How to Grow Turnips from Seed Guide
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How to Grow Turnips from Seed

This step by step guide with pictures shows how to grow turnips from seed in the home garden. Turnips are one of the easiest root vegetables to grow during the cooler months of the year. 

It is thought turnips have been cultivated since before the 15th century BC and are related to mustard and radishes. 

Turnips form a white globe shape under the ground from 2 to 8 inches (5 to 10cm) in diameter with the top of the globe turning a pinkish purple as it is exposed to sunlight.  

Culinary Uses of Turnips 

Turnips have a unique flavor which becomes milder after cooking. The tap root is discarded and the bulb is peeled before cooking as the skin can be tough. 

The bulbous root is added to soups and stews or roasted. Try this recipe for Honey and Thyme Roasted Turnips

The green leaves are also eaten in many cultures around the world especially in the South in the United States where they are traditionally cooked with bacon grease. 

Large turnip leaves can be bitter however the bitterness can be reduced by boiling the leaves, discarding the water then reheat with fresh water. 

Growing Turnips from Seed 

Turnips grow best during cool weather as hot weather can cause them to be too tough to eat. They like well cultivated soil and regular watering. 

When is the best time to plant turnip seeds? 

Plant turnip seeds in the spring in cold climates and in the fall (autumn) in warm temperate climates. 

How long do turnips take to mature? 

The time from sowing turnip seed to maturity is 45 to 70 days depending on the variety and climatic conditions. 

Turnip plant ready to harvest.

Do you need a lot of room to grow turnips? 

No, they will need 5 inches (12cm) between each plant and 16 inches (40cm) between rows. They can be planted around other plants in your garden to save space. 

Tools and Materials Needed 

  • Turnip Seeds – These White Globe Turnip Seeds on Amazon are highly rated and great value. (Paid link)
  • Shovel 
  • Aged manure or Compost 
  • Garden Lime for Acidic Soils (Paid link)
  • Trowel 
  • Liquid Fertilizer – This Liquid Kelp Concentrate is completely organic and improves the soil. (Paid link)

Instructions 

How to grow turnips from seed in the home garden.

  1. Prepare the Soil

    Prepare the soil by adding generous handfuls of aged manure or compost. For acidic soils sprinkle over a handful of garden lime. Dig in well then make rows 16 inches (40cm) apart. 

  2. Sow the Turnip Seed

    Make a line with your finger along the middle of each row ½ inch (10mm) deep. Place the turnip seed in the ditch then cover with soil. Water in well with a mist spray then keep moist.

     How to grow turnips from seed by first covering the turnip seed with soil.

  3. Thin Out the Seedlings

    When the seedlings have their second leaves, they can be thinned out so there is 5 inches (12cm) between each plant. 

  4. Transplant Seedlings to Prevent Waste

    The seedlings can be successfully transplanted to a new position in the garden so they are not wasted. Make sure they are well watered before and after transplanting to reduce transplant shock on the plant. 

  5. Turnip Plant Care

    Protect the young plants with snail bait. Aphids and caterpillars also like turnip greens. If they become a problem use vegetable dust or this natural Thistle Spray. Apply a half strength of liquid fertilizer two weeks after germination then apply a full strength of liquid fertilizer every two weeks after that. 

  6. Harvest the Turnips

    The turnips are ready to harvest when you see the purple top above the ground. Turnips can be tough when left in the ground for too long so it is best to check them every few days. To harvest turnips, insert your trowel straight down in the ground beside the turnip then gently lift the turnip upwards. 
    Cut the leaves off an inch above the top. They can be either eaten or added to your compost. Cut off the tap root then wash well. 

    Harvesting a turnip by lifting out of the ground with a trowel.

Storing Turnips 

For Immediate Use 

Wash then dry the bulb. Place in a plastic bag or airtight container then store in the fridge for up to 5 days. 

Turnips washed and ready to be stored in the fridge.

For Long Term Storage 

Don’t wash the turnips after harvest. Cut off the leaves an inch above the bulb then cut off the tap root. Lay on old newspaper in an area with good air circulation for a few days for the tops to dry then store in a box in a single layer in a dry cool place in your home. 

Preparing harvested turnips for long term storage by cutting off the tops.

These Countertop Boxes allow air to circulate around the vegetables. They are highly rated and great value. (Paid link)

Turnips can also be successfully frozen which is a good method when you live in a warm climate or don’t have much space. See this guide to Freezing Turnips and Swedes (Rutabaga) for more information.

Tip 

Turnips are a must for the winter garden. If you have poor soils then consider planting turnips in raised garden beds. 

Are you looking for more vegetables to plant in your winter garden? Try these guides to growing Rutabaga (Swede), Bok Choy, Peas or Silverbeet. This Vegetable Garden Guide is a great place to start if you are new to growing vegetables.

Do you love your home? This Homesteading guide covers everything from DIY projects to preserving food.

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