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Turnip Seed Starting Tips

Turnip in garden 1
Turnip seedlings
Turnip seedlings

Sow turnips in spring for an early summer harvest and use; direct sow in the garden 5 to 4 weeks before the last frost in spring. Start a second crop in late summer for winter storage and use.

Grow turnips and other roots crops in light-textured soil free of pebbles and stones. This will ensure roots do not split or become malformed.

Turnips mature in 30 to 50 days depending on the variety.

Turnip Sowing and Planting Tips:

  • Start turnips from seed sown directly in the garden.
  • Seed is viable for 4 years.
  • Start seeds in the garden about 5 to 4 weeks before you expect the last frost. Turnips can be started indoors, but they—like most root crops—are difficult to transplant to the garden with success.
  • If started indoors and transplanted, allow two additional weeks to maturity as a result of root insult at transplanting; nip off the long thread tip of the beetroot when transplanting.
  • Sow seed ½ (12 mm) inch deep and be sure to heel or stamp the soil firmly in; turnips often fail to germinate when there is insufficient contact with the soil.
  • Sow seed 2 inches apart and later thin to 4 to 6 inches (10-15 cm) apart for large storage turnips, and 2 to 4 inches apart for greens.
  • Space rows 12 inches apart.
  • To improve germination sow seed at dusk or on a cool, cloudy day.
  • Sow seed in loose, fertile soil. Adding aged compost to planting beds in advance of sowing will feed the soil and aide moisture retention.
  • The seeds should germinate in 3 to 10 days at an optimal temperature of 70°F (21C) or thereabouts; germination will take longer in colder soil.
  • Optimum soil temperature to grow turnips is 60°F (16°C).
  • Make additional sowing at 3-week intervals for a continuous harvest, but time sowing so that crop does not mature in hot weather.
  • Turnips prefer a pH range of 5.5 to 6.8.
  • Grow turnips in full sun for best yield; turnips tolerate partial shade.
  • Avoid planting turnips where potatoes have grown recently.
  • Fertilize with an organic fertilizer such as fish emulsion at half strength.
  • Common pest enemies are aphids, flea beetles, and cabbage root maggots. Protect the seedlings from pests and cold for two to three weeks after planting with spun poly row covers.

Interplanting: Plant turnips with bush beans, peas, southern peas, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and squash.

Container Growing Turnips: Choose a container 10-12 inches (25-30 cm) deep.

Turnip Planting Calendar:

  • 8-6 weeks before the last frost in spring: direct-sow in a plastic tunnel or cold frame.6-4 weeks before the last frost in spring: direct sow in the garden; minimum soil temperature is 40°F.

For Fall and Winter Harvest:

  • 8-6 weeks before the first frost in fall: direct-sow in the garden.
  • 6-4 weeks before the first frost in fall: direct sow in a plastic tunnel or cold frame.
Turnip plants
Grow turnips and other roots crops in light-textured soil free of pebbles and stones. This will ensure roots do not split or become malformed.

Recommended Turnip Varieties

  • DeMilan’ and ‘Tokyo Cross’ have tender roots and mature early.
  • ‘Purple Top White Globe’ is an autumn favorite.
  • ‘Aberdeen’ has yellow flesh.
  • ‘Hakurel’  is fast maturing with pure white roots.
  • ‘Seven Top’, Just Right’ and ‘All Top’ are good choices for greens.

Botanical Name: Brassica rapa var. rapa

Turnips belong to the Brassicacea (Cruciferae) or cabbage family; other members include cabbage, kale, collard, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and kohlrabi.

More tips: How to Grow Turnips.

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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