Root Crops in June

Early September photo of mulched June-planted potatoes.
Photo Kathryn Simmons

Root Crops to Plant in Central Virginia in June

Potatoes: Yes, it is OK to plant potatoes in June, up until late June. Count back from your first frost date the 80-100 days or whatever your chosen variety needs to mature. See my post on planting potatoes. We buy our seed potatoes for the June planting in April, before local suppliers sell out of spring stocks. We store them in our walk-in cooler until two weeks before the planting date. I recommend some special techniques for summer potato planting. See the Other Root Crops Tasks section below for more details. An advantage of summer planting is that the harvested crop need only be stored from October or November, not over the hotter months.

Sweet potatoes: It’s still OK to plant sweet potatoes in June in central Virginia, and if you live in a colder climate, you probably wouldn’t even try to plant in May. It is best if the soil temperature is 65°F (18°C) for four consecutive days before planting.  See my post on sweet potato planting

Carrots: We direct sow our seventh bed of carrots in mid-June. It can be hot and the challenge is to keep the soil damp. Unlike some other crops (lettuce and spinach come to mind), carrot seed will germinate just fine at high temperatures. Shadecloth can help keep the soil damp, or you can just water a lot. You won’t need to do daily watering for long: maybe only 4 days. See Root Crops in May.

We only sow in June and July if we really need carrots, as hot weather impairs the flavor. Our hope is always that we will have grown enough between February and May to last till late October, and have bags in storage in the walk-in cooler. Sow carrots whenever the soil is below 95°F (35°C), so long as you can keep the surface damp. In summer we flame carrots on day 4 after sowing, because we have found that carrots can emerge on day 5 in summer temperatures, despite longer times given in the charts. See Root Crops in May for more about sowing and growing carrots, including pre-emergence flame weeding.

See the Special Topic below for more on growing carrots.

Warmer climates with later frost dates than central Virginia: you may still be able to plant crops we gave up on in May.

Colder climates: you may need to sow rutabagas, which we don’t need to do till July.

Root Crops to Harvest in Central Virginia in June

Cylindra Beets.
Credit Southern Exposure Seed Exchange

Beets: We like Cylindra best (55 days to maturity, OP). Detroit Crimson Globe is said to maintain better flavor in hot weather than most others, which can develop off-flavors. Remember as you harvest beets to check the leaves, as possible cooking greens too.

Beet leaf with Cercospora leaf spot.
Photo Purdue vegcropshotline.org

Later in the summer ours develop spotty holes from Cercospora Leaf Spot, and become unappetizing, but in early June they are usually fine. We like to clear all our spring beets by the end of June.

Store beets at 32°F (0°C) and 95% humidity. Trimmed beets keep well in perforated plastic bags under refrigeration. We have “rediscovered” stored bagged beets at the back of the refrigerator 9 months or so later and they were in fine condition.

There are also non-electric storage methods for roots, but these mostly rely on cool soil and cool air, so I’ll write about those when we get to fall. If you have a root cellar with a good temperature, you can use that. I have a chapter on root cellars in Sustainable Market Farming.

Carrots: Our second carrots (sown in late February) and third (sown in mid-March) will be ready to harvest in June. Possibly also our fourth sowing (late March), by the end of June. Don’t leave them in the ground too long, or they will get fibrous and woody. No fun!

Fennel bulbs: if you planted those in spring, they will be ready in June in central Virginia. If you didn’t grow this, consider it for fall, when it is easier to grow it without danger of it bolting. I wrote about fennel as a hoophouse crop in The Year-Round Hoophouse.

Kohlrabi: In our zone 7 climate, kohlrabi, like other brassicas, can be grown in spring or fall. So you can buy seed now and plan for kohlrabi in October, November, or into the winter if you store it. In spring we harvest kohlrabi from May 10 to June 30, when they reach 2-3” (5-7.5 cm) in diameter (or even up to softball size). The base of the globe can be quite fibrous, so cut either the wiry root just below the soil surface, or cut higher, leaving a small disc of the globe behind, attached to the root. We definitely need to dig all our spring kohlrabi by the end of June at the latest, or they get too woody. Unlike carrots and turnips, fennel and kohlrabi can successfully be transplanted.

Potato harvest.
Photo by Nina Gentle

Potatoes: In mid-June we can start harvesting spring-planted potatoes as delicious “new” potatoes. Check under a plant to see how big the potatoes are. If they are big enough and you aren’t worried about reducing later final yields by starting early, go ahead and dig some. It doesn’t matter that the tops haven’t died. These new potatoes will have shreds of thin skin, not the firm skins needed for potatoes to be storable, so just dig them as you need them. If this is your first year growing potatoes, you will be amazed at how good they taste boiled with a sprig of mint. So much tastier than store-bought!

