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How to Plant, Grow, and Harvest Turnips

Turnip in garden
Turnip roots near harvest
Turnip roots near harvest

Turnips are grown as a root vegetable or for their green leaves, Turnips are a cool-season crop; they grow and taste best when they come to harvest in cool weather.

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.

Turnip Quick Growing Tips

  • 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.
  • Turnip yield: plant 5 to 10 plants per household member.
Turnip Seedling
Turnip seedlings

Where to Grow Turnips

  • 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 (7-24°C).
  • Turnips are best harvested before temperatures exceed 75°F (24°C).
  • 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. It is best to direct sow turnips in the garden.
  • Sow turnip seed directly in the garden ½ inch (12mm) deep and 1 inch (2.5cm) apart in wide rows
  • Thin successful seedlings from 4 to 6 inches (10-15cm) apart.
  • Space wide rows 12 to 24 inches (30-61cm) apart.
  • Thin turnips grown for greens from 2 to 3 inches (5-7cm) apart.

Turnip Companion Plants

  • Grow turnips with bush beans, peas, and 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 (20cm) deep.
Turnip plants with red roots
Turnips are a cool-weather vegetable best harvested before temperatures exceed 75°F.

Caring for Turnips

  • 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 turnips 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.
Turnip harvest
‘Purple Top White Globe’ turnip

Harvesting Turnips

  • Turnips come to harvest 30 to 60 days after sowing.
  • Lift roots when they are 2 to 3 inches (5-7cm) in diameter; lift them carefully with a garden fork.
  • Leaves can be cut when they are 12 inches (30cm) 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 keep 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
‘Gold Ball’ turnip

Turnip Varieties to Grow

Turnip Varieties. ‘All Top’ (50 days, greens); ‘Amber’ (75 days); ‘De Milan’ (35 days); ‘Gilfeather’ (82 days); ‘Gold Ball’ (45 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).

About Turnips

  • Common name. Turnip
  • Botanical name. Brassica rapa
  • Origin. Northeastern Europe, Siberia

More tips: How to Harvest and Store Turnips.



Comments are closed.
  1. Can you still eat the greens or the roots of beets/turnups if you harvest them much later then is recomended? My beets ands turnups have begon to flower and I wasn’t sure if they were still safe to eat or if I should just try again next season? Thx new gardener =)

    • You can eat them, but you will likely find them much more bitter flavored than if you had harvested them young–and they may require cooking rather than being able to eat them raw.

  2. I started turnips in a small pot they sprouted quickly. Can I transplant those in the garden? or d I have to start over and plant directly in the round??

    • Transplanting root crops can be difficult; they don’t like to be disturbed. But you can certainly give it a try early on. Starting root crops in loose, well-drained soil and letting them be is the best course.

        • Store turnips buried in clean, cool sand–as you would in a root cellar. Trim away the green tops which will draw moisture from the root if left in place. Good choices are Purple Top, Snowball, White Egg, and Scarlet Ball.

    • Direct sow turnips in the garden 5 to 4 weeks before the last frost in spring. You can get an earlier start by sowing turnips seed under the protection of a plastic tunnel or cold frame 8 to 6 weeks before the average last frost date where you live.

  3. I live in South Florida and I wanted to know if I can plant turnip greens any time? I will use the leaves as they grow for our very hungry Iguana.
    Also do I need to keep out of sun light if it’s 90° or more ?
    Thank you

    • Turnip greens require cool growing conditions–preferably less than 75F. Because you are growing for the leaves and not the bulbs, you may be able to grow the greens to sufficient size even in warm weather. Bolting–which is the growth of a flower stem–will turn the greens bitter. So grow your turnips in the coolest place you can find with bright light (a covered patio, or a planting bed with shade cloth above it) and harvest before or as soon as you see the plant start to bolt. You can grow a succession of greens by sowing new seed every 10 days,

    • Turnip roots touched by frost may be slightly sweeter than roots untouched by frost–that is a good thing. The roots should be fine as long as the ground does not freeze.

    • If your turnips have flowered and gone to seed, mother nature is telling you the turnip growing season is over for now. Wait until late summer and plant again. Turnips are a cool-season crop. Sow seed in late summer or early autumn (in mild winter regions) for a fall and early winter harvest.

    • Lime will begin to dissolve in the soil about four weeks after its been worked into the soil. It will take six to twelve months for the lime to dissolve completely. The best time to add lime to the garden is in the fall after harvest when the garden is going fallow. The lime should be applied about 2 inches deep in a well-worked bed; it will then have nearly 6 months to dissolve evenly in the soil. The optimal time to plant in a bed treated with lime is about 6 months after the application. If you plan to sow seed or set out transplant in the bed sooner, it’s possible the lime could injure the plants, but that’s not always the case.

  4. I am in the Pacific NW and our last frost date is usually mid May. I direct sowed my turnips in raised beds in mid April, around 4 weeks prior to last frost date. I am getting concerned because although they sprouted there has been no growth beyond the seed leaves. Weather has been normal spring conditions, night time temps around mid to high 40’s the last two weeks. Any ideas or advice other than just wait and see? I thought about adding another small crop in now in hopes they would be ready mid June before the weather gets too hot.

    Thank you!

    • The plants are likely waiting for warmer temperatures. Cover them with a floating row cover to shield them from cool or cold night temperatures. As the soil and air warm, they will begin steady growth.

  5. Hope you can help, I sowed my turnips in March when it was a bit too cold so brought them in so the frost did not kill them off and they all germinated inside so well, but bolted trying to get to more light. I did not want to waste them so I carefully transplanted them with good space between and have a mix of compost and sand watering them and it is middle of May and they are not forming round roots.

    They are just long and thin, are they a lost cause or will they fatten up. Just wondering how long to give them.
    Really wanted to see them grow like the radish but nothing’s happening.

    Leaves are green and healthy, thanks for the help
    Best wishes

    • It would be best to sow new seed just to have a backup. Turnips and other root crops do not transplant easily; often the roots are damaged or the plant is stressed. If you fertilize the plant, be sure to use only a low nitrogen fertilizer. Phosphorus will aid root formation.

  6. Hi Steve, I have just planted turnip seeds as we are into mid winter in June. I have put about 1000+ seeds down and don’t really need perfect tubers as i want to feed insects with them. Is it necessary to space them out exactly as mentioned in the guides, or will the tubers still grow if there are a few clusters here and there. As mentioned quality is not important as I’m substituting the carrots for them.
    Thx in advance, Vaughan Richards

    • If you are growing turnips for the greens, spacing or thinning the plants is not essential. You can harvest the leaves young and tender. If you want to grow the greens to maturity, then it would be best to space the plants 6 to 10 inches apart; this will also allow for root development.

  7. Is October 10 too late to plant Turnips in north east Arkansas? And what kind would be best to plant since it is a late planting?

  8. Northeast Arkansas should put you in USDA Zone 6 or 7. You should be able to grow roots and greens through the winter under a plastic tunnel. Place some 2 to 3-foot tall hoops down the length of the planting bed and cover the hoops with 4 to 6 mil clear plastic sheeting. That will keep your crops warm during the coldest part of winter. Choose turnips, roots, and greens with the fewest days to maturity (take a look at seed packets and compare the days to maturity). Tokyo Cross Hybrid turnip needs just 35 days to reach harvest. Purple Top White Globe needs 55 days.

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