How to grow turnips

When to Plant Turnips for Deer? The Facts You Need to Know

So if you plan on feeding turnip to deer, you can wait for the right time until they regularly visit your garden and begin to grow plump and healthy for even better quality deer meat.

Another advantage of turnips would be the fact that they are easy to grow and since some deer would only take the top leaves, you get to keep the turnip itself and use it for your meals!

When to Plant Turnips for Deer

The best time to grow turnips would be when deer become most attracted to it. Deer begin to eat turnips during the middle of spring and summer seasons. October to May are the months when turnips become more appealing to deer (as it becomes sweeter), so it’s best to plant your turnips a few months before that time as well.

Planting turnips would also depend on where you’re located. For Northern areas, begin planting your turnips during the late summer, from July to August. If you are in Southern America, then plant your turnips during the fall, usually August to September. By that time, it would be winter, when many deer would begin eating the turnips.

See also:

  • The Best Deer Attractant You Need To Lure and Hunt Deer Successfully
  • When To Plant Buck Forage Oats: What You Need To Know For Healthy Deer

How You Can Plant Turnips

Wondering how to plant turnips for deer to come over? Here are some tips:

It is always fun to experiment with new crops when it comes to building food plots and seeing which ones are most attractive to the resident deer population. One such crop I have enjoyed playing around with is turnips. While I have grown turnips many times in the home garden, it wasn’t until two years ago I began to plant them as a crop for deer in my food plots. The cool thing about planting turnips in your food plot is the deer love to eat both the leafy tops and the taproots (or the turnip). And if, for some reason, the deer don’t want the underground turnips, you can always harvest them and serve them for dinner yourself.

Turnips are in a group of plants called brassicas, which includes radishes, turnips, cauliflower, rape and kale. Turnips are a cool-season annual that are extremely high in protein and highly digestible to deer. Protein content can range from 15 to 20 percent in both the leaves and the roots. A well-managed food plot of turnips can yield more than 8 tons of forage per acre. This high production makes turnips excellent for planting in small food plots. Unlike cereal grains and other forage crops, the fiber content of brassica plants does not increase with age. This means that they stay extremely digestible to deer throughout the growing season. That being said, I have noticed that deer seldom eat the tops until they have become more mature or have experienced a good frost. This is primarily because younger leaves tend to be bitter while older leaves have converted more starch into sugars, which makes them sweeter and more attractive to deer. This often means that turnip leaves are still around in winter and fill a potential nutrition gap for whitetails in that season.

Turnips grow on a wide range of soils but do best on well-drained, fertile soils with a pH of 6.5 to 6.8. Turnips grow fairly quickly and reach maturity in 75 to 90 days. They grow well in both southern and northern climates. Turnips can be planted in late summer in northern climates or early fall in the southern states. Different turnip varieties produce different proportions of leaves and roots. Garden varieties tend to grow large roots and should be avoided. Lean toward varieties that produce more “greens” than roots as they will work best in food plot situations. Several seed companies market turnip and brassica mixes that are more suitable for deer and food plots.

Turnips can be planted as a stand-alone crop at a rate of 5 lbs./acre. They can also be planted in combination with other forages such as clovers, chicory or some type of cereal grain. Turnips and other brassicas tend to grow as large, wide, leafy plants that can crowd and shade out other plants, so if you plant them in a blend like this, cut your turnip seeding rate down to 2 lbs./acre. Seed can be broadcast and then lightly dragged in with a disk or chain harrow. Turnip seed is very small and should not be buried more than about 1/8 to 1/4 inch. I usually run my cultipacker over the food plot after dragging in the seed to ensure good seed-to-soil contact.

Fertilize at planting with about 300 pounds of 19-19-19 per acre to get the plants up and running. Soil testing will give you a more accurate recipe for fertilizer and lime needs.

Turnips are a unique plant to add to your food plots and interesting to watch as they develop both tops and taproots. They are fairly easy to establish and may make the perfect offering for small or remote food plots. I’ll discuss specific varieties, blends and other information on planting turnips in the complete profile in an upcoming issue of QDMA’s Quality Whitetails magazine. Join QDMA today to start getting more cutting-edge information about deer and habitat management.

