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Growing kohlrabi in home gardens

Quick facts

  • Direct seed kohlrabi in the garden from mid-April until early May, and again later in July.
  • Avoid planting kohlrabi where you have grown related crops—broccoli, cauliflower, collards, kale, turnip, rutabaga, cabbage, mustard, bok choy, Brussels sprouts—during the previous four years.
  • The best quality kohlrabi is sweet, crisp and juicy.
  • Fast growth without heat or moisture stress results in a good crop.
  • Harvest kohlrabi when the bulb is two to three inches in width. If the bulb gets too large, it will become tough, woody and bitter.

An odd-looking garden plant 

Harvested purple kohlrabi with green leaves coming out of its purple stems

Kohlrabi (Brassica oleracea var. gongylodes) is an odd-looking garden plant. It has a bulbous, enlarged stem just above the soil surface, topped with upright thick leaves.

In the kitchen, you can serve kohlrabi raw as part of a raw vegetable platter, sliced into a salad or grated into a slaw. You can also slice and use it in stir-fries or sautés. Delicious kohlrabi is crunchy, juicy, and has a mild, sweet, “cabbage” flavor. Once harvested, the leaves are also tasty. You can use the leaves as cooking greens.

The same species as cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, turnip and kale, kohlrabi has many of the same gardening needs. It does best in cool weather, between 65°F and 75 °F, and when planted in fertile, moisture-retentive soil.

Soil testing and fertilizer

  • Grow kohlrabi in loamy, well-drained soil with high organic matter.
  • You can grow acceptable crops on heavier soil as long as it is well-drained, and on sandy soil if you water it often.
  • Have your soil tested
  • A neutral soil pH of 6.0 to 7.5 is ideal.
    • Apply phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) according to soil test recommendations. Many Minnesota soils have enough phosphorus.
    • Unless your soil test report specifically recommends additional phosphorus, use a low- or no-phosphorus fertilizer.
  • Improve your soil by adding well-rotted manure or compost in spring or fall. 
  • Do not use fresh manure as it may contain harmful bacteria and increase weed problems.
  • If you use manure or compost, you may not need more fertilizer applications, depending on how much organic matter you use.
  • Side-dress with fertilizer when the plants are about four inches tall.
  • Do not use any fertilizer containing a weed killer ("Weed and Feed"), as it may kill your vegetable plants.



How to keep your kohlrabi plants healthy and productive


Managing pests and diseases

Many things can affect kohlrabi stems and leaves. Changes in physical appearance and plant health can be caused by the environment, plant diseases, insects and wildlife. In order to address what you’re seeing, it is important to make a correct diagnosis. 

You can find additional help identifying common pest problems by using the online diagnostic tools or by sending a sample to the UMN Plant Disease Diagnostic Clinic. You can use Ask a Master Gardener to share pictures and get input.


Authors: Marissa Schuh, Extension educator and Jill MacKenzie

Reviewed in 2022

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