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Growing turnips and rutabagas in home gardens

Quick facts

  • Plant where you have not grown cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, collards, kale, mustard, turnip or rutabaga for the past four years.
  • Plant turnips for spring or fall. Plant rutabagas in summer for a fall crop.
  • Plant seeds one to two inches apart in rows 18 to 30 inches apart.
  • Thin turnip seedlings leaving three to six inches between plants.
  • Thin rutabagas to an eight-inch spacing.
  • Drought stress can make turnips and rutabagas bitter or woody.
  • Harvest turnips when they reach a usable size, two to three inches wide.
  • Leave rutabagas in the ground until September, October or even later.

Easy-to-grow root vegetables 

Many gardeners enjoy raising turnips and rutabagas because they are easy to grow and cold hardy. While both have best quality in cool weather, there are important differences between them.

Turnips are a form of Brassica rapa, the same species as bok choy and Chinese cabbage. Their quality can be poor when they grow in hot weather, or if they grow too large. Eat turnips while they are still young and tender. Their flesh is usually white, and you may eat them raw, cooked or pickled.

Rutabaga is a different species, Brassica napus. Harvest rutabagas when they have grown through summer into fall. They are typically harder and denser than turnips. Rutabagas usually have yellow flesh. You should eat rutabagas cooked.

Planting

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How to keep your turnip and rutabaga plants healthy and productive

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Managing pests and diseases

Many things can affect turnips and rutabagas. 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

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Authors: Marissa Schuh, Extension educator and Jill MacKenzie

Reviewed in 2022

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