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How to Grow Turnips

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. 

In warmer areas, plant turnips in the fall for a winter harvest. In the low desert of Arizona, plant turnips beginning September 15th through January

Perpetual Herb, Fruit & Vegetable Planting Calendar Zone 9b
  • 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.

If this post about how to grow turnips was helpful, please share it:

Gail Clark

Friday 11th of November 2022

can you still harvest turnips after the ground freezes

Angela Judd

Saturday 12th of November 2022

Turnips can withstand temps to 28°F (-2°C) If you're going to leave them in the ground past freezing - use a frost blanket. Storage life may be affected.