Turnips are a versatile and nutritious root vegetable that can be a great addition to your garden. Growing turnips is relatively easy, and they can thrive in various types of soil and climate conditions. In this article, you’ll learn the basic steps to successfully grow turnips in your own garden and enjoy their unique flavour in your meals.
Turnips prefer a lot of nitrogen in the soil, so you need to make sure your soil is nice and rich. I like to do this by mulching with some homemade compost and then adding some 6x chicken manure in to boot.
You can sow undercover for an early start or direct sow turnips where they are to grow a little later in the year.
Sow undercover anytime in spring, if sowing outdoors, then sow from May onwards.
When sowing outdoors, I like to sow in shallow drills, just a couple of cm deep. Space your rows 20-25cm apart. When seedlings start developing true leaves, then thin them to roughly 10cm apart.
Planting in Containers
If you’re short on garden space or prefer to grow turnips in containers, choose pots that are at least 30 cm in diameter and 30 cm deep. Fill them with a well-draining, nutrient-rich potting mix, and follow the same seeding, spacing, and thinning guidelines as mentioned above.
Remember to water your turnips regularly, ensuring the soil remains moist but not soggy. Container plants often require more frequent watering than those grown in the ground, so keep an eye on the soil’s moisture level and adjust your watering schedule accordingly.
Growing turnips successfully requires proper care, including appropriate watering, feeding, and protecting your plants from pests.
Regular watering is crucial for your turnips’ growth. Make sure the soil remains consistently moist, but not soggy, as too much water can cause the roots to rot. If you’re uncertain whether to water your turnips, check the soil’s moisture an fingers depth below the surface – if it feels dry, give your plants a drink.
As I mentioned before, turnips can be hungry plants. I don’t tend to feed mine during the season as I find the 6x I add at the start is enough.
If you don’t add anything like that, then a high-nitrogen feed during the season is a good idea. It is also a good idea to regularly feed container-growing turnips.
Turnips can be affected by various pests, such as flea beetles and aphids. Flea beetles are often your main problem.
The easiest way to protect against flea beetles is by netting your plants with an insect-proof mesh. Enviromesh works really well for this.
Turnips can also be susceptible to certain diseases such as clubroot and white rust. Proper management and preventative measures can help minimise disease risks and keep your turnips healthy.
- Clubroot – This soil-borne disease affects turnips and other members of the brassica family. Infected plants exhibit swollen root deformities that stunt growth. To prevent clubroot, ensure good drainage in your garden and use disease-free seed. Implement crop rotation, avoiding planting brassicas in the same spot for at least two years.
- White Rust – Caused by a fungus, white rust leads to white or grey spots on turnip leaves. Good sanitation practices like removing infected leaves, maintaining healthy levels of nutrients, and avoiding overhead watering can help you manage white rust issues effectively.
Regular weeding is essential with turnips, especially when they are young. much like onions, any weeds will out-compete your turnips so it is essential you keep your plants weed-free.
An onion hoe works well for weeding between your turnip rows.
Smaller turnips can be harvested once they reach golf ball size whereas larger varieties can be left in the ground to grow much bigger.
You can also harvest the leaves for leafy greens.
Storing and Keeping Fresh
Turnips don’t store too well, so I like to harvest them as and when I have a plan for how I am going to use them. Also, try to avoid gluts by sowing little and often rather than all at once.