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Past Articles Library | Garden Plants | Grow an Old-Time Root Vegetable-The Turnip

Grow an Old-Time Root Vegetable-The Turnip


Turnips have graced our family table ever since prehistoric times.  Once they came to America, they were valued as a root crop in the south.  Southern plantation owners had a taste for the delicious root while they would allow the help to gather the nutritious leaves.  Today both turnip greens and the turnip root can be found in any local grocery store or Farmers’ Market.

To start your turnips begins with the preparation of the soil.  Turnips like a soil that is rich in organic matter with a pH between 5.5 and 6.8.  To prepare soil, start early and add compost and well-aged manure.

Once the garden soil is prepared, plan when you can begin planting in your area.  Turnips are a cool season crop and grow best when temperatures are 40F to 75F degrees.  If you plant to have a spring crop, you will need to count back two to three weeks from the last frost date.  The date that is calculated is when you can plant your first crop of turnips.

Turnips can be grown several times during the gardening season since they mature in 30 to 60 days.  An early crop can be planted in early spring and harvested in late spring.   Another crop can be planted in early summer and harvested in late summer and then can be reseeded in early autumn for a late autumn harvest.

Turnips do not do well transplanted so it is always better to seed directly into the garden soil.  To do this, simply plant the seeds in trenches that are ½ inch deep and 12 to 24 inches apart.  Thin the seedlings so that they are four to six inches apart twice during the growing season but do not let these plants go to waste.  Thinned seedlings provide a great source for early greens.

Once the seedlings begin to appear, apply a mulch of straw or wood chips.  Turnips can benefit from a side dressing of compost mid-season.  Both of these strategies keep the soil moist and fertilize the plants.  This in turn prevents the turnips from becoming woody, which occurs when the plant dries out and/or grows to slowly.

If you do not have a garden plot, do not worry turnips can be grown in containers.  The trick to container growing is to make sure the pot is at least eight inches deep and wide.  Follow the same planting guidelines and do not let the turnips dry out.  Make sure to place the container in a sunny or partial shade location.

If you choose to plant your turnips in a planter add a designer touch to the plantings by utilizing companion plantings.  Bush beans, and Southern peas are good choices to use for diversity in a container garden.

Turnips suffer from few pests.  Two common pests are aphids and flea beetles.  Aphids can simply be sprayed off or pinch off infected vegetation.  Keeping the weeds down around turnips can control flea beetles.

White rust fungus also attacks turnips and causes small white blisters on the top of the leaf and yellowing on the underside of the leaf.  Treatment is not required for this disease problem.

Turnips can be harvested in 30 to 60 days after seeding.  To harvest the root, simply pull it out of the ground or careful lift up with a garden fork.  The turnips you choose to harvest should be two to three inches in diameter.

Once harvested, cut off the leaves and store them in the refrigerator for up to one week.  Place roots in the refrigerator for up to two months worth of storage or place in a cool, damp environment for up to five months.


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When to Water

If you can, it is always best to water early in the morning. This allows the plant's leaves and flowers to dry off as the day warms up.

If you water at night, the plant stays wet for hours in the cool, which are prime conditions for fungi and other problems to set in.

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