The turnip, a root vegetable belonging to the brassica rapa subsp. rapa species, is native to Eurasia. It has been cultivated by humans for millennia. The term “turnip” comes from the roundness of the plant, which is indicated by the curve called a turn. The word “turnip” is a combination of the Latin word “napus” (turnip) and the word “turn”. A traditional Scottish dish made with mashed turnips is called neeps.
Turnips are valued for their roots and greens. A group of leaves emerges from a rosette-shaped base and can grow to be over one foot long. The leaves of this plant are thin and light green, with wavy or hairy edges. The taproot of the plant can be either a creamy white or a soft yellow, and the top of the plant emerges from the ground as it matures. This plant only flowers every other year, so in the second year of growth, it will produce small yellow flowers and then die off.
After planting, the seeds will sprout and seedlings will come up within a week. In about a month, young greens will be ready to harvest. The roots will be ready to harvest in five weeks, and the plant will be fully mature two to three months after planting.
Greens and roots can be used in many different types of dishes. Fresh greens can be used in salads or cooked. Roots can be cooked in many ways, such as boiling, roasting, baking, or frying. There are many fun recipes to explore! I really enjoy making root roasts because it gives me a chance to use up any root vegetables that I have lying around, such as sweet potatoes, regular potatoes, onions, garlic, carrots, and turnips. Place the vegetables in the oven and cook until they are tender and caramelized.
GETTING STARTED WITH HOW TO GROW TURNIPS
When it comes to growing turnips, finding the best spot is straightforward. These roots are not fussy and only need a spot in direct sun or partial shade. They also need to be kept fairly cool. As long as you have a sunny spot in your small garden or raised bed, you should be able to grow vegetables.
The amount of food you want to harvest will affect where you can grow it. For growing large turnips, ensure each plant has plenty of space in a designated vegetable bed. If you want to grow baby-sized crops, then you should put a well-drained trough or planter in a sunny spot.
The soil should be well-drained and moist for growing turnips as they need a lot of moisture. You should add some aged organic compost to the ground a couple of months before planting. This will help the plants to grow. To have the best results, loosen the ground around the area you will plant to a depth of one foot. The ideal soil temperature for turnips is between 40-50 degrees Fahrenheit (5-10 degrees Celsius). You can sow turnip seed directly into the ground instead of transplanting turnips that were grown indoors if the ground conditions are good.
It is a good idea to get a pH kit if you are not sure about the types of soil. Turnips do best in soil with a pH of 5.5-6.5. If your soil is too acidic or alkaline, you can adjust it by adding lime or sulfur.
WHEN TO PLANT TURNIPS
The great thing about knowing how to grow turnips is that you have a lot of time to do it. There are a lot of opportunities to plant vegetables throughout the year. The best time to sow and plant turnips depends on a number of factors, including the variety of turnip you want to grow, the size and maturity you want the turnips to be, and whether you want to grow turnip greens or turnip roots.
As we have touched on, turnips are cool-season vegetables. The main thing to consider with timing is to make sure young plants have enough heat. Conditions that are cool and moist help to prevent plant stress and early flowering, which can result in crops that have a bitter taste. The best time to start off planting potatoes is early to mid-spring or late summer to mid-fall. This allows for either early or late potato harvests.
One way to protect your plants against the cold is to use DIY cold frames, cloches, and greenhouses. This will help regulate the temperature and prevent leaves from becoming frozen. It is especially important to protect plants from the cold in exposed areas or places that do not have much shelter.
Remember that, depending on the type and size you want, taproots usually take two months to mature. Look at the optimal harvest dates and work backward to find the best starting points. The ideal temperature to sow seeds directly into the ground is 40 degrees Fahrenheit, although you can start earlier if you have them in a covered area. You can sow the seeds of early varieties like ‘Milan Purple Top’ in late winter, indoors or in a covered area.
HOW TO PLANT TURNIPS FROM SEED
There is not much you need to do to the soil before growing turnips, assuming you have checked the soil pH and added some aged compost. Although Chris Bonnett of Gardening Express enjoys pre-planting, he has one cautionary note. Chris advises against using nitrogen-rich compost, as it will produce leafy greens instead of bigger roots. Instead of waiting to transplant seedlings outdoors, you can sow them directly into warm soil. Just follow these steps for successful planting:
- To start indoors, sow two seeds per module and place them in a propagator set at around 59?F (15?C). Germination should take only 10 days or less.
- Thin to the strongest seedling in each module. Once you see four or five true leaves, harden off young plants for a week before transplanting.
- If you are sowing direct, sow 1in (2.5cm) deep. Lucy Chamberlain suggests sowing in groups of five to encourage the strongest to jostle for space. Water well.
- Thin seedlings at 4in (10cm) high. Depending on the size you want, Chris suggests thinning to 4-6in (10-15cm) for small turnips or 9in (23cm) for bigger crops.
- Keep watering regularly and check regularly that no weeds are popping up on the plot, removing gently so as not to disturb the crops.
- Make successive sowings every two weeks. Filling any gaps in the plot will increase your chances of enjoying a longer, more prolific yield.
HOW TO GROW TURNIPS IN CONTAINERS
You can grow turnips in large pots, planters, troughs, and sizable terracotta pots. Enjoy growing vegetables in pots? Grab some containers and get planting!
Pots that are large and deep are less likely to dry out quickly, according to Lucy Chamberlain. ’ Wooden containers are better at protecting plant roots from excess heat than plastic pots. Lucy recommends grouping pots together to reduce plant stress. The pots will provide shade for the roots and reduce the amount of stress the plant is under.
This type of compost should be okay to use for your turnips since they will only be in the pot for a while. Make sure there are enough drainage holes to prevent rotting.
