Growing turnips is especially easy (and fast) in early spring and late fall when the weather is cooler. Temperatures over 75 degrees F (23.9 C) will leave you with less than ideal turnip roots and greens.
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Plant turnip seeds in fertile, loose and well-drained soil. If you can give them full sun, do so, but if your sunny space is limited turnips can also grow well in partial shade.
Before planting – which should be done a few weeks before the last frost in the spring and/or in the late summer/early fall as the weather starts to cool down - mix compost or well-rotted manure 6 to 8 inches into the soil. Plant seeds about three inches apart (7.6 cm) and about ½ inch (12.5 mm) deep.
You can start harvesting in four to six weeks, so continue planting each week for successive harveests until you are about four weeks out from consistent 75+ degree (24 C) days.
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Turnips are relatively easy to maintain once they’re planted. Keep them relatively well-watered, doing your best to avoid getting their greens wet in the process.
Your biggest challenge may be pests such as flea beetles, root maggots or cabbage worms, especially just before summer hits. See our Organic Garden Pest Control page for ways to keep them under control.
If you want the best and mildest flavor from your turnip roots, dig them up when they’re younger and the roots are about two inches (5 cm) wide. Harvest the greens about this time as well, but if you leave the roots in the ground, be sure to leave some greens for the plant to use!
Also do your best to have them out of the ground before temperatures reach the 80’s (26.7+ C) for best flavor.
For your fall turnip crop, leave them in the ground until you are ready to use them. They’ll be just fine as long as you’ve applied a thick layer of heat-holding compost like straw.
For out-of-ground storage, wash the roots, trim the tops to ½ inch (1.27 cm), place them in perforated plastic bags and store in a cool place where they can maintain their moisture. Either a refrigerator or cold moist cellar will do the trick.
You can also freeze turnips. Choose small- to medium-sized firm and tender ones, wash, peel, and cut them into ½-inch-sized cubes, water blanch for 2 minutes, cool, package, seal and freeze them.
Turnip seeds will last about 4 years.
The following pests and diseases have been known to affect the success of growing Turnips. For more information about preventing and controlling them, see Organic Garden Pest Control.
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