As with broccoli, cabbage, and other brassicas, turnips are a quick and easy root vegetable to grow. People often think of turnips as bland and boring, but this old crop is becoming popular again, especially in home gardens.
You can pick from a lot of different kinds of turnips that are different colored and sized. There are white, yellow, green, and purple turnips. Some grow to be the size of a golf ball, while others are best picked when they are about the size of a tennis ball.
Around Australia, turnips can be grown in any weather. If you live somewhere cold, plant them between August and March. If you live somewhere warmer, plant them in late summer, fall, or even early spring to avoid the hottest parts of summer. Depending on the type, you can harvest turnips anywhere from 5 to 12 weeks after growing them. You can eat both the root and the leaves.
You can cook young turnip leaves like you would baby spinach. For longer cooking, chop up older leaves and add them to soups or stews. You can steam, roast, or eat turnip roots raw, or you can add them to soups and stews.
To tell them apart from rutabaga, turnips are often called “summer turnips.” When you cut them open, the inside is generally white. The inside of rutabagas, on the other hand, is more yellow, and they tend to be bigger. They’re also known as winter turnips sometimes. Like cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and other Brassica vegetables, they both taste sort of the same.
When choosing which types of turnips to grow in your yard, you should think about which ones will do best in your area and whether you want turnip greens or roots. You might not get the roots you want if you grow a type of plant that was designed to give you lots of greens.
Alamo is a type that is grown for its leaves. Baby leaves will grow back and be used for more than one crop. Alamo can handle aphids and mosaic virus, and it’s not too resistant to bolts. In as little as 33 days, you can pick the leaves.
Amelie is a mutant turnip that doesn’t bolt. Its roots are sweet and crisp white and grow to be 2 to 3 inches across. You can also pick the tops. You can plant Amelie to gather in the spring or fall. In 50 to 80 days, it’s ready to eat.
Hakurei is a mutant turnip that grows in 38 days and has white roots. You can eat the seeds and the tops raw.
You can gather Just Right, a hybrid all-white, half-globe-shaped large turnip, in the fall or winter. It tends to bolt, so you shouldn’t plant it in the spring. In 70 days, it will be ready.
Nagasaki Akari Kabu is a purple turnip that comes from Japan. People eat the roots either fresh or cooked. In 50 days, this type will be ready to pick.
You can find the classic American turnip Purple Top White Globe in large numbers in the southern United States. The roots are purple on top and white below the ground. Pick them when they are 3 to 4 inches across. You can cook with the leaves too. In 50 days, it will be ready.
There are sweet and mild roots on the Royal Crown hybrid turnip that stay good up to 4 inches in size. You can grow it in the spring or fall and eat the leaves or the seeds. In 50 days, it will be ready.
The scarlet queen is a type of red turnip that is used in salads. When the taproots are 2 to 3 inches across, they are ready to be picked. In 43 days, it will be ready.
White Lady is a mutant turnip that grows in 35 days and is good for spring or fall crops. The white roots are sweet and crisp.
Plant turnip seeds about two to three weeks before the last spring frost date for a late spring crop.
If you want to gather turnips in the fall, plant them in late summer, after you’ve grown onions, squash, beans, or sweet corn.
Plant seeds early in the fall for a later yield in the fall.
Our turnips are hardy biennials, but they really grow every two years. The second year, they flower on their own and go to seed. In their first year, they may bolt, which means they flower and set seeds early, if they are stressed by heat or cold or a lack of nutrients or water. Stress like this can also cause roots to grow slowly or not at all, roots to form above ground, or greens only.
Don’t let the turnips bolt if you pick them before the temperature hits the 80s (F).
Before planting turnips, you can spread fertilizer over the bed, but if you are amending it with waste first, you shouldn’t need to use fertilizer at that point. Once the turnip plants have their first true leaves, you can add a side-dressing of a low-nitrogen or balanced fertilizer.
Never use a high-nitrogen fertilizer on turnips that you are growing for their roots. The nitrogen shock can make the top grow quickly, but the taproot may not get enough food. Find an organic powder plant food that has an NPK balance of about 5-10-10. What does NPK stand for? It stands for nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. The N number should be the same as or less than the next two numbers.
You can use a nitrogen-rich liquid organic fertilizer like fish emulsion, but only a small amount, if you only want to gather the greens and not the roots. Always follow the directions that came with the product. There is no such thing as too much manure; in fact, too much can be bad.
Putting floating row cover over your turnips when you plant them will keep many pests away and stop the diseases that the pests spread. Pests won’t be able to land on your turnips and lay their eggs because row cover is a physical barrier that lets light and water through.
Armyworms are young moths that like to eat turnip greens. Take the caterpillars out of the eggs by hand before they hatch. The caterpillars can be green or black and gray. When used on moth and butterfly eggs, Bt is an organic way to get rid of them that is safe for people, pets, and other animals.
Cabbage aphids are insects that feed on sap and attack the leaves of turnips. They are gray and small, but if they get too many, they can slow or kill a turnip plant. Aphids can also spread diseases to turnips, like the mosaic virus. Use a row cover to keep bugs off of turnips. Aphids that are on your plants should be killed with a strong blast of water.
They won’t be able to get back on the plants after being knocked down this way. Aphids are eaten by lady beetles, green lacewings, and syrphid flies, all of which are good bugs. Do not use chemicals that will kill these good bugs that eat pests.
Cabbage root maggots are young flies. Plants that are exposed will wilt and grow slowly. Row cover needs to be put in place before the flies can lay their eggs. Turnips can also be kept safe from root maggot damage with paper bands.
Cabbage worms are young moths that like to eat turnip greens. You can choose them by hand or use Bt to control them. If you put down row covers early on, cabbage worms will never be a problem.
Flea beetles are bugs that like to chew. They are very small jumping leaf beetles, about eight tenths of an inch long and black or bronze. They can be kept away with floating row cover. You could also grow radishes as a trap crop, since flea bugs like them better than turnips.
Slugs and snails like turnip greens. Some slugs and snails are easy to spot, but they can be picked out by hand. A bait like Sluggo, which has iron phosphate in it, is a safe and natural way to get rid of a serious infestation.
Adult click beetles can live for up to six years in the ground before they come out as wireworms. Longer plants can be killed by them, but shorter plants can still be hurt. They are about half an inch to three inches long.
Put a potato slice 4 inches deep in the ground and mark it if you think wireworms are in your yard. After a week, dig the potato up and look inside to see if there are any wireworms. You can’t do anything about wireworms while turnips are growing, but you can turn the dirt several times in the weeks before planting to let birds find the wireworms.
There are many plant diseases that can hurt turnips. Some of them are mosaic virus, black rot, downy mildew, Alternaria black spot, and turnip crinkle virus.
Aside from keeping pests that spread diseases away from plants, crop rotation is the best way to keep turnips from getting sick. Brassica pathogens will build up in the soil if you put them in the same place for a few years. Instead, don’t plant cabbage family crops in the same place for four years.