June 22, 2012 | By Bob Westerfield

A Brassica Breakdown: Variety and Timing

The Incredible, Edible Brassica

A look at which brassicas are best at various times of the season and under different conditions.

Todd Amenrud

From the time Toxey Haas and BioLogic first guided “whitetail deer management” into the age of planting brassicas, we have been researching, learning more about them and understanding better how to utilize different brassicas to help us accomplish a wide variety of management goals. If you have enough ground to devote to your food plot program, most managers would agree that a well-diversified food program with an assortment of plants that will offer your herd what they need regardless of the time of the season or current conditions is the way to go. Some of the plants you choose would likely be perennials, but for the best in attraction during the hunting season it’s hard to beat a food plot full of luscious late summer to fall planted annuals.
When it comes to annuals, many readers know that brassicas are, in my opinion, the best deer food God ever created. They are my favorite plantings for numerous reasons; they are the most attractive, best producing (yield), most nutritious, easiest to plant and one of the hardiest growing food plot choices we have. Combine that with the fact that they’re also great for the soil. What’s not to like? Sure, I live in the North, but those in the South shouldn’t be so quick to snuff them. They work the same throughout the South, but closely examining the palatability timeframe and conditions under which each variety of brassica performs best is more important in the South than in northern climes.
At first (about 20 years ago) we at BioLogic ran into a couple instances of having to battle the “whitetails’ learning curve.” When you introduce a plant deer have never seen before, one that if they tried it before the sugars had developed may have been bitter, it could take them a season or two to become accustomed to it. However, that was rare and I haven’t heard of it happening in years.
Annuals, in general, are typically easy to plant and since these are late summer to fall plantings, (depending on your location north to south) the summer weed cycle should be over for the most part. While always called a fall planting, you’ll see that I call these late summer to fall plantings. Because if you wait to plant some of these until it’s literally fall (September 22 or 23, depending on the year and your location), in some areas you may end up with a failure, or at the very least you’re not getting the most out of the plants, especially brassicas.
Many still plant their brassicas when they have always traditionally planted their cereal grains. In the northern region and into Canada, brassicas should be planted during July through early August and cereals planted from late July (in the far north around the Canadian border) through August or even September further south (Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska, etc). Obviously that should be adjusted a bit later the further south you go, all the way into October for the Deep South.
Years ago, when Toxey Haas and Grant Woods first introduced brassicas to the food plot market, rape was the primary type of brassica used. As most of you probably know, brassicas require cold temperatures to convert the plants’ high levels of starch into sugar and transform it into its most attractive, palatable stage. Initially, for some in the South the brassicas weren’t reaching their most appealing state until after the hunting season was over. Since then, BioLogic has introduced other types of brassicas that develop their sugars much earlier, and even in the South are likely the best attraction and nutrition you can plant – bar none.
A common progression during the hunting season would see your herd switch from legumes (both perennials like clover or alfalfa, or annuals like soybeans or cowpeas) to cereal grains (like oats, wheat or triticale) to brassicas (like radishes, turnips, rape and kale). While there are many other things we can offer our herd, with these three types of plantings your herd should have a palatable food choice throughout most of the hunting season or until each type of food runs out.
Different crops will dramatically extend the palatability timeframe of your plot. To take that “variety approach” a step further, within every type of crop, by planting a different assortment of each it will also extend the amount of time your plot will remain attractive, especially when it comes to brassicas.
From my experience, they will attack radishes first. Whitetails will first lay siege to the green tops, then finish by devouring every bit of the long root tubers. These aren’t your “auntie’s dinner radishes,” these are large tubers that resemble a “huge, white carrot” rather than our more familiar small, round, red and white radishes. My favorite blend is BioLogic’s Deer Radish, it’s not just my preferred brassica planting, it’s my favorite planting, period. From my experience they will begin eating these radishes as early as late August in the north and around early October further south (northern Alabama) until they’re gone. So if you plant enough, they can last throughout the season.
Next, your whitetails will typically set their sights on various turnips and beets. While sugar beets are actually in a different plant family and are not a brassica, they are very similar. Just like turnips, they hold a high concentration of sucrose, however it is contained mostly in the root bulb (They still eat the tops.) as opposed to brassicas that have sugars contained throughout the plant, and the sugar presence is caused more by photosynthesis than cold temperatures. I usually see them hit these plants after the radishes, and I use them for attraction during the months of November and December and on until they’re gone. My favorite blend is Winter Bulbs & Sugar Beets, and just like the radishes, they will consume the entire plant. First they’ll eat the greens and then the root bulbs. The radishes are easier for them to pull out of the ground to consume, so with turnips and beets you’ll often see partially eaten bulbs or they’ll scoop out the top and inside of the turnip or beet so it looks like a “beet bowl” left in the soil.

