How To Grow Turnips

Plant Type: Grown as Annual
Scientific Name: Brassic rapa var. rapa
Light: Full sun
Soil Type: Well drained, high in organic, sandy, loam
Soil Temperature: 50° +
ph Range: 5.5 – 7.0
Watering: Consistent moisture
Plant (Payson): Mar 1 – May 1 / August 1 – September 1
Planting Method: Seed
Germination(days): 4 – 7 days @ 45°
Transplant: Not recommended
Maturity(days): 30 – 60 days
Common Pests: Flea beetles, cabbage loopers/worms, aphids
Common Diseases: Mosaic virus, black leg, black rot, club foot


Turnips have been around for at least 4,000 years and in more recent times have been used as livestock forage.  They have more vitamin A and calcium than potatoes, in fact more in the leaves than the root.  Like most root crops, turnips will have a sweeter flavor after 1-2 frosts. 
Hot weather will make the roots bitter and woody while the leaves will become tough. 

Turnips are cool season vegetables that prefer sunny locations and fertile, deep, well-drained soils.  The foliage of turnips is also a useful green vegetable with more nutrition than the root.

preparing soil for turnip

bone meal


Cultivate deeply and remove any large debris or stones.  Add good compost and bone meal to the planting area.  Choose a location that will never be stepped on—roots will be stunted if the soil is compacted.



Turnips do not transplant well so sow seed where you intend to grow them.

Turnips don’t germinate well in warm soil—exactly when they should be started for fall/winter harvesting.   Seeds can be pre-germinated in the refrigerator by placing them between sheets of moistened paper towels for a week before planting them.

Before planting, incorporate 2 to 4 inches of well-composted organic matter and apply ½ cup of all-purpose fertilizer per 10-foot row.  Work this into the top 6 inches of soil.

Seeds should be planted ¼” (spring) to ½” (fall) deep and thinned when plants have three to four leaves. Seeds can also be broadcast and thinned to three or four inches apart or planted in rows 18 inches apart. Thin to 4-6” apart to produce roots or leave them thick for leaf production. 

turnip seedlings row



Mulching around the plants when the leaves are about 5 inches long helps to conserve soil moisture and keep the weeds down.  Water fluctuations can cause root disorders, woody roots and bitter flavor. 

Turnips will split if moisture is inconsistent, ie. Wet, then dry, then wet etc.  Mulching will alleviate the problem as well as stop any weed competition.

Water regularly.  Consistent moisture will produce a good, well-flavored, tender crop while lack of moisture will make the roots fibrous and strong tasting.


A slow release organic fertilizer applied at planting time is all that’s needed.


Keep weeds down by hoeing or hand-cultivating. Weed early to prevent competition, then mulch.


Diseases are shared with all cabbage family members.  Crop rotation, quick removal of infected plants and keeping your plot free of plant debris are your best defense.

Aphids, cabbage worms and flea beetles. 


Harvest leaves at any time.  Remember the root won’t grow if it doesn’t have enough leaves for photosynthesis.  Harvest roots before they’re 5” inches or they may be woody.  Root flavor is enhanced after a few frosts.

Roots mature 60 to 80 days after seeding.  Use a digging fork to loosen soil and pull up plants by the tops.  Start harvesting when the turnip root is 2 inches.  Turnips are tolerant of frost.  Many gardeners overwinter turnips under a layer of mulch.   

canned turnips 142x150


Remove soil from turnips with a vegetable brush and running water.  Store for two weeks in the refrigerator or, after blanching, 8 to 10 months in the freezer.

They will keep for months left in the garden with a mulch layer over the top.  Or leave them for your livestock.


freezing turnips

 Helpful Links

To aid in your gardening success, here are some useful, trusted links for more information on turnips.

How To Mulch Your Garden | Types of Mulch - The Almanac

What Is Mulch | How To Use 8 Types in Your Garden - The Spruce

How To Mulch Your Garden In The Fall - The Spruce

Please remember Payson Community Garden is an organic garden. Some of these sites may contain recommendations for non-organic products. Please see this website or Plant Fair Nursery website for a list of recommended products
that meet the organic standards of Payson Community Garden.

BACK to Spring Vegetables BACK to Summer Vegetables