Planting, Growing, and Harvesting Turnips


Turnips are a delicious root vegetable that you can grow in your own backyard.



Rate this Article: 

Average: 3.4 (98 votes)

Turnips are cool-weather vegetables that can be grow in both spring and in fall, avoiding the hot summer months. They mature very rapidly and you can enjoy both the greens and the roots. Try this ancient root vegetable that’s been grown for over 3,000 years.

Turnips are hardy biennials usually grown as annuals by the home gardener. We enjoy them most as an autumn crop, seeded in late summer, because they are usually sweeter and more tender than spring crops—and pests are less problematic.

What’s wonderful about turnips is that they germinate in only a few days. Within a month, you can enjoy their bright greens, and within a second month, you can eat the swollen roots. Try them as a substitute for potatoes.


When to Seed

  • For a late spring harvest, sow turnip seeds directly in the garden as soon as the ground is workable, usually 2 to 3 weeks before the average last frost date. 
  • For an autumn harvest, sow turnips in late summer. Sow after summer crops of onions, squash, beans or sweet corn.
  • You can also sow seeds in early autumn for a late autumn harvest.

Planting Instructions

  • Turnips are seeded directly into the ground; they do not transplant well.
  • Select a site that gets full sun.
  • Soil should be well-draining and loosened to a depth of 12 to 15 inches.
  • In advance, mix in a 2- to 4-inch layer of compost or aged manure. Add sand to heavy, clay soil.
  • Scatter turnip seed. Do not cover the seeds with more than ½ an inch of soil.
  • Once seedlings are 4 inches high, thin them to 4 to 6 inches apart. Space wide rows 12 inches apart.
  • Thin turnips grown for greens from 2 to 3 inches apart (or, some of us don’t bother thinning for greens at all).


  • Keep the beds weed free.
  • Mulch heavily.
  • Turnips do not need much care but consistent soil moisture is important. Keep soil lightly moist, watering at a rate of 1 inch per week to prevent the roots from becoming tough and bitter.



  • Harvest some turnips very early as turnip greens. The leaves taste best when young and tender.
  • Harvest early types after about 5 weeks; maincrop types after 6 to 10 weeks.
  • Harvest turnips at any size you wish, however, the small, young turnips are nicer and more tender.
  • For fall turnips, consider harvesting just after a light frost (but before a hard freeze) for a sweeter taste. 
  • Store for up to 3 or 4 months in a cool outdoor place covered with straw.

Recommended Varieties

Wit & Wisdom

Turnips like a dry bed but a wet head.

Young turnips are so tender that you can peel and eat them just as you would an apple.

Turnips are often confused with rutabagas because they are similar, and people like to plant them together. The two root vegetables grow well under the same conditions, but rutabagas take four weeks longer to mature.

Many turnips are grown not for the root itself but for the turnip greens, which can be cooked or used raw in salads. Younger turnip greens will not be as bitter as mature leaves. 

For other greens to use in your cuisine, see the Leafy Greens: Health Benefits page.


Cooking Notes

If you’re wondering how to cook turnips, you’re not alone. Both the turnip greens and roots are very nutritious. Turnip roots should generally be peeled and sliced before using them. Both turnip roots and turnip greens are usually cooked, but can also be enjoyed raw.

Reader Comments

Leave a Comment

Turnip Planting

I am starting a food plot using turnips. Plot is 8000 to 10000 square feet. Any thoughts on how many lbs of seed needed using a broadcast spreader?

Turnips flowered

My turnips have flowered, can I still eat the turnip bulb?

turnip bolting

Once the turnip goes to flower/seed, the root becomes woody and tough and isn’t suitable for eating. Turnips are biennials, so they will naturally flower and go to seed (called bolting) the second year. Occasionally, though, they may bolt the first year if the plant is under stress, such exposed to extreme temperatures (both cold or hot) or lacks enough nutrients or water.

