Growing Guide
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Vegetable (Cool Season) - Cabbage Family

Also known as summer turnips
Brassica rapa var. rapa
Brassicaceae Family

Fast-growing spring turnip crops are best harvested while the weather is still cool. The flavor of fall crops is improved by light frost. Don’t forget the greens which are delightful raw or cooked.

Site Characteristics
  • full sun
  • part shade

Soil conditions:

  • requires well-drained soil
Prefers well-drained, fertile soil high in organic matter, pH 6.0 to 7.5. Can tolerate slightly alkaline soil. Needs plentiful, consistent moisture. Loosen soil deeply or grow in raised beds to encourage good root development. Will tolerate less-than-ideal conditions, but poor soil will slow growth and hurt quality and flavor.
Plant Traits

Lifecycle: annual

Biennial grown as an annual.

Ease-of-care: easy

Foliage color: medium green

Foliage texture: medium

Deeply lobed or cut leaves on most varieties.

Shape: cushion, mound or clump

Special Considerations
  • frost - Light frost improves flavor, but hard freezes will kill plant and damage roots.
Special characteristics:
  • not native to North America - Not known in the wild. Probably developed in cooler parts of Europe.
Growing Information
How to plant:

Propagate by seed

Germination temperature: 45 F to 85 F - Will germinate at soil temperatures as low as 40 F.

Days to emergence: 4 to 7

Seed can be saved 4 years.

Maintenance and care:
From early spring to late summer, sow seeds to inch deep, 1 inch apart in rows 12 to 18 inches apart. Thin plants to 4- to 6-inch spacings.

Plant every 2 weeks for continuous harvest. Quality and flavor are best if harvested when whether is cool.

Use floating row cover to protect crop from early pests.

To help reduce disease, do not plant turnips or other cole crops in the same location more than once every three or four years.

Flea beetles - Use row covers to help protect plants from early damage. Put in place at planting and remove before temperatures get too hot in midsummer. Control weeds.

Cutworms - Control weeds. Cardboard collars around each plant give good protection.

Other pests:
Root maggots
Cabbage loopers
Cabbage aphids
Slugs and snails

Black leg
Black rot
Turnip mosaic virus

While susceptible to the diseases that plague other cole crops, turnip diseases usually aren’t a problem if grown in well-drained soil and harvested young.

Browse turnip varieties at our Vegetable Varieties for Gardeners website.

Look for a range of root size and shapes (globe, flat, cylindrical, egg-shaped), root color (most common are white, some with purple shoulders), and maturity dates (most mature in 30 to 60 days). Caution: Some varieties are grown strictly for their greens and produce poor quality roots.

Some varieties recommended for New York include:

Purple Top White Globe
Tokyo Cross