Growing Turnips:
How to Grow Turnips Organically

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.

Growing Turnips: Plant Snapshot (Brassica rapa)

Growing Turnips
  • Family: Brassicaceae (Mustard family)
  • Annual or Perennial? Annual – ready to harvest approximately 50-60 days after planting.
  • Recommended varieties: White Lady, Shogoin, Amber Globe, Golden Globe, Purple Top White Globe
  • Cold tolerance: Hardy – Will survive hard frosts and can be planted 2 to 3 weeks before the average date of the last 32 degree F (0 degree C) temperature in spring.
  • Required Sun: Full sun to partial shade
  • When planning vegetable crop rotation, group with crops from this family: Brassica: cabbage, kohl rabi
  • Companion plants (see Companion Planting Charts for more info):
    • Companions: Onion family, pea
    • Avoid: Potato
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Growing Turnips: Planting the Seed

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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.

Snapshot: Planting Turnips

  • Planting depth: about ½ inch (12.5 mm)
  • Spacing in rows: about 3 inches (7.62 cm)
  • Germination soil temperature: 60 to 105 degrees F (15.6 to 40.6 degrees C)
  • Days to germination: 6 to 10 days
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Growing Turnips: From Germination to Pre-Harvest

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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.

Snapshot: Growing Turnips

  • Preferred soil pH (see soil pH tester for more information): 5.5 to 7.0
  • Growing soil temperature: 60 to 75 degrees F (15.6 to 24 degrees C)
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Growing Turnips: Harvesting Time

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.

Snapshot: Harvesting Turnips

  • Time to harvest: About 6 weeks for early plantings; about 12 weeks for maincrops that will be harvested in the fall.
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Storing Turnips and Freezing Turnips

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.

Snapshot: Storing Turnips & Freezing Turnips

  • Storage temperature: 32 to 40 degrees F (0 to 4.44 degrees C)
  • Humidity: 90 to 95% relative humidity
  • Storage life (unfrozen in above conditions): about 2-4 months
  • Storage life (frozen): Up to 6 months (at 0 F)
  • Seed longevity: About 4 years
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Growing Turnips: Pests & Diseases

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.

Pests

  • Aphids
  • Cabbage worms
  • Flea beetles
  • Root maggots
  • Wireworms

Diseases

  • Anthracnose
  • Alternaria
  • Clubroot
  • Root knot
  • Leaf spot
  • White rust
  • White spot
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YOUR Experience & Advice About Growing Turnips

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Turnips photo is licensed by Peter Presslein under the GNU FDL.

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