Turnip storage

I grow 60 acres of turnips. This year we are experimenting with a harvester. To harvest we had to use a topper first to top the leaves. There is still approx 3" of stalk left on top. Can we store these with that stalk still on them.

topping off turnips

Hi, Pat, We checked a few sources and they advises cutting the tops off about ½ inch from the crown (this is also recommended for carrots). A couple advise trimming to 1 inch (or at least 1 inch), the point being that you do not want to cut into the turnip. At least one source advised leaving 1 to 2 inches of tops. That’s all we’ve turned up …

Turnip planting

What time of the year do I need to plant Turnip Seeds?? I have never planted but Love to eat them raw but like the smaller ones so they are not bitter. What kind do you recommend to buy!!
Thank You,
Carol Johnson

turn in for turnips

Carol, turnips grow best in temps from 40°F to 75°F, so not in the heat of winter. The best time to plant is in early spring, two to three weeks before your last spring frost date. Put your zip code in here to learn more about that: http://www.almanac.com/gardening/frostdates/zipcode/03444

Several varieties are mentioned above. In spring, you can also visit a nursery/gardening store and inquire about the seed varieties they have. In the meantime, consider signing up with one of the seed catalog companies (Fedco is one; google it and “seed catalog” for even more) and get on the list for a catalog.


What i was wondering is,
can you cut off just the greens and let the turnips keep growing?

small turnips

Having a difficult time getting the turnips to get to a decent size. I have planted diferent places but they are small and will not grow to any decent size.

Turning around your turnips

Chris, this could be a couple of things:

• what’s your soil pH? it should be 5.5 to 6.8.

• is your soil rich with organic matter—compost, aged manure? Turnips like rich soil.

• turnips thrive in cool temps—45°F to 75°F.

• turnips like moisture; esp in the early stages, don’t let the soil dry out.

• keep the bed weed free.

It doesn’t sound like garden pests or disease are your problem. The first best guess is soil, and everything follows.

We hope this helps!


are cooked mashed turnips the

are cooked mashed turnips the same the next day? or do they become bitter the next day? (i am preparing an emiril recipe for tomorrow, and would like to prepare this evening)

We hope your turnips were

We hope your turnips were good. You can prepare mashed turnips ahead of time and store in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Just reheat in the microwave or in a low temp. oven.

what is meant by wet head dry

what is meant by wet head dry bed?


When do I plant turnip greens

I didn't see mustard greens

I didn't see mustard greens in the list of vegetables, do I follow the same instructions as turnips and if not when do I plant them? I live in south Louisiana

Hi, Paula: Your instincts are

Hi, Paula: Your instincts are absolutely correct! Mustard and turnip have many of the same growing requirements... and you can plant your greens right now! Thanks for asking!

How do I harvest and store

How do I harvest and store the seedlings?

Just to make sure I'm

Just to make sure I'm understanding, do you mean to store the very young green plant? If so I have no experience there. How ever if you are storing the root. Wipe dry and store in a cool dry place or in frige for months. The greens, store unwashed and loosely bagged in fridge for up to a week.

I tried growing turnips in

I tried growing turnips in plastic bags but the leaves were growing very healthily and I was thinking I will get good turnips but I was disappointed to see very small bulbs. What is the reason?

One possibility is that the

One possibility is that the variety grown was one developed specifically for harvesting the tops for turnip greens. Some of these types, such as 'Alltop', grow a small bulb.
Some varieties that are grown for their root are intended to be harvested when they are quite small, such as 1 or 2 inches in diameter. Check the recommended harvesting size for your variety.
Be careful about spacing. If turnip roots are overcrowded, they will be small or malformed.

what if anything do you put

what if anything do you put in the seeds to keep them from being planted to thick?

Yes, the turnip seeds are

Yes, the turnip seeds are very small!
It's best to plant thickly in a straight, narrow line. Cover the seeds about ½ inch deep. Then you'll need to "thin" the seedlings once they emerge. Water lightly and frequently for good germination.

hi would like to plant some

hi would like to plant some mustar green, in my raised bed,but can not find the seeds at my local stores, got any suggestions,

I typed Mustard Greens Seeds

I typed Mustard Greens Seeds into amazon.com and what do you know? There are a bunch of garden stores there. If you can't find at your local garden store, you could call your local county cooperative extension for advice.

Today is January 21st, and

Today is January 21st, and I'm located in southern Virginia. I have raised garden beds that work as greenhouses for the early and late seasons (the plastic comes off when it warms up enough). Can I plant my Purple Top White Globe's now, or should I wait? Recall, they will be in a greenhouse condition.

