Rutabaga is a must have vegetable for the winter garden with their quick growth rates and ease of germination. Growing rutabaga (swede) from seed is easy with this step by step guide including pictures.
Rutabaga is the common name in North America with the commonwealth countries referring to this root vegetable as swede which is short for Swedish turnip.
They are a cross between a turnip and a cabbage with the flesh being more yellow in tone to a turnip and the globe is typically larger. Like turnips the greens can also be eaten and are often fed to livestock.
It is believed swede’s were first found growing wild in Sweden hence the name. Traditionally in the United Kingdom the roots are carved into lanterns for Halloween.
Culinary Uses of Rutabaga (Swedes)
Rutabaga’s are perfect for adding to your favorite soups and stews such as this Ginger Carrot and Rutabaga Soup. They can also be roasted, boiled and mashed with butter and cream.
They are also added to Cornish pasties which make the perfect take with you lunchtime treat or try this easy to make recipe for Turnip and Swede Garlic Chips.
Storing Rutabaga (Swedes)
Rutabagas are perfect for storing in your root cellar. Make sure they are stored in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight and are placed in a single layer to allow airflow.
If you don’t have a root cellar they can be successfully frozen by blanching for a few minutes before freezing. Frozen rutabaga is perfect for adding direct to soups and stews. See this guide to Freezing Turnips and Swedes (Rutabaga).
Growing Rutabaga (Swede) from Seed
Rutabaga is usually planted during the cooler months in warm climates but are grown during the spring and summer in cooler regions. The seeds germinate easily when planted direct in their final position.
They prefer moist, well drained and cultivated soil. Improve poor soils with compost and aged manure or consider planting in a raised bed.
Aphids and caterpillars both like the rutabaga leaves. Try this effective natural homemade Thistle Spray which kills aphids and deters caterpillars. If you are not eating the leaves then a few caterpillars are nothing to worry about.
They take 80 to 100 days to mature depending on your climate. Regular rainfall will help these root vegetables to mature more quickly.
Tools and Materials Needed
- Rutabaga (Swede) Seeds (Paid link)
- Aged Manure or Compost
- Garden Lime for Acid Soils
- Liquid Fertilizer – This dry soluble Seaweed Extract is great for the plant and the soil. It will make up to 66 US gallons. (Paid link)
Growing Rutabaga (Swede) from Seed
- Prepare the Soil
First prepare the soil by adding aged manure or compost then add a few handfuls of lime to acid soils. Dig in to a depth of 8 inches (20cm) then make rows with your trowel 20 inches (50cm) apart. Water the rows well then make a trench with your finger along the middle of the row 1/2 inch (10mm) deep.
- Sow the Seed
Sprinkle the rutabaga (swede) seed along the trenches then gently cover with soil.
- Thin Out the Seedlings
Keep moist with a mist spray. When the seedlings have their second leaves thin out to 8 inches (20cm) between each plant.
After 2 weeks apply a half strength of liquid fertilizer then use a full strength application every 2 weeks after that. Keep the plants moist but not waterlogged.
Harvest the roots when the tops appear above the ground and have turned purple. To harvest the roots; insert your trowel down the side being careful not to cut the root with your trowel then gently lift the root pulling upwards on the stems.
- Prepare for Cooking
Cut the stems an inch above the root. They can be steamed or added to your compost heap. Wash well then peel the root before adding to your favorite dish as the skin can be tough.
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It is best not to leave the rutabaga in the ground too long as they can become woody and inedible.
Rutabaga (swede) are hardy root vegetables and are a handy addition to winter soups and stews as they don’t overpower the other flavors in the dish.
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