Green Globe Turnip

Lastly, they tend to hit rape, canola and kale after the radishes, turnips and beets. These last three brassica types do not produce large root bulbs or tubers like radishes, beets or turnips, but they produce an amazing yield of sweet, green forage. I tend to use these last three brassica types more as winter nutrition than hunting time attraction, but especially when it comes to the blend Maximum, you may want to also plant some for hunting attraction. Maximum produces a yield of more succulent, nutritious forage than any other planting I’ve ever seen. While they certainly may hit these brassicas as soon as cold temperatures convert the plants’ huge green tops to become sweet, if you have radishes and turnips also planted, they’ll typically consume rape after the other two brassica types.
Kale is especially cold hardy. Kale’s large leaves will stay green and attractive long into the winter even if covered by several feet of snow. I tend to utilize kale only as winter nutrition.
Remember that the timeframe I’m suggesting for these to be their most attractive is just an estimate. It can vary from year to year and region to region. As an example, in the “big woods” where there isn’t a lot of agriculture or other crops to back up your food plots, they may eat any of these as fast as they come out of the ground. Or, if we have an unseasonably warm fall it may take the brassicas longer to develop their sugars, pushing back the entire attraction calendar.
I didn’t want to be too northern biased in this piece, so I asked the “frenetic food plot scientist of Alabama,” Austin Delano, who also heads-up BioLogic’s Research and Development, “How do you notice whitetails reacting to each of these plant varieties throughout the south?”

Austin said, “I definitely agree with the order. I think deer density, surrounding food sources (or lack of), a deer herd’s familiarity with the plot, and weather conditions during that year are all variables that can determine how fast and when a brassica plot is consumed.”

He also echoed how important it is to have a “blend” with varying maturity rates and palatability timeframes.

Delano continued, “As far as a north/south comparison, I do think deer consume brassicas earlier in the fall the further north you go. Not just because the onset of cold weather changes the plants, but it also changes a deer’s metabolism and increases their need for heavier carbohydrate foods like brassicas. I also believe that brassica consumption (regardless of type) increases over time and gets earlier in the year when they are planted in the same area every year. In other words, deer that have several generations of exposure to brassicas typically use them earlier and more often.”

Basically he’s also talking about a learning curve, but now it’s working in the opposite direction, in the deer’s favor. I guess it’s in our favor too.
The other great thing about brassicas is not only are they the best attraction I have ever seen, they are without a doubt the absolute best nutrition you can provide for your herd. With an average crude protein content of 32% to 38% (depending on the cultivar and stage of growth) and a TDN (Total Digestible Nutrients) of over 80%, that would suit me fine, but add to it they yield more than any other planting and they are great for the soil (radishes especially). Check mate! Brassicas win! As I said, best deer food God has ever created.

