How To Grow Turnip Plants:
Turnips are extremely easy to grow compared to many other crops that you can choose to grow in your garden. This crop is the easiest to grow in late fall months. As the nights get longer and cooler the turnips grow to have leaves that are more crisp and sweet than they would be if grown during hotter, summer months. Even better the leaves continue to regenerate multiple times after they are harvested.
If you wish to grow these plants during cooler weather in the springtime, plant them early when temperatures are still cooler outside. As days grow longer they will encourage the turnip plant to produce more flowers and seeds instead of new leaves. When the weather turns hotter during summer months, these plants will not grow as well as the hot weather will cause its greens to have a terribly strong, bitter taste.
Seed Sowing Depth: Turnip seeds should be planted approximately 1/2 of an inch deep and should have about 4 to 6 inches of space between each cluster of seeds to allow them to grow optimally. Moreover, each row should be planted about 12" or 1' apart to allow adequate growing room.
When To Sow: Turnip seeds are best sown in late months of the summer into the early fall as days get shorter and nights get longer as well as temperatures in general get cooler. Planting them about 2 to 4 weeks after frosts are over in the springtime is recommended and then again from late-August to mid-October when the first freeze of the fall hits are when these crops will flourish the most.
This is the same time you will plant other crops such as collards and kale to name a couple.
Sowing Indoors/Outdoors: Turnips can be grown inside on your windowsill, but you will need a large container that is at least 2 gallons in size as plants will "bush out" as it grows and matures. Due to their need for such a large planter, it's oftentimes easier to just grow these plants outside where there is more natural room for it to grow. Plus, the turnips will thrive throughout longer, cooler nights in the fall and spring months. They also require quite a substantial amount of water, so at the risk of not flooding your container on your windowsill, planting them outside keeps any unnecessary messes out of your house.
Plants Heights & Widths: Turnip plants will end up growing with their bulb at the base just underneath the dirt and bulbs will usually be about 2-3 inches in diameter and leaves will usually extend about 12" or 1' above the soil. Longer leaves will be on the outside, and shorter, smaller leaves will be more toward the middle of the plant, similar in which way a head of lettuce grows.
Crop Description/Colors: Turnips are root-based plants with light purple bulbs that grow just beneath the surface of the soil. Leaves that extend upward about 12" or 1' are a light-to-medium-green in color and are ready to harvest rapidly, usually within 30 to 60 days of planting. Leaves, which are edible, will continue to produce once snipped back and will generally produce leaves till the frosts begin to come during winter months. These crops will turn to have a very strong taste and be bitter in flavor as the weather gets to the hotter summer months.
Growth Habits: Turnips are plants that grow very rapidly and will be ready to harvest within 30 to 60 days after they are planted. They like long, cool nights and shorter, cooler days which means planting them 2 to 4 weeks after the final frost in the spring is ideal. If you miss that time frame and want to plant them again from mid-August to around Halloween is a great time to plant them again. During the hottest parts of summer, if you plant turnips expect the leaves to turn very strong in flavor and to have a bitter taste to them that not many people will like.
General Information on This Crop & Their Uses: Turnips are rather low-maintenance plants that don't take a ton of extra work to grow. Most beginner gardeners, even those without a great green-thumb, can manage to grow turnips in their gardens with relative ease. They grow fast and require a lot of water. Turnips will be mature and ready to harvest within 30 to 60 days of being planted and prefer cooler weather with longer nights to grow in.
Turnips are edible by humans, which is true for both their bulbs and their leaves. In parts of Europe, there are cold-pressed juices that use turnip juice, mixed along with juices of purple carrots to which spices are added. They tout a variety of health benefits of that juice. In the Middle East, turnips are often served pickled. In the US, turnips are viewed as a root vegetable and are served most frequently as they continue mature in the late autumn or early winter months. Greens of turnips are often harvested and eaten year-around. Stewed turnip greens are often seasoned and served with liquors in the US (alcohol cooks off when brought to temperature).
Pests & Diseases: The most common problem turnips will have with pests and diseases is a fungal condition called altarnia black leaf spot where there are small black spots that appear on the leaves of turnips and they decay the plant killing off most leaves and eventually eating through to roots at the bulb, killing the entire plant and rendering it unable to be harvested or eaten.
Other conditions that can plague turnip plants include several other types of fungi as well as a condition called black root which are lesions on the roots that cut off nutrients to the plant and usually kill off the crop. Turnips are also susceptible to root maggots which also eat the roots and kill off the plant.
While it is important to remember that most turnip plants grow without a problem and are quite a hearty choice of plants to grow in your garden, issues can come up with any plant and these are some of the most common plaguing the turnip plant.
Harvesting Info & Storage: Turnips are harvested by clipping all leaves cleanly at bulbs near the root to allow them to grow back time and time again. Leaves will continue to grow back and provide you with great produce throughout their growing season. Most turnips will have leaves ready to harvest every 7-10 days during the growing season. When the growing season ends, harvesting the bulbs that are the turnip themselves provide more edible nourishment for humans to consume.
Turnip leaves should be rinsed in cool water after they are harvested and can be stored for 4 to 5 days in plastic food storage bags. Turnip leaves should be kept refrigerated until consumed. Some leaves may keep for up to 2 to 3 weeks before they will begin to go bad.
Turnip roots can be stored in root cellars to be kept for the winter and into the next growing season, however, the same cannot be said for their greens, which need to be used more immediately.
Edible Uses & Flavors: Turnips are edible as are their leaves. The leaves are typically used in the US for things like additions to stews or soups, or are grilled or sauteed as greens and served alongside a meal. There are some people who enjoy mixing them into salads and enjoying them raw, which is completely safe to do long as you rinse them first
Turnip roots are safe to store in a root cellar, or in a cool dry place throughout the winter months. The roots of turnips are often cut up and served as a root vegetable alongside dishes that are cooked and served throughout both autumn and winter months after they are harvested.
History of Turnips in Gardening & Popularity: Turnips have long been a crop that people have chosen to grow in their gardens due to the ease of growing them and the edible nature of both having leaves and roots fit for human consumption. Some studies show that turnips were grown back early as 15th century BC and have been mainstays in gardens throughout Europe and the US as well as other parts of the world ever since. However, as it's been grown for so long, there are no specific records of the turnip and it's domestication as a garden plant and a part of the human diet. Although, most researchers believe that it is reasonable to think that people have been enjoying turnips and their greens as part of their diet for some time.
People continue to enjoy turnips and their greens as part of their diet even today. More and more people continue to grow these plants in their garden as they realize they are low maintenance and are easy to use in their daily cooking, whether that's in soups or stews or as root vegetables that are sides to a main course to a meal.