Harvesting A Turnip Root: How And When To Harvest Turnips


By: Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist

Turnips are a root vegetable that grow quickly and are ready for harvest in as little as two months. When are turnips ready for picking? You can pull them at several stages of growth. When to harvest turnips depends upon whether you prefer the robust, large bulbs or the tender, sweet young roots.

When to Harvest Turnips

There are different methods for harvesting and storing turnips. Some are pulled and bunched together with the leaves and stems intact. These are best taken when they are 2 inches (5 cm.) in diameter. Those that are topped, which means the greens are removed, are harvested when 3 inches (8 cm.) in diameter.

The actual time for harvesting a turnip root is determined by the variety and your growing conditions. Plants that grow in less than ideal conditions will take longer to mature. If you are harvesting turnip greens, this will also slow the production of the root and they will take longer before harvest.

When are Turnips Ready for Picking?

Maturation from seed varies from 28 to 75 days. The larger varieties take longer to reach full size. You can also take them when they are small for a sweeter, milder flavor. Turnips are seeded in spring or fall, but the fall crops need to be harvested before heavy freezes. However, they do seem to have a sweeter flavor when exposed to mild frost.

Your turnip harvest should all be pulled before heavy freezes or the root may crack and rot in the soil. Turnips keep very well in cold storage, so pull the entire crop by late fall. In temperate zones, the turnip harvest is kept in the ground longer by piling mulch around the plants to protect the roots from freezing.

Turnip Greens

Turnip greens are nutritious, versatile vegetables. You can harvest them from any variety of turnip but this will impede production of the root. There are varieties of turnip that produce large heads of greens and are sown just for harvesting turnip greens.

Only cut the greens once if you want a turnip harvest of roots. When you cut the leaves, you reduce the plant’s ability to harvest solar energy for food to fuel the growth of the root. Shogoin is an excellent cultivar that you can grow just for the greens and harvest numerous times by the “cut and come again” method.

Storage of Harvested Turnips

After harvesting a turnip root, cut the greens off and store in a cool spot. The ideal temperature is 32 to 35 degrees F. (0-2 C.), which makes the refrigerator an excellent place to keep the roots.

If you have a large turnip harvest, put them in a box lined with straw in a cool cellar or garage. Make sure the location is dry or the roots will get moldy spots. They should keep for several months, just like onions and potatoes, if humidity levels are less than 90 percent.

If you were not sure when to harvest turnips and got a crop of woody roots, peel them and stew for more tender vegetables.

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How to Grow Turnips: 5 Tips for Growing Turnips

Turnips are one of those vegetables I’d never tried until I started gardening. Freshly-harvested turnips and greens are sweet, tender, and delicious . Learn how to grow turnips, and add this cool-weather root vegetable (and its greens) to your table.

Disclaimer: this post contains affiliate links. See my disclosure policy for more information.


How to Harvest Turnips

  • Pull or lift roots carefully from the garden so as not to break or injure them. Use a garden hand fork to loosen the soil around the roots if necessary.
  • It’s best to pull turnips when the soil is dry.
  • Twist off the greens after lifting the roots. Removing the tops before storage will greatly extend storage life.

Store the best turnips damaged or bruised roots will not store well and should be eaten soon after harvest.


Turnips are cool-weather vegetables that can be grown both in spring and fall, avoiding the hot summer months. They mature very rapidly and you can enjoy both the greens and the roots. Try this ancient root vegetable that’s been grown for over 3,000 years! We’ll show you how to plant, grow, and harvest turnips this season.

An autumn crop, seeded in late summer, is usually sweeter and more tender than a spring crop—and pests are less of a problem. What’s wonderful about turnips is that they germinate in only a few days. Within a month, you can enjoy their bright greens, and within a second month (60 to 90 days), you can eat the swollen roots.

Turnips can be eaten raw, baked, boiled, roasted, or mashed. Prepare turnips as you would carrots. Or, try them as an alternative to potatoes we enjoy a turnip gratin.

Planting Dates for TURNIPS

Planting

When to Plant Turnips

  • For a late spring harvest, sow turnip seeds about 2 to 3 weeks before the average last spring frost date.
  • For an autumn harvest, sow turnips in late summer. Sow after summer crops of onions, squash, beans or sweet corn.
  • You can also sow seeds in early autumn for a late autumn harvest.

Preparing the Site

  • The key to growing big turnips is loose soil. In advance, mix in a 2- to 4-inch layer of compost or aged manure in addition to some sand if soil has a lot of clay in order to improve drainage.
  • Turnips grow best in full sun when temperatures range from 40° to 75°F.

How to Plant Turnips

  • Before planting, mix in a nice low organic fertilizer (such as a 5-5-5) about 12 inches into the soil.
  • Avoid over-fertilizing with nitrogen or you’ll get leafy greens at the expense of a big root. Avoid a Miracle Gro or any high-nitrogen fertilizer.
  • Turnips are seeded directly into the garden they do not transplant well.
  • Sow seeds ¼ to ½ of an inch deep, 1 inch apart, in rows 12 to 18 inches apart.
  • You can also scatter turnip seed and cover the seeds with no more than ½ an inch of soil.
  • Water well and consistently.

