Turnips are a nutritious root vegetable that also produces delicious leafy turnip greens. They are quick growing and you can harvest the young and tender greens throughout the growing season. Turnip roots take 40-60 days to mature.
Turnips are a cool-weather vegetable, but when’s the best time to plant turnips? The golden rule when growing turnips is to avoid the hot weather in summer. You can sow the seeds directly in the ground in spring before the last frost date. Otherwise, plant in late summer, or early fall.
Planting Turnips in Different Climates
The Köppen climate classification divides world climates into five main groups. The classification is based on seasonal rainfall and temperature patterns. The five groups are:
But there’s another classification system that gardeners like to use.
Plant Hardiness Zones
Defined by temperature, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) plant hardiness zone map is the accepted standard for growers and home gardeners. It’s a very easy tool to determine which plants will grow best in the various temperature zones.
It’s an interactive map and if you type in your ZIP code, you’ll find out immediately what your hardiness zone is.
There are a total of 13 zones, with a 10°F difference between each zone. Zone 1 is the coldest zone and Zone 13 is the hottest.
Zone 1. -60 to -50°F (-51.1 to -45.6°C)
Zone 13. 60 to 70°F (15.6°C to 21°C)
It’s important to realize that the different states don’t fall into just one planting zone. The same applies to other countries, including Canada, that have gardening zones for hardiness and heat.
When it comes to turnips, you can plant the seeds in early spring or in the fall, as long as it’s at least 70 days before the first frost date.
Examples of States in Different Planting Zones
Amazingly, turnips and turnip greens grow successfully in USDA zones 2 to 11. That’s just about anywhere!
Zone 2. -50 to -40°F (-45.6 to -40°C)
Zone 11. 40 to 50°F (4.4 to 10°C)
Here are a few examples of different planting zones in a small selection of diverse U.S. states. We’ve added some recommended planting dates to help you identify how it works.
Located in the northwest corner of North America, Alaska is closer to Canada than to the rest of the United States. The largest state in the U.S., Alaska’s largest city is in the Arctic Circle.
This doesn’t mean that the entire state experiences a polar climate. Far from it! Part of the state has a cold, dry, polar climate, while Central Alaska has a dry continental climate.
Most of the northern parts of Alaska are in zones 1a to 3a. In the south, most areas are in zones 2b to 4b, but there are areas in the far south that fall into zones 5a to 8b.
Alaska’s largest city, Anchorage, has a subarctic climate with a relatively mild, dry summer. According to the local climate station, the last spring frost date is May 4.
This means it’s cool (literally and figuratively) to plant your turnips in April.
The Hawaiin Islands, in the Pacific Ocean about 2,800 miles (4,400 km) southwest of the U.S. continent, have the hottest climate in the country.
While it is generally identified as having a tropical climate, its zones range from 9a to 13a. In reality, there are four of the Köppen climate types
There are huge temperature variations on different islands especially in various parts of the two largest islands, Maui and Hawa II. Average minimums range from 20 to 65°F (-6.7 to 18.3°C) depending on where you are.
A very old, but interesting, garden planning paper offered by the University of Hawaii shows that turnips can be planted all year round. But other sources reckon February is the best month!
Located in the center of the U.S.continent, Kansas has areas that are in zones 5b to 7a. This means that average minimum temperatures range from -15 to 5°F (-26.1 to -15°C).
The climate of Kansas is described as temperate but continental.
The University of Kansas recommends that you plant turnip seeds in mid-to-late March (spring) or late July to early August (fall).
In the south-east of the U.S.continent, Florida’s extreme minimum temperatures range from 10°F (-12.2°C) in the north to 45°F (7.2°C) in the south.
This puts the state in zones 8a to 11a. The Florida Keys, where the temperature is even hotter, is in zone 11b.
The climate in Florida ranges from humid subtropical in the north and some central parts to tropical in the south. It’s not known as the sunshine state for nothing!
According to the University of Florida, when you sow the seeds for turnips in Florida depends on where in Florida you live:
- North Florida – August to February
- Central Florida – September to February
- South Florida – September to January
Choosing Turnip Seeds
You might think that a turnip is just a turnip, but the seed you choose will produce a very specific type or cultivar of turnip.
There are turnips intended for a spring crop and those intended for a fall crop. There are some wonderful heirloom turnips too.
If you are fond of turnip greens, cultivars developed for their greens will reward you more than others.
Two of the popular types grown for the roots are the Golden Glove Turnips and the Purple Top White Globe. The Shogoin Japanese and White Egg Turnips are other examples.
Shop around. See what’s available and then make your choice.
How to Plant Turnip Seeds
Most plants grown for their roots, including turnips, should be grown from seeds that you sow directly into a garden bed. They don’t transplant well.
They grow best in full sun.
Planting Beds & Soil
Turnips need well drained soil with plenty of organic matter. If your soil is clay, dig in some sand.
Also, hoe the soil to loosen it for good root development. And check the pH – ideally the soil pH should be between 5.5 and 6.8.
Then dig in a 2-4 inch (5-10 cm) layer of compost into the soil. Mix a low organic fertilizer like 5-5-5 into the top 12 inches of soil.
Most turnip-growing experts recommend that you sow the seeds in rows that are 15 to 18 inches (38-46 cm) apart. Aim to plant the seeds about ½ inch (1.2 cm) deep and about 2-4 inches (5-10 cm) apart.
Whether you scatter the seeds or push them into the ground, you will need to thin the seedlings when they are about 4 inches tall (10 cm). The bonus is that if you don’t want to plant the seedlings somewhere else, you can use them as microgreens in a salad.
How to Water Turnips
Turnips don’t need a lot of care, but it is important to keep the soil moist, especially while the seeds germinate. This usually takes 3-10 days.
Even though turnip roots can be quite big, they don’t have an extensive root system that absorbs water. When you have planted your seeds, water well and continue to water evenly and consistently.
As your turnips grow, continue to water regularly to ensure that they sprout and grow quickly.
Generally, turnips need about an inch (2.5 cm) of water every week. If they don’t get this much water from the rain, you’ll need to water by hand or install an irrigation system.
If the water is sandy, water more often than weekly. If the soil is too dry, the roots will get bitter and/or woody.
How to Grow Turnips
Turnips (Brassica rapa) are members of the Brassica family and the same species as Chinese cabbage and bok choy. But growing them is similar to growing most other brassicas, including cabbages, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and mustard.
Make sure you weed your turnip patch regularly. Mulching helps to keep the weeds down and retain moisture.
You can harvest the greens right through the growing season. But don’t over-harvest or it will stunt the roots.
You can harvest turnips after about 5 weeks if you like them small and young. Otherwise, leave for 6-10 weeks when the roots are 2-3 inches in diameter (5-7.6 cm).
They will keep in the refrigerator for about 2 weeks. If you have a cool, dark storage area or root cellar you can store them for 3-4 months.
Even though we usually grow turnips from seed, you can grow turnips from the bottom of the stalk where the roots normally grow. The University of Nevada’s College of Agriculture fundies say the best approach is to cover the roots and base with soil and to leave the top exposed.
How Long Do Turnips Take to Grow?
Turnips grow quickly.
It takes 3-10 days for the seeds to germinate. Then it takes 40-60 days for the roots to mature.
Turnips are an easy vegetable to grow and they grow very quickly. They also grow just about anywhere, as long as you plant well before the last frost date.
The most important elements relate to the soil and watering the growing turnips.
Ideally, your garden bed will have well drained soil with lots of organic matter in it. And it’s important to keep the soil moist.
Whether you enjoy growing turnips for their roots or their young and tender greens, they make a worthwhile addition to any veggie garden.