Hi Barry, The Purple Top

Hi Barry,
The Purple Top White Globe turnips are extremely hardy and it's recommended to plant the seeds as soon as possible in the spring for an early harvest. You can plant the seeds now and just be careful that the temps. don't get too warm in your "greenhouse" on sunny days.

i have planted purple top

i have planted purple top turnips. they are beautiful and taste wonderful. turnips are a little strong but otherwise very tasty. my question is with them being good size both greens and turnips should i harvest both the greens and turnips as we are expecting below freezing temperatures tonight and for two days more?

Turnips are best as a fall

Turnips are best as a fall crop but can withstand several light freezes. Frost actually improves the flavor. You can harvest them now if you like and store them in cool, dark place to enjoy during the winter months. Or you can add some mulch over the tops and harvest as you need them.

Why would a turnip grow

Why would a turnip grow entirely above the ground...are they edible. I have elongated pink bulb like turnips with lovely greens...what is the cause of this type of growth?

Hi, Kate: Something like this

Hi, Kate: Something like this is usually caused because the turnips were stressed. They were planted too far outside cold enough weather (i.e., it was too warm for them) or something is bothering their roots, like a pest of some sort. Or the soil could be unusually rich (sometimes the case) or poor. Carefully dig up a whole root system like an archaeologist and see if the roots can give you a clue. Then eat 'em up, sure!

We planted turnips, they are

We planted turnips, they are great looking sowed them and raked them in. Not too deep as said. There are great greens and no bulbs.Greens are 12 in tall or less. Why no turnip ? We have a lg. bed of greens only .

Hi, Evelyn, Some possible

Hi, Evelyn, Some possible reasons:
• improper soil pH; it should be 6.0 to 7.5, in fertile organic matter.
• turnips need plentiful, consistent moisture.
• some varieties are grown strictly for their greens and produce poor roots/bulbs. Recommended are Gilfeather, Purple Top White Bloge, and Tokyo Cross.
Hope this helps!



how deep do you plant the

how deep do you plant the turnip seed? and how many days to harvest.

Read above: Do not cover the

Read above: Do not cover the seeds with more than 1/2 an inch of soil.
Turnips have a maturity date of 40 to 60 days, depending on the variety.

i planted my swedish turnips

i planted my swedish turnips in late april. some of them have started flowering now. have i left them in to late? i read o another site someone sayinf when they flower, you have left them in the ground to long so i have been tryin to find out but i cant seem to find any info online to help me :(

Turnips can grow in spring

Turnips can grow in spring but you have to get them in really early to keep them from flowering. We'd set them in the ground 2 to 4 weeks before the last spring frost. It's even easier to grow turnips in the fall when the days and nights get cooler and longer.

By swedish turnips, I think

By swedish turnips, I think galeb2 means what you statesiders call Rutabaga. In which case you'll need to sow in May or June so that they are forming turnips in fall. They're vulnerable to all sorts of pests and drought, so deep well drained soil, constantly moist but not wet, and plenty of pest protection.

when is the best time to

when is the best time to plant turnips in the fall

Turnips can be planted any

Turnips can be planted any time during the summer until about 70 days before a killing frost so that they have time to grow.

soft turnips

what causes turnips to get soft only after aday. I am experimenting for a fall harvest to place in root cellar. they are great tasting, sweet, but in a day after I place a few on my outdoor table they got soft. I did not cut off greens could that be the problem?

Yes, you should remove the

Yes, you should remove the turnips greens. Turnips should not be left out at room temperature as this will cause them to wilt and become limp. Like any root vegetable, they require a cool, dark, dry environment for storage.
Good luck!

Botanical Name: 

Brassica rapa Rapifera Group

Plant Type: 

Sun Exposure: 

Soil Type: 

Hardiness Zone: 

Keep Your New Garden Growing

keepgardengrowingcover.jpgTop 10 Veggies.
Almanac Editors Tips- water, feed, pest control, harvest


You will also be subscribed to our Almanac Companion Newsletter


Solar Energy Production Today

5.20 kWh

Live data from the solar array at The Old Farmer's Almanac offices in Dublin, NH.