Turnips:  They are among the fastest growing crops other than leafy greens. We harvest our spring turnips gradually, pulling the biggest and letting the rest grow bigger. By the end of June, though, we need to have them all up and if we have plenty, we store some in perforated plastic bags in the walk-in cooler, until mid-July. Turnips will keep for about 4 months at temperatures close to freezing and humidity of 90-95%. Higher humidity will make them rot.

Early Purple Top Milan turnip in late May.
Photo Pam Dawling

Other Root Crops Tasks in Central Virginia in June: Summer Potatoes

In early June, in preparation for mid-June planting, we chit (pre-sprout) our seed potatoes for two weeks in trays in the light. Unlike chitting in February and march, the potatoes don’t need supplemental heat at this time of year. The method is the same as I described in my post Planting Potatoes. Let all the sprouts grow. For warm-weather planting, one sprout per seed piece is usually sufficient – the chance of frost is over, and “spare” shoots are not needed. Tubers with many sprouts can be cut into many seed pieces, which can save money. See the Planting Potatoes post for details on Cutting Potato Seed Pieces.

In warm conditions, deeper planting, hilling and thick organic mulches all help keep the plants cooler, as does irrigation. To help keep the soil cool while the potatoes are growing through the heat of July, August and September, we mulch with spoiled hay. (Straw would be nice, but this is not a grain-growing area). We bale our hay in the big round bales, and we have almost a quarter acre of summer potatoes to cover, so it is by far easier for us to unroll the bales before the potato shoots emerge from the soil. To lay the mulch by hand around the potato plants after they come up would take way too much work on our scale. Home gardeners may use loose mulch and tuck it in around the plants later.

So, in order to mulch the day after planting, we cover the seed pieces with soil, using the tractor and the hiller. (When we used our BCS tiller for this, we simply tilled between the rows, which leveled the field and covered the potatoes well enough). Then we hill, and unroll round bales of spoiled hay immediately, or the next day. Potatoes emerge quickly in warm weather! Hilling is tricky without any visible signs of where the potato pieces are. We have sometimes used stakes and ropes to mark the rows, or else flags at the ends of the rows, and crossed fingers as we drive the tractor and ridger down the field.

Unrolling hay bales is close to an Olympic team sport! We line up the bales (using a tractor and hay spike or forks) shoulder to shoulder at the uphill end of the patch. Our land is almost flat, but even a slight slope makes a noticeable difference when pushing a hay bale, so do start at the top end! Next we study the pattern of the grass stems in the ends of the bale, and if needed twizzle it round 180 degrees on the ground, so that it will unroll itself when pushed. We cut and remove the twine, then two or three people start it rolling. Once it’s going, each bale has two people unrolling it, and eventually it gets small enough for one person to handle and the other can go back to the top and help start another bale. We try not to walk on the hills and we try to lay out the hay like wall-to-wall carpeting, without gaps.

Newly mulched potato patch in June.
Photo Pam Dawling

About 16 days after planting, in late June, we do a walk-through, one person per row evening out the mulch, and freeing trapped potato shoots. Everywhere we expect to see a potato but don’t, we part the mulch carefully, seeking pale flattened shoot. If we find one, we rearrange the mulch a little, so that the shoot is exposed to the light, but the soil is not. It’s not necessary to expose the whole shoot – even a little bit of stem is enough for the plant to reorient itself and be fine.

Later in the season we’ll need to weed the potatoes. I haven’t been mentioning it, but weeding is important for all crops, especially direct-seeded crops.

Special Root Crop Topic for June in Central Virginia: Carrot Types

I wrote quite a bit about sowing carrots, in the Root Crops in May blog post

These days there are many fancy colored carrots, but my preferences all lie with bright orange carrots, rich in beta carotene. We have tried growing a few white, yellow and purple varieties, but frankly I found them all very disappointing, as far as flavor and succulence. They tended to be scrawny! All carrots sweeten up when days are warm and nights cool.

Carrots come in five different carrot types based on their shape and size. The factors influencing your choice will be soil type, climate, market, and harvest time and method.

  1. Danvers are a long, thick-rooted cylindrical shape tapering to a point. They often have a yellowish core. The leaves and taproot are both longer than Chantenay types. They are suited to high production of bulk carrots and widely used in processing. They store well. They are more tolerant to poor soil, but grow best in deep, sandy loam. Making raised beds helps.