More often than not, I plant my cereals and brassicas separately, for several reasons. However, if a manager wants a fast, simple, “one and done” plot, a blend of cereals and brassicas (and sometimes other plants) together may be your ticket. Blends like Full Draw, Last Bite, Green Patch, or Winter Grass Plus provide brassicas mixed with cereal grains. An annual or bi-annual clover is sometimes added to provide extra nutrition or a flush of nutritious forage reemerging after dormancy the following spring.
Delano also told me, in his home state of Alabama, he likes to mix Trophy Oats with Deer Radish. He said it’s an easy to do, “one and then you’re done” hunting plot. Provided you plant enough, this can keep them coming back for more throughout the entire hunting season. I don’t know anyone who tests more food plot options than Austin, or many who know as much about deer management, so when he says so, I take it as fact. There are several reasons why a manager may choose to plant each (oats and radishes) separately, but as a simple plan for an uncomplicated, yet diverse hunting plot I would consider this.
Think about all the options we have to plant for whitetails, we’ve only partially covered brassicas (and one beet type). We didn’t even talk about spring planted crops that can also be very attractive to whitetails like corn, buckwheat or clover. Or other late summer/fall planted annuals like winter peas, which are amazingly appealing to whitetails.
One important thing to mention is that brassicas can also be planted with perennials. In the North they traditionally plant perennials during the spring, but in the South this can be a great way to kill two birds with one planting. If you’re in the transitional region or north and habitually have problems with weeds in your perennials, planting a brassica/perennial blend during the late summer can produce a great start to a perennial plot. Blends like Perfect Plot or Premium Perennial are my go-to products for this. You just need to make certain when planted you give the perennials 50 to 60 days of growth so they can establish their root systems, which will ensure their survival and reemergence after winter dormancy.
With the perennial/brassica option since obviously the brassicas are annuals and won’t come back, I would suggest that you over-seed with a pure perennial like Clover Plus or Non-Typical the following spring to fill in any spaces vacated by the annual brassicas growing there the previous year.
In a very roundabout way, I guess I’ve tried to convey that “variety in a food plot program is important” and “brassicas are my favorite food plot crop.” All of the plants mentioned are great choices for a food plot, but they’re eaten at different times or under different conditions, which is exactly why it is wise to plant a variety if you have enough acreage to devote.

Caring for Your Turnip Plants

Although turnip plants grow quickly, the care you give them during their short life will determine the quality and taste of the plant. It is important to provide your turnip plants with plenty of nutrients and water, for a quick growth will produce a tender turnip root, while a slower growth will produce a tough, woody root. To produce the best-tasting turnip roots and greens, follow these care instructions.

Soil Preparation and Planting Tips

Use a soil that is rich in sand and compost. Try to maintain a pH level between 6.0 and 6.8. Sow seeds in garden beds 1/2 inch under the surface. Space 1 inch apart and rows 12 inches apart.

Maintaining Temperature and Sunlight

Turnips are a cool-weather plant. They grow best in temperatures between 40 and 75 degrees F. You can regulate temperatures by either planting in containers and moving to cooler temperatures, or by planting early enough in the spring or late enough in the summer so they are never growing in hot temperatures. Most turnips will be ready to harvest between 35 and 60 days after planting

Seedling Care

Two weeks after planting, seedlings should be about 3 inches high. At this time, thin out seedlings so that they are about 4 to 6 inches apart, keeping only the strongest and healthiest seedlings. If you are only growing turnips for the greens, you can keep about 3 inches apart. Discard thinned seedlings, as they are unlikely to survive transplanting. Keep soil evenly moist by watering regularly.

Fertilizing and Weeding

Fertilizing will help your turnips grow quickly. Turnips respond well to organic fertilizers such as compost teas, blood and bone meal and fish emulsion. Side dress with rotted manure or another aged compost about half way through its growing season. If growing for the greens, a high-nitrogen fertilizer will help produce dark, healthy greens. A fertilizer that is high in potassium will be better for the turnip roots. Weed your bed regularly and mulch between rows to keep weeds from growing back.


Continue to water thoroughly until harvest, keeping soil moist at all times.

Protecting from Pests and Diseases

Because of the short growing season, pests and diseases don’t have as much time to wreak havoc on turnips as they do on other plants. One disease to guard against is clubroot, which develops in acidic soil. Keeping your pH level above 6.0 should protect your turnip from this disease. Keep an eye out for aphids, which you can remove by hand or spraying with a hose for large infestations. Flea beetles are another common pest; frequent weeding will help keep the flea beetle out of your garden.

Companion Planting

Bush beans, peas and onions are good companion plants for the turnip

Harvest turnip greens when they are 4 to 6 inches high. Turnip roots should be harvest when they are between 2 to 3 inches in diameter.

