, and earthworm castings will create the perfect environment for root vegetables. Mulch will keep weed pressure down and help maintain soil moisture. It will also add fertility as they break down. 

Use a harvest fork to gently coax root veggies from the soil without damaging them. Otherwise, jiggle the base of the plant and pull upwards. Shake off as much soil as you can before leaving the garden. 

More Accessibility 

A raised bed brimming with leafy vegetables, under a sunny sky, with a sturdy blue trellis for climbing plants.
Beds placed near your home increase visibility and accessibility.

What’s better than walking outside your patio door, accessing beds full of lush crops, and heading back indoors with an armload of summer bounty or drinking your morning coffee while watering your recently sown seeds?

While ground garden beds may be far from your home or patio, raised beds can be conveniently placed nearby for increased visibility and enjoyment. I’m certainly more likely to water, harvest, or weed my garden if I run right into it when I walk outside! 

Seeing your gardens when you look out the window and having easy access to them will result in better pest and weed management, regular watering, and overall maintenance. Better garden management will result in a more productive and healthy garden. 

5 Root Vegetables You Should Grow in Raised Beds 

The possibilities of raised bed garden designs are endless, but here are five root vegetables I love growing in raised beds to use as inspiration in your own. 

Radishes 

A radish root buried in dark soil inside a wooden raised bed, with vibrant green leaves catching sunlight.
Experiment with growing various radish varieties to discover favorites.

Radishes are the best because they grow well all season, are quick to mature, and are versatile in the kitchen. While their short stature doesn’t require a ton of depth, planting them in raised beds for fast and convenient successive planting

I suggest growing many varieties to find a few you love. Most take under 30 days from seed to harvest so that you can get lots of harvests throughout the season. Add them fresh to a summer salad, soaked in water for 20 minutes to remove the bite if you don’t love the spice, or roast them alongside carrots and onions for an exciting side dish. Our favorites to grow in include the reliable ‘Easter Egg Blend’ and classic ‘French Breakfast’.

I throw radish seeds down wherever I have extra garden bed space. They are polite companions, don’t take much from the soil, and will mature before their “bedmate” has sized up and begun shading them out. Plant them with cucumbers, peppers, and tomatoes for a quick, early crop while avoiding bare soil. 

Carrots

A spacious brown raised bed filled with carrot plants; their lush green leaves sprawling abundantly under the sun.
These grow best in loose, compost-rich soil for straighter varieties.

There are three distinct types of carrots on the market. Danvers is what you’ll likely see in the grocery store. They have a long, medium-sized body and a classic carrot color and flavor. They are about 7 inches long. ‘Danvers 126’ will tolerate heavier soils and has a low probability of cracking and splitting. 

Imperator carrots like ‘Atomic Red’ are slender, grow 8 to 10 inches, and are perfectly sweet. Nantes carrots like ‘Scarlet Nantes’ have a unique look with a shaft almost the same diameter from top to bottom and a blunt end. They’re some of the best for fresh eating and are very smooth. Last but not least, there are Chantenay carrots, with thick shoulders that taper down. These are best when picked young before they become too fibrous. 

Longer carrot varieties thrive in loose, loamy soil rich in compost. If your soil is compact or heavy, you might need help getting carrots to full size or keep their straight shapes. When carrots are grown in a raised bed, you can provide them with the exact type of soil and space they need to reach deep down and form a straight shaft. While I still enjoy our crooked carrots that bump into rocks in our granite-filled New Hampshire soil, I most certainly would prefer them straight! 

Follow the spacing on the packaging for the variety you have selected. Direct sow carrot seeds in a shallow trench, sprinkle seeds about an inch apart, and cover with soil. Gently tamp down. Cover the row with row cover if you have access to some, and water every day to keep the soil for two to three weeks. Consistent moisture will yield the best germination rates. When they’re about one inch tall, thin seedlings to two to three inches, use a fork for harvesting. 

Beets

Beets grow abundantly in a wooden raised bed; their lush green leaves soaking up the sunlight.
Thinning multigerm beet seeds is crucial to prevent overcrowding.

There are two types of gardeners: those who direct sow beets and those who transplant them. Each method has its benefits and drawbacks and is a matter of personal preference. I prefer to start them indoors in cell trays because it gives me more control over spacing, and I like to hill them up upon transplant to encourage more underground growth. 

Beets are multigerm seeds, which means when they germinate, more than one seedling will sprout from each seed. Thinning is crucial to avoid overcrowding. Thin to one seedling every three inches, or keep them in clusters every six inches. Experiment with multiple ways and decide what you like best. Beets make a great companion to lettuce, spinach, and kale. 

Potatoes 

 A wooden raised bed features a green trellis adorned with lush potato leaves, thriving under the sunlight.
Surrounding potatoes with marigolds or catnip helps deter pests.

I love growing potatoes in raised beds or fabric grow bags because I can easily protect them from pests and critters and hill them up without much bending over. Since the soil will warm up slightly earlier than the ground soil, you can plant your spuds earlier. Potatoes like their soil more acidic than other vegetables, which is easier to control in a container than in the ground. 

Pro tip: When preparing your beds for potatoes, avoid filling it to the brim so you can add more as you hill up the plants. If using grow bags, fold the sides down upon planting and fold them up as you hill. Hilling protects the tubers and encourages them to keep growing. It also keeps direct sunlight off them, which may cause them to turn green. 

Using the power of companion planting, surround your potatoes with strong-smelling marigolds, tansy, or catnip to deter pests. Once the foliage dries up, potatoes will be ready to harvest in about 90 days, depending on the variety. 

YouTube video

Hakurei Salad Turnips 

Yellow Hakurei salad turnips, their bulbs nestled in rich, dark soil with green leaves reaching skyward.
These vegetables thrive in USDA Zone 3 conditions.

These are not your grandma’s turnips but sweet, juicy, and fantastic spring root crops you should definitely be growing this season. I’m hooked on their versatility, high germination rates, and ability to stand in the fields before harvest. They’re high in water content, so ensure they receive ample and consistent water for the best flavor and growth. 

Harvest hakurei turnips small or allow them to grow to two to three inches in diameter, your preference. They’re hardy to USDA Zone 3, so you can sow them when temperatures don’t allow for much else in the garden. Sow them every few weeks for a continuous supply. They’ll mature in about 40 days. 

Like other brassicas, flea beetles love them, so use insect netting upon sowing to avoid damage. The greens are delicious in stir-fries alongside the turnips. 

Key Takeaways

  • Space properly, but don’t be afraid to “cram”! Mix root vegetables with shallow rooters like head lettuce, spinach, and mixed baby greens.
  • Have a watering plan.
  • Test your soil annually and amend it as needed
  • Prune, fertilize, and harvest regularly
  • Thin appropriately
  • Invest in a harvest fork to avoid damage during harvest
  • Keep nitrogen in check to prevent lush foliage but little underground growth.

Final Thoughts 

Root vegetables will perform well in raised beds because they’re more accessible to you, the gardener; they’re easier to control, thin, water, and maintain, and you can grow them among long-season and shallow rooters to take advantage of every square inch raised beds offer. 

Maintain good soil health and amend as needed. Need help designing your raised bed garden? We got you! You can grow root vegetables successfully, and we’re here to help.

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