Choose varieties carefully as well. The best turnips to grow in a pot are naturally compact breeds like ‘Baby Bunch’ and ‘Hakurei’. If you are careful to monitor the moisture levels in your pots, you can easily grow turnips in containers with few problems.
Choose a location for your turnips that will allow them to grow optimally. After you have provided your plants with enough sunlight, water, and warmth, you will have a large quantity of produce!
Sun and Temperature
Turnips do best in full sun with at least six hours of direct sunlight each day. You can plant turnips in USDA zones 2-9. The optimum temperature for growth is between 45 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperatures above 80 degrees Fahrenheit can lead to bolting. You can protect your plants from bad weather by giving them shade. A frost during the autumn harvest can make your crops taste sweeter, but deep freezes during winter will cause them to be damaged. A thick layer of mulch can help protect roots, as well as extend the growing season by using a row cover.
Water and Humidity
This plant thrives in moist soil. Water the turnips weekly, in the morning, drenching the top inch of soil. The best place to aim when fertilizing a plant is near the base, underneath the leaves. Water your crop regularly to prevent the ground from drying out completely, which will slow down the growth of your crop. Soaker hoses are effective.
The best soil for turnips is rich, loose, and well-drained. To improve drainage in clay soils, mix in sand or perlite. Use a spade to loosen the top 12 inches of soil in your planting area, then add a layer of compost. The ideal soil pH is from 6.0-7.0.
If you add organic matter to the soil, that should provide enough nutrients for the growing season. Alternatively, you can apply a slow-release 5-5-5 fertilizer to the soil before you sow the turnip seeds. Don’t use a high nitrogen fertilizer as it will make the greens grow more instead of the roots.
Pruning is not necessary for growing turnips. The section on harvesting turnips will cover what to do with the greens.
Turnips are similar to radishes, in that they can only be propagated from seed.
HARVESTING AND STORING
Now we’re going to talk about some ways to harvest and store your great turnip crops. Turnip greens and roots can become bitter and tough after they have been harvested.
First, let’s discuss turnip greens. After planting the seeds, the greens can be harvested a month later when the leaves are about 4 inches tall and 2 inches in diameter. Cut the greens an inch or two above the soil with clean garden scissors. Don’t worry if you accidently harvest all the leaves from your greens plants, they will grow back and you can harvest more later in the season.
The roots of young turnips are ready to be harvested five weeks after they are planted. These roots will be very tender. Turnips are fully mature and ready to be harvested when they reach 2-3 inches in diameter, which is typically around 60-70 days after planting. When you are ready to harvest your turnips, use a wide garden fork to lift them out of the ground gently.
Turnip greens can last up to a week in the fridge if they are properly washed. To help keep greens fresh, I like to put a coffee filter or paper towel in a plastic storage bag with them. The filter or towel will absorb any excess moisture.
To store turnips, you will want to remove the turnip leaves. For short-term storage, place your turnips in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. This will help to keep them fresh and prevent them from going bad. A root cellar is a cool dark location that is good for long-term storage. A turnip root can last for several months if it is stored in the right conditions. Another long-term storage solution is in the freezer. The turnips should be cooked before freezing them, cooled completely, and stored for no more than 6 months.
TURNIP PROBLEMS AND HOW TO SOLVE THEM
You might think that, because turnips are in the brassica family, they would have a lot of pests and viruses. Although turnips can be challenging to grow, it is a refreshingly simple experience. There are relatively few problems to worry about. The primary issue in the early weeks after planting is the flea beetle. It heads straight for the tender green shoots and leaves behind tell-tale holes. If you don’t want flea beetles to eat your plants, you can put a piece of mesh or horticultural fleece over them.
To prevent diseases such as powdery mildew and clubroot, it is important to keep the soil moist and well drained and to ensure that conditions remain cool and well spaced. You shouldn’t have to worry about aphids. Did you know that turnips are excellent aphid repellers? It’s just one of their many charms! The turnip plants grow so quickly that they will quickly overcome any damage caused by pests that affects other crops.
WHAT TO GROW ALONGSIDE TURNIPS
Growing turnips in isolation is perfectly fine, but you will get much better results if you also learn about companion planting and intercropping. This involves placing fast-growing crops in the spaces around slower-growing vegetables. It can help with controlling pests on different types of vegetables. Not only can it help improve the quality of the crops, but it can also make the neighboring crops taste better. Here are some of the main partnerships worth considering in the plot:
- Turnips make excellent companion plants for garlic as they ward off pests that target garlic. In return, garlic deters flea beetles from turnips.
- Lucy recommends sowing turnips in short drills around brassicas like kale and cabbage. Harvest as baby roots, and they won’t have time to impact the growth of their larger brassica companions.
- If you grow peas nearby, you’re in luck: they add nitrogen into the ground which gives turnip roots a much-needed fertility boost.
- One of the best repellers of the turnip’s arch foe, the flea beetle, is mint. So grow mint nearby – ideally in pots to curb its spread.
- For anyone looking to grow tomatoes, squash, or celery, turnips are ideal for planting in the vicinity as they are excellent aphid repellers.
- Although nasturtiums and marigolds make fantastic companions for lots of veggies, they are particularly efficient at keeping pests from munching on burgeoning turnip shoots and roots.
The only two veggies you should avoid growing near your turnips are potatoes and onions. These two vegetables can cause your turnips to rot. One reason for this is that they often compete for space, resulting in stunted growth for the group. Although onions and potatoes can be planted in the same soil, turnips may also benefit from being planted in that soil. They love the soil-borne nitrogen left behind. Hence the reason turnips are often called ‘mop-up’ crops.