How to Grow Turnips

  • Once seedlings are 4 inches high, thin them to 4 to 6 inches apart. Crowding can result in small or malformed roots. If you grow them any closer than 4 inches, they’re not going to grow.
  • Keep the beds weed-free, but be careful of disturbing the root of young turnips.
  • Mulch heavily to retain moisture and suppress weeds.
  • Turnips do not need much care, but consistent soil moisture is important. Water regularly to keep soil lightly moist 1 inch per week should prevent roots from becoming tough and bitter.

Avoid Bolting

Turnips are hardy biennials, even though we treat them as annuals. They naturally flower and go to seed (bolt) in the second year. Bolting in the first year could be due to stress, such as caused by extreme temperatures (cold or hot) or lack of nutrients or water. Such stresses can also result in little or no root growth, a root that grows above ground, or greens only.

Be sure to pick turnips before temperatures get into the 80s to avoid bolting.

Pests/Diseases

Click on links for more information about the relevant pest:

  • Aphids
  • Cabbage Root Maggots
  • Flea Beetles
  • Powdery Mildew
  • Downy Mildew
  • Black Rot
  • Stinkbugs
  • White Rust

Harvest/Storage

How to Harvest Turnips

  • Harvest greens when turnips are small the leaves taste best when young and tender. Cut leaves 2 inches above the base they may grow back. Harvest jut a few at a time if also growing for roots.
  • Harvest roots at any time however, small, young turnips are more ender.
    • Harvest early types after about 5 weeks maincrop types after 6 to 10 weeks.
  • For fall turnips, consider harvesting after one or two light frosts (but before a hard freeze) for a sweeter taste.
  • Mulch to harvest later in the season and to protect from a hard freeze.

How to Store Turnips

  • Store for up to 3 or 4 months in a cool (32° to 38°F), dark place such as a root cellar or store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
  • If storing in the refrigerator, keep turnips in a perforated plastic bag. It’s important that the turnips do not dry out, but also that they do not become moldy from too much moisture.
  • To freeze, wash, cut into ½-inch cubes, blanch for 3 minutes, cool immediately in cold water, and drain. Pack into containers, label, and freeze.

Recommended Varieties

Many turnips are grown not for the root itself but for the turnip greens, which can be cooked or used raw in salads. Younger turnip greens will not be as bitter as mature leaves. If you are growing turnips primarily for their greens, most any turnip variety will do.

  • ‘Gold Ball’: yellow skin, soft, yellow flesh harvest at 3 inches in diameter for maximum sweetness (will grow to 4 to 5 inches)
  • ‘Just Right’: pure white roots, delicious greens extremely cold-tolerant stores well not recommended for a spring crop, as it tends to bolt early
  • ‘Purple Top White Globe’: delectable leaves great for an extended production of greens roots have purple shoulders heirloom
  • ‘Golden Globe’: roots with amber skin firm, crisp, sweet flesh tasty tops.


How to Grow Lots of Turnips from Seed to Harvest

Turnips are a cool weather crop and can be grown in fall (autumn) or in spring 2 weeks before the last frost. Plant turnips 1/2 in deep and 4 in apart. Row spacing should be 12 inches apart. Turnips take 2 weeks to germinate and 2 months to harvest. Enjoy delicious home grown turnips! Turnips that you grow yourself taste way more flavorful than any store bought turnips!

#Turnip #Garden #Gardening #IndoorGardening

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Growing for Roots

If you're growing turnips specifically for their large roots, it's still possible to harvest greens, but you should pick a few at a time rather than cutting them all away. Removing all the greens down to root level will result in stunted roots. The roots will also be smaller if grown in a cluster because the roots crowd one another, not allowing room for full growth potential. If your turnips are crowded, thin the grouping some by removing some of the roots, and transplanting them slightly farther away.


Greens, Roots, or Both? You’ll Love ‘Em All!

With these easy tips, you can obtain a fruitful turnip harvest this year, and enjoy a variety of root-vegetable-themed meals throughout those chilly winter months.

Do you have a favorite way to cook and eat these delicious and versatile vegetables? Let us know in the comments below!

For more information about growing veggies for a fall harvest you’ll need these guides::

Photo by Meghan Yager © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Uncredited photos: Shutterstock. Additional writing and editing by Clare Groom and Allison Sidhu.

About Heather Buckner

Heather Buckner hails from amongst the glistening lakes of Minnesota, and now lives with her family on a beautiful homestead in the Vermont Mountains. She holds a bachelor of science degree in environmental science from Tufts University, and has traveled and worked in many roles in conservation and environmental advocacy, including creating and managing programs based around resource conservation, organic gardening, food security, and building leadership skills. Heather is a certified permaculture designer and student herbalist. She is also a fanatical gardener, and enjoys spending as much time covered in dirt as possible!



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