How to Grow Turnips

Turnips and greens. image by clayirving/


Turnips (Brassica rapa var. rapa) are part of the cabbage family. Turnips grow in the spring or fall. Cool weather is optimal for harvesting turnips. They grow quickly and begin to emerge from the ground in as little as 4-7 days. Turnips mature in approximately 2 months. Rutabagas are a cross between cabbage and turnips and take 4 weeks longer to mature than turnips. Some people choose to plant turnips for their greens only.

Step 1

Choose the variety of turnip you would like to grow and purchase the seeds. The seeds are good for up to 4 years. Turnips, turnip greens and rutabagas are all grown in a similar fashion. See Resources for a variety listing of turnips.

Step 2

Choose a garden site that has full sun or part shade and well-drained soil. Optimal soil pH level is 6.0 to 7.5. Soil pH test strips can be purchased from local garden centers. Some garden centers offer a soil testing service as well. Soil temperatures should range from 45 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Use a tiller to loosen the soil 12 to 15 inches deep and mix in a 2 to 4-inch layer of compost.

Step 3

Plant the turnip seeds half an inch deep into the soil with 3 to 20 seeds per foot of row. Space the rows 12 to 24 inches apart. Use a rake or tiller to cover the seeds. Plant more seeds every two weeks for a continual fall harvest.

Step 4

Thin turnips so they are standing 2 to 4 inches apart when the plants reach 4 inches in height. Do not thin the plants if you are growing turnips for greens only. Thin rutabaga plants to six inches apart when they reach 2 inches in height. Turnips require 1 inch of water per week, via rainfall or irrigation. Mulch the area heavily. Check regularly for weeds and pull them when necessary. Add a heavy straw mulch to extend the harvest into early winter, if necessary.

Step 5

Harvest the turnips when the roots or tops reach desired usable size. Medium-sized turnips and rutabagas are generally the best quality (mild and tender). Turnips would be approximately 2 to 3 inches in diameter. Rutabagas would be approximately 3 to 5 inches in diameter.

Tips and Warnings

  • A little frost can add flavor to turnips, but frozen ground will kill the plant or damage the roots. Do not plant turnips in the same location more than once every 3-4 years. This helps reduce disease.

Things You'll Need

  • Turnip seeds
  • pH Test strips
  • Tiller
  • Compost
  • Rake
  • Water
  • Mulch


  • Turnip; National Gardening Association
  • Turnip/Rutabaga; University of Illinois
  • Turnips; Cornell University

Who Can Help

  • Turnip Varieties
Keywords: grow turnips, rutabagas, vegetable garden

About this Author

Angie Briggs has been a health and fitness writer since 2006. Her articles have been published on eHow, LIVESTRONG.COM and GardenGuides. She graduated from Thompson Institute with a diploma as a computer support specialist and received certification from CareerStep as a medical transcriptionist and medical language specialist.

Photo by: clayirving/