With some fastidious care, your turnip plants will produce delicious, tender greens and roots!

Food Plot Seed: How to Plant Turnips

As an avid food plotter, I’m a fan of many different plant species. I get all too excited about what I plan to plant each year. Might even be a little fruity about it. But hey, it’s muh passion, brah.

All jokes aside, turnips rank high on that list. As part of the brassicas family, a good turnip plot grows fast, feeds the herd, and looks pretty doing it. It’s easy to maintain as well. As a large broadleaf plant, if planted thick enough and given a good start, it quickly smothers out competing plants.

I really like turnips because they offer food sources in two stages: first the leafy plant and then the turnip (root) itself afterward. This plant ranges from 15 to 22 percent protein. It’s easily digestible (very palatable), too. The yields are generally very high.

The key factor to remember with turnips — while deer will begin eating them as early as germination, don’t expect peak consumption during the early season. In areas with quality food sources, deer typically don’t hit them very hard until mid-October to early November. Most brassicas are attractive because of one thing: sugar. The first hard frost causes a chemical reaction in the plant that encourages significant increases in glucose. This once slightly bitter plant suddenly becomes sweeter. Deer hit it hard once that happens.

How to Plant

Soil samples are key. Turnips do best with a soil pH over 6.0. Lime and fertilize as needed. Spray. Wait. Then, work the soil with a disk. No “throw and grow” here. If broadcasting, plant at a 10- to 12-pound-per-acre seeding rate. If drilling, plant approximately 7 to 9 pounds per acre instead.

Put seeds at a depth of about ¼-inch. Planting much deeper than that can limit germination under certain circumstances. After planting the seed, simply running a drag over the planted area, or driving over it with a vehicle or ATV, will provide good seed-to-soil contact.

Where to Plant

General location isn’t really an issue for this plant species. Turnips will grow throughout most of the country. The absolute location is key, though. Why? They don’t grow well in soil with a high volume of clay. It needs to be a well-drained area to reach maximum potential.

As mentioned, turnips grow much quicker than other plants. But it still takes 70 to 90 days to reach full maturity. Because of that, in the North, I prefer to plant as early as July. I know. I know. Never plant something unless the month has an R in it.

With all due respect, that’s a bunch of hogwash.

I’ve planted numerous fall and winter food source food plots in May, June, July and August that flourished and grew well. The key is moisture. If you’re getting plenty of rain during the summer, and temperatures aren’t consistent record highs, you can plant. As for southern reaches, planting later into September will still leave enough time for adequate growth before the first frost.

Don’t Miss: 5 Food Plots for Procrastinators

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Turnips grow and taste best when they come to harvest in cool weather.

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,

Turnip Yield. Plant 5 to 10 plants per household member.

Turnip seedlings

Planting Turnips

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.

Turnip Planting Time. Turnips are a cool-weather crop that requires 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. 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.

Companion plants. Bush beans, peas, southern peas.

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

Turnips are a cool-weather vegetable best harvested before temperatures exceed 75°F.

Caring for Turnips

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.

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

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

Turnip 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.

‘Purple Top White Globe’ turnip

Harvesting Turnips

Turnip 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.

Storing and Preserving Turnips. 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.

‘Gold Ball’ turnip

Turnip Varieties to Grow

Common name. Turnip

Botanical name. Brassica rapa

Origin. Northeastern Europe, Siberia

More tips: How to Harvest and Store Turnips.


Harvesting A Turnip Root: How And When To Harvest Turnips

Turnips are a root vegetable that grow quickly and are ready for harvest in as little as two months. There are many varieties to choose from and each has a slightly different mature date. When are turnips ready for picking? You can pull them at several stages of growth. When to harvest turnips depends upon whether you prefer the robust, large bulbs or the tender, sweet young roots.

When to Harvest Turnips

There are different methods for harvesting and storing turnips. Some are pulled and bunched together with the leaves and stems intact. These are best taken when they are 2 inches in diameter. Those that are topped, which means the greens are removed, are harvested when 3 inches in diameter.

