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How to Grow Turnip Plants

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Turnips are a root crop. They are not overly popular in home gardens in the U.S, yet they are easy to grow. They are popular in Europe and even Canada. Nutritious Turnips belong to the mustard family. Both the greens (leaves) and the bulbous root are edible. They taste good raw, with dips and cooked.  If you've never tried them, grow them this year, and see how good they are.

Did you know? In Ireland, Turnips were hollowed out and a small ember put in them to ward off demons and devils. They were the first Jack O"Lanterns.

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Varieties or Turnip Plants:

There are round varieties as well as long cylindrical and flat types. Some varieties produce better greens, while others grow better bulbs (roots).

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Sowing Turnip Seeds:

Sow Turnip seeds directly in the garden. Sow seeds 1/2 inch deep, sprinkling the small seeds thinly to an inch apart in the rows. Separate the rows 1 foot apart. Use double rows to conserve space in your home garden.

Sow seeds early in the spring and again in the fall. Although they can be grown in the summer, they prefer cool weather. Leave the middle of the summer for the heat loving vegetables.


Days to Maturity: 35-45 days

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How to Grow Turnips:

Turnip plants should be grown in full sun. They tolerate poorer soils, but grow better in richer garden soils. Work the soil and add compost. Make sure to remove any large rocks and stones.

Turnips sprout quickly, in about a week. After two weeks, thin seedlings to four to five inches apart.

 To avoid woody roots, provide plenty of water. As with other root crops, the action is below the soil. The leaves may not tell you when the soil is dry. Our rule of thumb is "when in doubt, water".

Important: If you are growing Turnips just for leaves in salads and soups, provide plenty of fertilizer and a high nitrogen mix. If you are growing them for the roots, avoid a high nitrogen fertilizer, as it will deter root development.

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Harvest Turnip greens (leaves) for salads as soon as they reach a size large enough to eat. Four to six inches is ideal. After cutting the leaves, new leaves will grow. You can usually harvest the leaves several times.

As with most root crops, it is better to pull them while still young and tender. Begin to harvest Turnips at golf ball size. Once they reach tennis ball size, the root will become tough and woody.

Some people leave their fall crop in the ground and pick a few, as needed, well into the winter months. If the root and plant is still growing, they can become too large. We recommend pulling them, cutting off the leaves and storing them in a cool, dry place. Many people will store them in their basement in dry soil, to help retain moisture and freshness.

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Insects and Pests:

Turnips are bothered by a variety of insects and pests. The insect world knows that this vegetable is tasty and nutritious. They include slugs and snails, aphids, beetles, cutworms and root maggots. Because they grow and are harvested quickly, large infestations are not often a problem in the home gardens. By the time you spot a problem, it is time to harvest.

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Occasional mildews and a white blister disease can affect the crop.

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Turnips are cool weather crops and withstand light freezes.

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More Information:

More on growing Turnips

Carving Turnips - to ward off evil spirits.


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