It can always be a bit of a surprise when you learn that the entire part of a plant is edible. While you may be familiar with eating turnips, the leafy green part of the plant can also be eaten. Learn when to plant turnips and how to harvest turnip greens.
When to plant turnip greens: This cool-weather crop can be planted in the spring and the fall. Plant turnip seeds two weeks before the last spring frost date and four weeks before the first fall frost date. You can then harvest the turnip greens about four to six weeks after planting.
Planting Turnip Greens in Different Climates
Turnip greens need a nice, cool temperature to grow. If the weather becomes too warm, the leaves will bolt, or turn to flower, and will become inedible. A tropical climate is too warm for turnip greens.
Growing turnip greens in a dry climate are quite difficult. The plants need moist soil to thrive.
In a temperate climate, you can grow turnips twice a year, in the spring and the fall, and have nice, long growing seasons. Harvest your turnip greens early and they might be able to grow again for a second harvest in the same season.
Growing turnip greens in a continental climate are possible but you will have a shorter season. You will need to wait until later in the spring and plant earlier in the fall to work around the very hot summers and very cold winters.
It can be hard to grow turnip greens in a polar climate as they do need sunshine. However, as a cool-weather crop, you might have success if your climate isn’t too extreme.
Choosing Turnip Green Seeds
This variety creates nice, tender leaves that are perfect for eating raw. You can use the turnip greens in salads and for best results, try to harvest when the leaves are about 3 inches long.
Seven top Turnips
This variety produces very dark leaves that are rich in nutrients. Unlike other varieties of turnips, the roots aren’t edible, and instead, all the growing energy is put into the greens.
Another excellent variety for turnip greens, you can start harvesting four or five weeks after planting. Furthermore, the leaves will often regrow after being picked so you have a long, continual harvest period.
How to Plant Turnip Green Seeds
As a cool-weather crop, you get two opportunities to plant turnip greens. The first is in the spring and the second is in the fall.
For spring planting, you can plant your turnip seeds about two weeks before the last spring frost date. This should be late March to early April for most people.
For fall planting, you can start the seeds off about four weeks before the first frost date. This will be around late September or early October for more regions.
The biggest thing to remember with planting is that turnip greens will quickly start to wilt once it gets hot out. Furthermore, fall-planted turnip greens have a sweeter taste to them and, because the weather is cooling down, there will be fewer issues with pests.
Full sun is best for turnip greens. Even though they prefer cooler temperatures, they won’t grow very well in partial or full shade.
As for soil, work in a decent amount of compost before planting. You want the soil to be nice and workable so that the shallow roots of turnips are able to grow out and the turnip itself can also grow.
Drainage is also an important factor when it comes to location. The soil should be moist but not have pooling water. Even if you are more concerned about turnip greens, if the turnip itself is not healthy, the whole plant will collapse.
There is a bit of a decision you need to make about fertilizer. While it is suggested to use a fertilizer that is low in nitrogen, this is to prevent the turnip greens from becoming too large.
However, if you care more about turnip greens than turnips themselves, then you can use a more balanced fertilizer.
It is best to simply start with turnip greens when planting. The seeds do not transplant very well so you can save time and energy by direct sowing.
Furthermore, turnip seeds germinate very quickly. Within a week you should see tiny plants emerge from the ground.
Plant your turnip seeds so that they are about ¼ of an inch deep. They are quite small so you only need to cover them with a thin layer of soil.
Try to space the seeds about 1 inch apart. However, you can also choose to scatter the seeds and then thin them out once they start to grow.
How to Water Turnip Greens
Turnips prefer soil that is nice and moist, so you want to keep up a steady amount of water. However, you don’t want the soil to become too wet as it can create root rot.
Planting in the spring and fall should allow you to sit back a bit with water as these are normally wet seasons. However, if you live in a dryer area, you will need to supplement with extra water.
How to Grow Turnip Greens
In early spring, pests can be a problem for turnips, especially if you are interested in harvesting the greens. While they might leave the turnips underground alone, they will attack the leafy greens.
To prevent pests from taking over your harvest, you can install a row cover. Place this over the ground after you sow your seeds as it will allow sunlight in but will prevent bugs from getting in.
As you can imagine, turnips can grow to be quite large underground and the greens can really spread out above the surface. Once your turnip greens are about 4 inches high, you want to thin the plants so that there are about 4 inches between them.
Weeding is an important step in caring for your turnips. However, the roots can be quite sensitive when the plants are young, so you need to be very careful about disturbing the soil.
After your turnip greens start to grow, you can add a thick layer of mulch to the area. This will help with weed suppression and will also help the soil retain its moisture.
Once your turnip greens start to flower, which is called bolting, they are no longer edible. It is important to prevent your plant from bolting too quickly so that you have a longer harvesting opportunity.
Constant water will help prevent bolting as once the plant is too stressed from warm temperatures, it will want to turn to seed.
The same goes for a lack of nutrients in your garden. By adequately preparing the soil, you can make sure your turnip greens stay edible for a lot longer.
Harvesting turnip greens can take a bit more planning but once you understand the steps, it is quite easy. The trick is to not harvest the whole plant at once.
After a month of growing, the tops of turnips, the greens, are ready to harvest. However, the actual turnips that grow underground will not be ready for another month.
Harvesting turnip greens in small amounts will not affect the turnips themselves. Therefore, you can have a two-month harvest season where you get to enjoy the entire plant.
In order to protect your crop from being ruined by early bolting, pay attention to weather forecasts. If there is a prediction for early, hot summer, you will want to pick as many turnip greens as you can while they are still edible.
How to harvest turnip greens
Smaller, younger turnip greens will have a sweeter, more tender taste to them. You can harvest them when they are only a few inches tall.
Try to cut the leaves off so that there are 2 inches left above the ground. If you harvest early enough, these leaves may grow again later in the season.
If you are only interested in turnip greens, you can harvest as many as you like. However, if you also want to eat the turnips, you need to leave plenty of leaves on the plant so that the root will grow.
Interestingly, fall turnip greens will have a sweeter taste if you wait until after the first frost to harvest them. However, if you wait too long, until after there is a hard freeze, then the whole plant will be damaged.
How long do turnip greens take to grow?
Turnip greens only take a month to be ready. The seeds germinate quickly, often popping through the ground after a week.
While the turnips themselves aren’t ready for harvest until two months after planting, the greens are ready earlier.
Turnip greens are an excellent source of nutrients. You can plant turnips in the spring and the fall and only have to wait about a month before turnip greens are ready for harvest.