The actual time for harvesting a turnip root is determined by the variety and your growing conditions. Plants that grow in less than ideal conditions will take longer to mature. If you are harvesting turnip greens, this will also slow the production of the root and they will take longer before harvest.

When are Turnips Ready for Picking?

Maturation from seed varies from 28 days to 75 days. The larger varieties take longer to reach full size. You can also take them when they are small for a sweeter, milder flavor. Turnips are seeded in spring or fall, but the fall crops need to be harvested before heavy freezes. However, they do seem to have a sweeter flavor when exposed to mild frost.

Your turnip harvest should all be pulled before heavy freezes or the root may crack and rot in the soil. Turnips keep very well in cold storage, so pull the entire crop by late fall. In temperate zones, the turnip harvest is kept in the ground longer by piling mulch around the plants to protect the roots from freezing.

Turnip Greens

Turnip greens are nutritious, versatile vegetables. You can harvest them from any variety of turnip but this will impede production of the root. There are varieties of turnip that produce large heads of greens and are sown just for harvesting turnip greens.

Only cut the greens once if you want a turnip harvest of roots. When you cut the leaves, you reduce the plant’s ability to harvest solar energy for food to fuel the growth of the root. Shogoin is an excellent cultivar that you can grow just for the greens and harvest numerous times by the “cut and come again” method.

Storage of Harvested Turnips

After harvesting a turnip root, cut the greens off and store in a cool spot. The ideal temperature is 32 to 35 degrees Fahrenheit (0-2 C.), which makes the refrigerator an excellent place to keep the roots.

If you have a large turnip harvest, put them in a box lined with straw in a cool cellar or garage. Make sure the location is dry or the roots will get moldy spots. They should keep for several months, just like onions and potatoes, if humidity levels are less than 90 percent.

If you were not sure when to harvest turnips and got a crop of woody roots, peel them and stew for more tender vegetables.


Turnips grow wild in Siberia and have been eaten since prehistoric times. Rutabagas are a cross between cabbage and turnip.

Turnips are easy to grow if sown in the proper season. They mature in two months and may be planted either in the spring, late summer or fall for roots or greens. The spring crop is planted for early summer use. The fall crop, which is usually larger and of higher quality, is often stored for winter use.

Because rutabagas require 4 weeks longer to mature than turnips, they are best grown as a fall crop. The leaves are smoother and the roots are rounder, larger and firmer than those of turnips. Rutabaga is most commonly grown in the northern tier of states and Canada but should perform fairly well anywhere there is a fairly long cool period in the autumn or early winter.

Recommended Varieties

Turnip (white-fleshed unless noted):

Just Right (hybrid – 28 days to harvest for greens and 60 days for roots; smooth, high quality, mild roots, pure white; for fall)

Gilfeather (75 days; Vermont heirloom; egg-shaped, uniform, large; creamy white, smooth texture, delicate flavor, smooth foliage, almost like a rutabaga)

Golden Ball (60 days, sweet, fine-grained yellow flesh)

Market Express (earliest, 38 days for baby turnips, pure white roots)

Purple Top White Globe (55 days, the standard purple and white; smooth, globe roots)

Royal Crown (hybrid – 52 days, purple top, fast growth, uniform roots, resistant to bolting)

Scarlet Queen (hybrid – 45 days, bright scarlet root, smooth white flesh, resistant to downy mildew, slow to get pithy)

Tokyo Cross (hybrid – 35 days; AAS winner; all-white, uniform, round roots; slow to get pithy)

White Knight (75 days, smooth, uniform, pure white, flattened globe roots)

White Lady (hybrid-pure white, sweet, tender, delicious roots, slow to get pithy; smooth tops)

Turnip Greens:

Alltop (hybrid – 35 days, vigorous, high-yielding, rapid regrowth, resistant to mosaic)

Seven Top (open-pollinated – 40 days; dark green leaves; for tops only)

Shogoin (42 days; tender, mild; roots good when young)

Topper (hybrid – 35 days; heavy yields, vigorous regrowth; good bolt resistance; resistant to mosaic; pale green roots also edible)

Rutabaga (yellow-fleshed):

Altasweet (92 days; purple shoulders, light yellow below; mild, sweet flavor)

American Purple Top (90 days, large globe-shaped roots with purple top and light yellow flesh)

Improved Long Island (90 days; large, spherical; purplish red shoulders, light yellow below; small taproot)

Laurentian (90 days; dark purple shoulders, pale yellow below; smooth, uniform roots, small necks)

Pike (100 days; purple shoulders; similar to Laurentian, better leaf cover, may be left in field later in fall); and Red Chief (90 days)

When to Plant

For summer use, turnips should be planted as early in the spring as possible. For fall harvest, plant rutabagas about 100 days before the first frost and plant turnips about 3 to 4 weeks later.

