How to Grow Turnips

Turnips harvestedTurnips are a cool-weather vegetable best harvested before temperatures exceed 75°F. For a late spring harvest, sow turnip seeds directly in the garden 2 to 3 weeks before the average last frost date in spring. Sow turnips in late summer for autumn harvest; in early autumn for late autumn harvest; and in late autumn for winter harvest in reverse-season regions.

Description. The turnip is a hardy, cool-weather biennial grown as an annual. The turnip has a rosette of bright green leaves growing from a swollen, root-like base or tuber. Turnips are grown as a root vegetable or for their green leaves,

Yield. Plant 5 to 10 plants per household member.

Site. Grow turnips in full sun or partial shade. Plant turnips in well-drained soil rich in organic matter with a soil pH of 5.5 to 6.8. Prepare planting beds in advance by applying garden compost and well-aged manure. Add sand or gypsum to heavy, clay soil or prepare beds by planting green manure and working it into the beds the season before seeding.

Planting time. Turnips are a cool-weather crop that require 30 to 60 days to come to harvest. Turnips grow best in temperatures from 40°F to 75°F. They are best harvested before temperatures exceed 75°F. Sow turnip seeds directly in the garden 2 to 3 weeks before the average last frost date in spring for a late spring or early summer harvest. Sow turnips in late summer for autumn harvest; in early autumn for late autumn harvest; and in late autumn for winter harvest in reverse-season regions.

Planting and spacing. Turnips do not transplant well. Sow seed directly in the garden ½ inch deep and 1 inch apart in wide rows, thin successful seedlings from 4 to 6 inches apart. Space wide rows 12 to 24 inches apart. Thin turnips grown for greens from 2 to 3 inches apart.

Water and feeding. Keep the soil moist to keep turnips growing as fast as possible. Do not let the soil dry out. When turnips grow slowly their roots become woody and strong flavored. Side dress turnips with aged compost at midseason.

Companion plants. Bush beans, peas, southern peas.

Care. Keep planting beds weed free. Overcrowding may cause small roots. Mulch turnips with straw to protect the tuber tops from sunburn.

Container growing. Turnips greens are easily grown in containers. Small turnip roots can be grown in wide containers at least 8 inches deep.

Pests. Turnips can be attacked by aphids and flea beetles. Control aphids by pinching out infested foliage and hosing large population off the plants. Keep weeds in the garden down to control flea beetles.

Diseases. Turnips can be affected by white rust fungus which will cause small white cottony blisters on the upper surface of leaves and a yellow discoloration on the undersides. Control is not necessary.

Harvest. Turnips come to harvest 30 to 60 days after sowing. Lift roots when they are 2 to 3 inches in diameter; lift them carefully with a garden fork. Leaves can be cut when they are 12 inches long; cut outside leaves first. Thinned seedlings can be harvested for greens.

Varieties. All Top (50 days, greens); Amber (75 days); De Milan (35 days); Gilfeather (82 days); Just Right (40-60 days); Market Express (38 days); Purple Top White Globe (57 days); Red Milan (35 days); Royal Crown (52 days); Seven Top (45 days, greens); Shogoin (30-70 days, greens); Tokyo Cross (35 days); Tokyo Market (35 days); Vertus (50-60 days); White Egg (50-55 days); White Lady (34-45 days); Yorii Spring (38 days).

Storing and preserving. Turnip greens will keep in the refrigerator for up to 7 days. Roots will keep for 2 months in the refrigerator or store roots in a cold, moist place for 4 to 5 months, do not refrigerate. Cooked turnips can be frozen for up to 6 months.

Common name. Turnip

Botanical name. Brassica rapa

Origin. Northeastern Europe, Siberia

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