Varieties: Danvers (OP), Healthmaster (F1), Danvers Half Long (OP), Danvers 126 (OP)
Season: spring to fall. Summer in cool climates
Days to Maturity: 70-80 in spring, 80-110 in the fall

In central Virginia, zone 7, on a sandy clay loam, we grow Danvers 126, a sturdy open pollinated variety.

Danvers Half Long carrot
Photo Southern Exposure Seed Exchange
  1. Nantes are medium-length, straight, cylindrical roots 5-7” (13-17 cm) long with blunt tips and sparse foliage. A very quick growing variety. Nantes types have sweet, juicy, tender, crisp, almost red flesh; but only limited storage potential, and they are somewhat brittle. They contain few terpenoids, the volatile flavor compounds we think of as “carroty”. When poorly grown, they can be watery and bland. Nantes do best inloose, sandy soil or raised beds enriched with organic matter

Varieties: Early Nantes (OP), Scarlet Nantes (F1), Bolero (F1), Mokum (F1), Napoli (F1)
Season: spring to fall; summer if not too hot
Days to Maturity: 55-70 in spring, 60-75 in fall

We have grown the 75-day Bolero, a high-yielding carrot that stays sweet even in storage. 6-7” (15-18cm) long, with a 1 ½” (4cm) crown. It looks a bit prettier, and has slightly better flavor than Danvers, but ultimately we decided the extra cost of the seed was not worth it to us. The resistance to Alternaria or Cercospora found in Bolero has been important for our fall crop.

Scarlet Nantes carrot.
Photo Southern Exposure Seed Exchange
  1. Imperator –Most commercial growers produce this type. They are similar looking to Danvers, but bigger: longer, thicker in width, with stocky shoulders and strong fast-growing tops. They store very well. They perform best in deeply worked sandy loam soil. In rougher soils, they develop a slightly fibrous texture. Imperator types contain more terpenoids, and can be prone to bitterness if something goes wrong. Many hybrid varieties are a cross between Nantes and Imperator types.

Varieties: Sugarsnax (F1), Autumn King (OP)
Season: spring to summer in cool climates, or summer to fall
Days to Maturity: 55-100 in spring, 80-110 in fall

I have grown Autumn king in England and it was a very reliable variety.

Imperator carrots.
Photo Southern Exposure Seed Exchange
  1. Chantenay:short and broad conical roots with rounded tips, 6-7” (15-17 cm) long. Very vigorous top growth. Rich, sweet flavor. Chantenay store extremely well. They are the best type to plant in shallow, rocky or heavy clay soil due to their shape. Of course they also do well in better soils! These are a great choice for those gardening in containers. It is important to harvest at the appropriate length because they become woody and poorly flavored if harvested too big.
Red-Core Chantenay carrot.
Photo Southern Exposure Seed Exchange

Varieties: Red Cored Chantenay (OP), Kuttiger (white, OP), Kuroda (OP) Hercules (F1), Carson (F1)
Season: spring to early summer, midsummer to late fall
Days to Maturity: 55-70 in spring; 70-110 in fall

I have grown Red Cored Chantenay (65 days), a blocky variety with a blunt tip, 5″ (13 cm) long and 2″ (5 cm) at the shoulder. It resists splitting. The flavor of Chantenay types has been described as “parsley-like”. Kuroda types have a drier, creamier flavor. They are tolerant to Alternaria.

Heavy yield of Oxheart carrots.
Photo Southern Exposure Seed Exchange

In the past, before the soil here had been improved, we had to grow shorter carrots, as the long ones would break in the tight soil. Most of the varieties recommended for clay soils are small, as well as short. Nearby at Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, they have had astounding success with Oxheart (90 days, OP) a large, squat, chubby Chantenay type, with shoulders reaching 5″ (13 cm) across and 3-4″ (7-10 cm) long with a full carrot flavor.

  1. Miniature: round, cylindrical or tapered roots less than 5” (13 cm) long; crisp texture and frequently quite sweet This grouping includes carrot varieties that are shaped like radishes and miniature regular-carrot shaped ones. They work extremely well in containers due to their short taproot; They will grow in any fertile soil that drains well They have only limited storage potential.

Varieties: Thumbelina (OP), Little Finger (OP), Parmex (OP), Atlas (OP), Babette (OP), Romeo (OP), Paris Market (OP).
Season: spring to early summer, late summer to fall
Days to Maturity: 50-60 in spring, 60-70 in fall

Atlas carrots.
Photo Johnny’s Selected Seeds

Johnny’s has a pictorial comparison of some varieties on their website, under Growers’ Library/Vegetables at for maincrop and storage carrot varieties, the tiny round Atlas, Romance, Hercules, Bolero, Nectar and the long slender Sugarsnax; and  for early varieties, small Adelaide, Yaya, Mokum and Napoli.

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