Whether you grow them for their greens or the root they are best when harvested in cooler temperatures. You can plant turnips in the midsummer time and have them ready in the autumn months. Turnips also make for a great spring crop in your home vegetable garden.
Turnip seeds are a small to medium sized seed and should be planted no deeper than ½”. A ¼” will suffice as it will not be too much soil on top so it can produce enough energy to break through. It is not recommended that you start turnip seeds indoors. In fact you really don’t have to. When the fear of frost in your area subsides, start planting.
The soil temperature range for turnips is very wide. Although many experts believe that 85 degrees Fahrenheit is the best temperature for the seeds to germinate, some studies have shown the soil can be as low as fifty degrees Fahrenheit. If you are planting in the early spring where the soil will still be a bit cold, you can heat up the soil by laying a clear plastic tarp over it which allows the sun to warm it up, but prevents the cool winds from hitting it.
Turnips germinate quickly under optimal conditions. What are optimal conditions? Good soil, temperatures in a range that the seeds can tolerate and a pH level, discussed in the next section, that is slightly acidic, and good spacing. When you can meet these conditions you can get your turnip seeds to germinate in as little as 2 days, however for most of us, 5 is more likely.
This is the measurement of how acidic or alkaline your soil is. The scale ranges from zero up to fourteen. Anything below seven is considered acidic and anything above seven is considered alkaline. Seven is neutral. Your turnips like the soil to be a bit more acidic. They will do best in the 5.5 to 6.5 range. Invest in a good pH soil tester. It will help you out immensely.
You will find spacing requirements for your turnip seeds on the back of your seed packets. We only sell one type and those are the purple top white globe variety. They like to be spaced out at least four inches for optimal room to grow.
Turnips do best with a moderate watering that is more even and steady. In other words do not over or underwater. And although they can tolerate light shade, they grow best in full sun.
If you are like me and practice crop rotation and companion planting, avoid following all crops in the cabbage family in a rotation. Turnips grow well next to onions and peas, however avoid potatoes.
So the time has come to harvest the turnips. If you are growing them for the greens, you can start when the plants are still young, although you do not want to take too many of the greens as the root of the turnip will suffer. The greens are great in salads and soups. If you are harvesting the turnip for the root, anytime it is one to three inches in diameter you are ready. If you let them get too big they may develop too strong of a flavor.
If you are a fan of turnips or their greens, and have not grown any for yourself…what are you waiting for! They are easy to grow and because they are a cooler weather crop you can grow them in the early spring and again for the fall.
About the Author
Mike Podlesny is the author of Vegetable Gardening for the Average Person: A Guide to Vegetable Gardening for the rest of us, the moderator for the largest vegetable gardening page on Facebook and creator of the Seeds Club.
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