Turnips are one of those vegetables I’d never tried until I started gardening. Freshly-harvested turnips and greens are sweet, tender, and delicious. Learn how to grow turnips, and add this cool-weather root vegetable (and its greens) to your table.
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5 Tips for How to Grow Turnips
Want to try turnips? Here are five tips for how to grow turnips.
1. Give turnips what they need to grow well
- Grow turnips in rich, well-drained soil high in organic matter.
- Keep soil evenly moist throughout the growing season to keep turnips from becoming woody.
- Mulch soil to preserve moisture and prevent weeds.
- Although turnips prefer cool weather, they do best with at least 6 hours of sun. Turnips will tolerate partial shade.
2. Plant turnips at the right time
For a continuous harvest, plant turnips every week or ten days throughout the growing season.
In cooler areas, begin planting turnips 2-3 weeks before your last frost date for a spring harvest. Plant again in late summer for a fall harvest.
- PLANTING GUIDE: Each month lists vegetables, fruit & herbs to plant outside & seeds to start indoors.
- HARVEST GUIDE: Photos show what may be ready to harvest that month.
- Planting dates are for the low desert of Arizona (zone 9b).
3. Plant turnips from seed
Turnips do not transplant well; start seeds directly in the garden. Plant seeds 1 inch apart and ¼ – ½ inch deep. Turnip seeds germinate quickly. Thin seedlings to 3-4 inches apart (depending on the variety) when they are 2-3 inches tall.
Use row covers to protect young plants from flea beetles and root maggots.
For square foot gardening, plant 9 turnips per square foot.
To grow turnips in containers, plant turnips in containers that are at least 8 inches deep.
Turnip varieties to try:
Golden Globe turnips – white-fleshed turnip best harvested when 2-3 inches wide.
Purple Top turnips – purple on top and white below. Best harvested when 4-6 inches wide.
4. Harvest turnips when young for the best flavor
Harvest bulbs 45-50 days after planting when small and flavorful and before the weather gets hot. Begin harvesting when bulbs are about 2 inches wide or about the size of a radish.
Harvest turnip greens anytime they’ve grown to 10-12 inches. Harvest outer leaves as needed until turnip roots are harvested.
5. Enjoy turnips in a variety of ways
The tender young leaves are delicious fresh, or cooked and are a good spinach substitute. Use the roots fresh, roasted, sautéed, or added to soup. Turnips can be substituted for potatoes with delicious results.