How to Grow Turnips and Rutabaga

Planting Turnips and Rutabaga

These cool season biennials perform best in the fall, prefer full sun, and grow best in rich, deep, loose garden soil. They like moist conditions, so keep them well watered, but not soaked. Dry and hot weather will cause rutabagas to lose their sweetness and their flavor will tend to be bitter. Rutabagas have a longer growing season than turnips (about 4 weeks) Over-watering can cause roots to crack. Direct sow seed about 10 weeks before first frost in the fall. Seed Depth 1/4 – 1/2″ Plant Spacing: 4 – 6″ apart Row Spacing: 18 – 24″ apart Ideal soil pH should be 6.5 with a soil temperature of 80° for best germination. Mulch around plants to help with weed control. Allow 1-2 weeks for germination.

Harvesting Turnips and Rutabaga

You can harvest the greens when they are about 4-6 inches. New leaves will continue to grow. Harvest the roots when they are a bit smaller than a tennis ball (3″). They are best when picked young and tender. If allowed to keep growing, they will become tough. Pull up the roots, cut off the leaves and store them in a cool, dry storage.

Saving Turnip and Rutabaga Seeds

Suggested isolation distance is ¼ mile unless barriers are in place to allow for shorter distances. Store over the winter and in the spring, transplant the entire root to its original depth, about 10″ apart with rows about 24″. They will continue to grow and flower. Seeds are ready when the pods have become dry. Harvest into a bag and clean with a screen if necessary. Seeds should keep for 4-5 years if kept cool and dry.

Common Problems

  • Scab
    Control with wood ashes sprinkled around the plants.


  • Clubroot
    Thrives in acidic soil, so keep at 6.0 or higher.


  • Cutworms
    Large, brown moths with 1 1/2″ wingspan. Protect from damage by placing cardboard collars around the base of plants, pressing about an inch into the soil. Also try spraying plants with neem extract.

Suggested Companions

  • Peas
  • Hairy Vetch
  • Onions

Poor Companions

  • Hedge Mustard
  • Knotweed


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