Fall turnips may also be broadcast after early potatoes, cabbage, beets and peas or between rows of sweet corn. Prepare a good seedbed and rake the seed in lightly. No cultivation is necessary, but you may find that a few large weeds must be removed by hand. Provide ample water for seed germination and vigorous plant growth. Both turnips and rutabagas have been used for excellent fall and early winter stock feed when broadcast onto fields left vacant by earlier crop harvest.

Spacing & Depth

Plant seeds 1/2 inch deep (3 to 20 seeds per foot of row). Allow 12 to 24 inches between rows. Water if necessary to germinate the seed and establish the seedlings (especially for summer sowings). Thin rutabaga seedlings to six inches apart when they are two inches tall. Thin turnip seedlings to 2 to 4 inches apart when they are four inches tall. The removed plants are large enough to use as greens. If you have planted turnips for greens, harvest the tops as needed when they are 4 to 6 inches tall. If the growing points are not removed, tops continue to regrow. Successive plantings at 10 day intervals provide later harvests of quality roots or greens. Old turnips tend to be tough and woody. Rutabagas are not usually sown in succession due to their longer time requirement before harvest. In mild areas, large rutabagas may hold in the garden well into the winter.


When the plants are small, cultivate 2 to 3 inches deep between rows. As the plants become larger, cultivate more shallowly to prevent injury to the tender feeder roots. Pull weeds that appear in the row before they become too large.


Turnips and rutabagas store well in refrigerator. Spring turnips should be pulled or cut when the roots or tops reach usable size. Harvest fall roots starting in early autumn or as needed. Turnips and rutabagas are of best quality (mild and tender) when they are of medium size (turnips should be 2 to 3 inches in diameter and rutabagas 3 to 5 inches in diameter) and have grown quickly and without interruption. Both are hardy to fall frosts and may, in fact, be sweetened by cool weather. A heavy straw mulch extends harvest through the early part of the winter. They may be dipped in warm (but not hot) wax to prevent loss of moisture.

Common Problems

Root maggots can be a problem in areas where radishes, turnips or rutabagas were grown the previous year. The soil should be treated with a suggested insecticide before the next planting.

Questions & Answers

Q. Why are my rutabagas small, tough and bitter tasting?

A. Rutabagas are best grown in northern areas or as a fall crop. When they develop and mature in hot weather, they do not develop typical sweetness and flavor. In southerly locations, try adjusting the planting season so that root development takes place in the cooler days of fall, whenever that may be in your area.

Q. Can you use turnips for greens?

A. Turnip tops are nutritious and often eaten as cooked greens. Certain cultivars – such as ‘Shogoin’ – are grown exclusively for greens. Other cultivars provide both greens and roots – such as ‘Purple Top,’ ‘White Globe,’ ‘Just Right’ and ‘Tokyo Market.’

All About Growing Turnips and Rutabagas

When to Plant Turnips and Rutabagas

Sow a spring crop of salad turnips two to three weeks before your last frost date; for a fall crop, plant seeds up to 50 days before your first fall frost. Sow all-purpose turnips for fall harvest 60 to 70 days before your first fall frost and sow rutabagas 100 days before your first fall frost.

How to Plant Turnips and Rutabagas

Turnips and rutabagas are good crops to plant in spaces vacated by early potatoes or peas, or between rows of harvested sweet corn. They grow best in fertile, well-drained soil with a pH between 6.0 and 7.0. Mix a light application of a balanced organic fertilizer into the planting bed unless ample nutrients remain in the soil from the previous crop. Loosen the soil to at least 12 inches deep while mixing in a half-inch layer of compost.

