The Vegetable Garden

    Turnip - When To Plant

      When To Plant

      For summer use, turnips should be planted as early in the spring as possible. For fall harvest, plant rutabagas about 100 days before the first frost and plant turnips about 3 to 4 weeks later.

      Fall turnips may also be broadcast after early potatoes, cabbage, beets and peas or between rows of sweet corn. Prepare a good seedbed and rake the seed in lightly. No cultivation is necessary, but you may find that a few large weeds must be removed by hand. Provide ample water for seed germination and vigorous plant growth. Both turnips and rutabagas have been used for excellent fall and early winter stock feed when broadcast onto fields left vacant by earlier crop harvest.

      Spacing & Depth

      Plant seeds 1/2 inch deep (3 to 20 seeds per foot of row). Allow 12 to 24 inches between rows. Water if necessary to germinate the seed and establish the seedlings (especially for summer sowings). Thin rutabaga seedlings to six inches apart when they are two inches tall. Thin turnip seedlings to 2 to 4 inches apart when they are four inches tall. The removed plants are large enough to use as greens. If you have planted turnips for greens, harvest the tops as needed when they are 4 to 6 inches tall. If the growing points are not removed, tops continue to regrow. Successive plantings at 10 day intervals provide later harvests of quality roots or greens. Old turnips tend to be tough and woody. Rutabagas are not usually sown in succession due to their longer time requirement before harvest. In mild areas, large rutabagas may hold in the garden well into the winter.


      When the plants are small, cultivate 2 to 3 inches deep between rows. As the plants become larger, cultivate more shallowly to prevent injury to the tender feeder roots. Pull weeds that appear in the row before they become too large.


      Turnips and rutabagas store well in refrigerator. Spring turnips should be pulled or cut when the roots or tops reach usable size. Harvest fall roots starting in early autumn or as needed. Turnips and rutabagas are of best quality (mild and tender) when they are of medium size (turnips should be 2 to 3 inches in diameter and rutabagas 3 to 5 inches in diameter) and have grown quickly and without interruption. Both are hardy to fall frosts and may, in fact, be sweetened by cool weather. A heavy straw mulch extends harvest through the early part of the winter. They may be dipped in warm (but not hot) wax to prevent loss of moisture.

      Common Problems

      Root maggots can be a problem in areas where radishes, turnips or rutabagas were grown the previous year. The soil should be treated with a suggested insecticide before the next planting.