Caring for Your Turnip Plants

Although turnip plants grow quickly, the care you give them during their short life will determine the quality and taste of the plant. It is important to provide your turnip plants with plenty of nutrients and water, for a quick growth will produce a tender turnip root, while a slower growth will produce a tough, woody root. To produce the best-tasting turnip roots and greens, follow these care instructions. 

Soil Preparation and Planting Tips

Use a soil that is rich in sand and compost. Try to maintain a pH level between 6.0 and 6.8. Sow seeds in garden beds 1/2 inch under the surface. Space 1 inch apart and rows 12 inches apart. 

Maintaining Temperature and Sunlight

Turnips are a cool-weather plant. They grow best in temperatures between 40 and 75 degrees F. You can regulate temperatures by either planting in containers and moving to cooler temperatures, or by planting early enough in the spring or late enough in the summer so they are never growing in hot temperatures. Most turnips will be ready to harvest between 35 and 60 days after planting

Seedling Care

Two weeks after planting, seedlings should be about 3 inches high. At this time, thin out seedlings so that they are about 4 to 6 inches apart, keeping only the strongest and healthiest seedlings. If you are only growing turnips for the greens, you can keep about 3 inches apart. Discard thinned seedlings, as they are unlikely to survive transplanting. Keep soil evenly moist by watering regularly.

Fertilizing and Weeding

Fertilizing will help your turnips grow quickly. Turnips respond well to organic fertilizers such as compost teas, blood and bone meal and fish emulsion. Side dress with rotted manure or another aged compost about half way through its growing season. If growing for the greens, a high-nitrogen fertilizer will help produce dark, healthy greens. A fertilizer that is high in potassium will be better for the turnip roots. Weed your bed regularly and mulch between rows to keep weeds from growing back.


Continue to water thoroughly until harvest, keeping soil moist at all times.

Protecting from Pests and Diseases

Because of the short growing season, pests and diseases don't have as much time to wreak havoc on turnips as they do on other plants. One disease to guard against is clubroot, which develops in acidic soil. Keeping your pH level above 6.0 should protect your turnip from this disease. Keep an eye out for aphids, which you can remove by hand or spraying with a hose for large infestations. Flea beetles are another common pest; frequent weeding will help keep the flea beetle out of your garden. 

Companion Planting

Bush beans, peas and onions are good companion plants for the turnip


Harvest turnip greens when they are 4 to 6 inches high. Turnip roots should be harvest when they are between 2 to 3 inches in diameter.

With some fastidious care, your turnip plants will produce delicious, tender greens and roots!