Sow turnip seeds about 2 inches apart and half an inch deep. Turnips can be planted in rows spaced 6 inches apart, or you can broadcast the seeds over the bed and pat the soil to firm them into place. After seeds have germinated, thin turnips to 2 inches apart. Two weeks later, when the plants reach 4 inches tall, thin turnips (other than salad turnips) to 4 inches apart (and enjoy the greens from the pulled plants!). Salad turnips grow well even if spaced only 2 to 3 inches apart.

Sow rutabaga seeds 3 inches apart and a half-inch deep, allowing at least 18 inches between rows. Although transplanting rutabagas isn’t usually recommended, starting seeds indoors and setting out week-old seedlings under shade covers is often the best way to get a good stand of rutabagas growing in hot summer weather. Thin direct-seeded rutabagas to at least 8 inches apart. Mulch to keep the soil cool and moist during hot summer weather.

Harvesting and Storage

For the best flavor, harvest salad turnips when they are less than 2 inches in diameter. Store the greens in plastic bags in the refrigerator or freezer. Store salad turnip roots that have had their tops trimmed back to 1 inch in the refrigerator for up to several weeks.

With all-purpose turnips, you can harvest two to three outer leaves per plant every two weeks, and the roots will continue to grow. Keep thinning plants and eating the greens, removing those plants that show no signs of bulbing. Pull all-purpose turnips when they are more than 2 inches in diameter, and eat or keep the greens. Mature turnips with their tops trimmed back to 1 inch will store for three months in plastic bags in the fridge. You can also store unwashed, trimmed turnips in damp sand in a root cellar.

Pull rutabagas when the bulbs are larger than 3 inches in diameter, and immediately trim the tops back to half an inch. You can keep your rutabagas refrigerated in plastic bags, or stow them in damp sand in a root cellar for longer storage.

Growing Turnips

Turnips are winter hardy through Zone 7, and with protection in Zone 6. In climates where turnips survive winter, allow up to three healthy plants to bloom and produce seeds. When the 2-inch-long seedpods turn tan in early summer, gather them in a paper bag, allow the seeds to dry indoors for a week, and then select the largest seeds for replanting.


Growing Rutabagas

Rutabagas are true biennials that bloom best in their second year. In fall, select three neighboring plants to be seed producers. Use a protective tunnel to help them survive winter. In spring, the plants will produce 3-foot-tall spikes of yellow flowers. When the 3-inch-long seedpods turn tan in early summer, clip the seed-bearing branches. Gather the seedpods in a paper bag, allow them to dry indoors for a week, and then collect the biggest seeds for replanting.

Pests and Diseases

Gathering outer leaves from turnips naturally interrupts the life cycles of various leaf spot diseases and insect pests. Watch for outbreaks of aphids. If an aphid problem does develop, remove any badly infested leaves, and try our aphid control tips.

As rutabagas grow, they often shed their oldest leaves, which you should gather up and compost. This will reduce slug problems and interrupt the life cycles of many pests and diseases. In fall, lightweight row covers may be needed to protect turnips and rutabagas from deer.

Tips for Growing Turnips

Turnips require attentive weeding and regular watering in order to quickly grow to mature size. Troubled turnips can often be rejuvenated if you cut all foliage back to 2 inches from the crown.

In the weeks just before they bulb, rutabagas need soil that is constantly moist. If the soil’s dry, a sudden rain can cause under-watered rutabagas to crack.

In the Kitchen

Turnips and rutabagas are gaining popularity thanks to their big flavors and versatility. Salad turnips can be eaten raw in slaws and salads, stir-fried with ginger and sesame oil, or pickled for longer storage. Common preparations for larger turnips include cooking them and mashing them with potatoes and roasting with other root veggies (toss with garlic and herbs for a flavor punch). Firm rutabagas can be mashed, grated for rutabaga hash browns or pasta, or seasoned and baked as rutabaga fries. Rutabagas offer a healthy amount of potassium and fiber. Rutabagas and turnip greens are great sources of vitamin C, and turnip greens also provide an abundance of calcium and iron.

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