This prosaic yet versatile vegetable is delightfully easy to grow in gardens. They mature quickly and so are a great crop to grow if you are impatient to see a yield from your growing space. Turnips can be harvested young or left to mature fully, they can be eaten raw or cooked and even the greens are edible and young tops can be treated like spring greens.

Growing turnips:

Turnip seeds can be sown any time between February and August and can be harvested almost year round, especially if you have a polytunnel or some other protection for your crop. You can plant an early and then a maincrop variety to enjoy turnips in a variety of ways throughout the year.

Turnips will grow best in an area of full sun as in shade they tend to get leafier at the expense of the root. Soil should be fertile and free draining.

Early turnips should be around 15cm apart and maincrop should be thinned to a spacing of about 23cm. After they are growing turnips should be watered well if the weather is too dry as if the roots are allowed to dry out the turnips will be small and woody.

Turnips can suffer from several pests and diseases. Cabbage root fly, flea beetle and other common pests can be stopped by growing turnips under mesh netting. If you have a problem with club root then you should not grow turnips in affected soil. To improve club root problems, amend soil to make it more alkaline and improve the drainage of the area.

Early turnips should be pulled between May and September when they are the size of the golf ball if you want to eat them raw and the size of a tennis ball if you want to cook them. Maincrop turnips can be lifted as soon as they are golf ball sized, from the middle of October onwards.

Why grow turnips in the garden?

Turnips are a great food for any kitchen garden. They provide a double harvest – greens that will regrow if harvested in spring and a root that can be eaten raw or in a variety of cooked dishes. In companion planting, it is said that there is some mutual benefit in planting turnips with peas and turnips can also be used as a low-cost trap crop for pests that would otherwise bother your broccoli.  

Quick Facts

Latin Name
Brassica rapa subsp. rapa