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Growing Root Vegetables with Products from Your Pantry

Welcome back, Garden Masters! As winter settles in, we bid many of our favourite garden staples like tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, basil, and lettuce farewell for now. But this is no reason to suffer from the winter blues! In fact, it’s even more reason to put on your gardening gloves and get outside and focus on a gardening project that thrives in the colder months.

Winter in South Africa means plants go into dormancy, redirecting their energy to their roots. This makes it an ideal period for focusing on root vegetables and starting a new garden project using ingredients you typically buy from the supermarket. Not only does this practice save you money, but it also provides a sustainable way to enjoy fresh produce year-round. Let’s dive into how you can transform your kitchen staples into a thriving winter garden.

Why Grow Your Own Root Vegetables?

Growing your own root vegetables offers multiple benefits. Sustainability is one of them, as homegrown produce cuts down on packaging waste and carbon footprint. Freshness is another, allowing you to enjoy the unbeatable taste of freshly harvested vegetables. Additionally, it provides an educational opportunity, teaching more about gardening and self-sustainability.

What Can You Grow?

Here are some common root vegetables you can start planting this winter:

Ginger

  • Planting Tips: Choose fresh, plump ginger roots with visible eyes (small, budding tips). Soak the ginger overnight in water before planting.
  • Instructions: Plant the ginger in a pot with rich, well-draining potting soil. Place it in a warm, sunny spot and water it sparingly to avoid rot.
  • Harvesting: Ginger can take several months to mature, but you can start harvesting small pieces once the plant is established.

Turmeric

  • Planting Tips: Select firm, healthy turmeric rhizomes. Soak them in water overnight and plant them just below the surface of well-draining soil
  • Care Instructions: Keep the soil consistently moist but not waterlogged. Turmeric prefers warm temperatures and indirect sunlight.
  • Harvesting: Turmeric takes eight to 10 months to mature. Once the leaves and stems start to dry and turn brown, the rhizomes are ready to be harvested.

 Garlic

  • Planting Tips: Use fresh garlic cloves. Plant each clove with the pointed end facing up, about four centimetres deep in the soil.
  • Care Instructions: Garlic needs well-draining soil and plenty of sunlight. Water regularly but avoid overwatering.
  • Harvesting: Garlic is ready to harvest when the tops begin to yellow and fall over. Gently dig up the bulbs and let them cure in a dry, ventilated area for a few weeks.

Carrots

  • Planting Tips: You can use the tops of store-bought carrots to grow new plants. Cut off the top two centimetres of the carrot and place it in water until the roots start to develop.
  • Care Instructions: Transplant the rooted tops into the soil and keep them in a sunny spot. Ensure the soil is loose and well-draining to allow the roots to grow freely.
  • Harvesting: Carrots take around two to three months to mature. Harvest them when they reach the desired size.

Potatoes

  • Planting Tips: Use sprouted potatoes from your pantry. Cut them into pieces with at least one eye each and let them dry for a couple of days.
  • Care Instructions: Plant the pieces in the soil with the eyes facing up. Cover them lightly with soil and keep them well-watered.
  • Harvesting: Potatoes are ready to harvest when the plant’s foliage starts to yellow and die back. Carefully dig up the tubers and let them cure before storing them.

Onions

  • Planting Tips: Use the bottom part of a store-bought onion. Cut off the bottom two centimetres and let it dry for a day.
  • Care Instructions: Plant the onion bottom in the soil and water it regularly. Onions prefer full sun and well-draining soil.
  • Harvesting: Onions can take several months to mature. Harvest them when the tops fall over and the bulbs are firm.

Essential Products for Your Winter Garden

To ensure your winter garden thrives, consider these essential products: 

  1. Compost and potting soil to enrich and provide a healthy growing medium.
  2. Fertilisers to promote robust growth and nutrient uptake for your plants.
  3. Hand tools such as loppers, spades and forks to work in the soi and for effective and precise gardening tasks.

Planting Tips and Care Instructions

Soil Preparation:
Use rich, well-draining soil. Adding compost or organic matter can improve soil health and provide essential nutrients.

Containers and Pots:
Ensure your pots have good drainage. For root vegetables, choose deeper containers to allow ample space for growth.

Watering:
Consistent moisture is key, but avoid waterlogging. Most root vegetables prefer slightly moist soil.

Light Requirements:
Place your pots in areas that receive plenty of indirect sunlight. Root vegetables need light to grow but can also tolerate partial shade.

Temperature:
During winter, consider using a greenhouse or grow house to maintain a stable, warm environment for your plants.

Benefits of Using Greenhouses and Grow Houses

  1. Temperature Control:
    Protects plants, especially root vegetables, from frost and extreme cold, providing a stable environment.
  2. Extended Growing Season:
    Greenhouses and grow houses allow you to grow vegetables even during the off-season.
  3. Pest and Disease Management:
    Reduces the risk of pests and diseases that are prevalent in open gardens.
  4. Optimal Conditions:
    You can control humidity, light, and ventilation to create the best conditions for growth.

Detailed Planting Instructions

  1. Choose the Right Containers:
    Ensure your containers are deep enough for root vegetables. Use pots with drainage holes to prevent waterlogging.
  2. Prepare the Soil:
    Mix potting soil with compost to enhance nutrient content. Ensure the soil is loose and well-draining.
  3. Planting Depth:
    Follow specific planting depths for each vegetable. For example, plant garlic cloves four centimetres deep and ginger rhizomes just below the surface.
  4. Watering Schedule:
    Water regularly but do not overwater. Root vegetables need consistent moisture but can rot if waterlogged.
  5. Temperature and Light:
    Place your pots in a sunny spot indoors or in a greenhouse. Maintain a warm environment to encourage growth.
  6. Mulching:
    Add a layer of mulch to retain moisture and regulate soil temperature.
  7. Fertilising:
    Use organic fertiliser to provide essential nutrients. Avoid over-fertilising as it can harm root development.

Harvesting Tips

  1. Timing:
    Be patient; root vegetables take time to mature. Monitor their growth and follow recommended harvesting times.
  2. Signs of Maturity:
    Look for signs such as yellowing foliage or the size of the vegetable.
  3. Harvesting Techniques:
    Gently dig up the vegetables without damaging the roots. Use a garden fork or spade for better control.
  4. Post-Harvest Care:
    Cure vegetables like garlic and potatoes in a dry, ventilated area before storing. This helps extend their shelf life.

Roots and Rewards

Winter is not just a time of dormancy for your garden; it’s an opportunity to start new projects and enjoy the process of growing your own food. By planting root vegetables from supermarket ingredients, you can save money, contribute to sustainability, and relish the taste of fresh, homegrown produce. So what are you waiting for? Embrace the winter season by turning your pantry into a source of gardening inspiration and watch your efforts flourish in the coming months.

Remember to visit your nearest MakroBuilder’s Warehouse or Game for all the tools you need to grow a healthy harvest of root vegetables. Follow us on FacebookInstagram and TikTok for more gardening trends and tips.