Thursday, 12 August 2010

Growing Turnips

  • The large woody turnips of old have mainly been replaced now with modern hybrid varieties and smaller Japanese white varieties that are delicious grated raw into a salad or as a welcome side-dish, leaving the swedes to take over in the stew department.
  • Although it is nothing like a cabbage, turnips are a member of the brassica family so club root will be a problem if you have this on your plot.
  • They are a fast crop, being ready in just five to eight weeks from sowing to harvesting at the size of a golf ball or a little larger. 
  • As they grow on they become less tender and flavoursome so successional sowing every two months ensures a constant supply of young and sweet turnips can be provided.
  • Turnips are a member of the brassica family and can follow legumes, onions, potato family, or carrot family. They should not be grown in the same spot for at least 3 years, as club-root is a major problem in Europe.
  • Prepare the seed bed. Turnips seeds have to be sown where they will grow, as they cannot tolerate even minor root disturbance.
  • Your turnips will grow best in a light, rich, sandy loam soil with a pH of 5.5 to 7.5. 
  • Use your tiller/spade and garden rake to cultivate the soil thoroughly, so the turnip roots can develop fully. Like all brassicas the turnip requires space for its root to grow, so the soil should be cultivated 25-30 cm (10-12) inches deep.
  • Form the soil into raised rows about 4 inches high and 12 inches apart.
  • A week or so before sowing provide 50 to 75 grams of general purpose fertiliser like Fish, Blood & Bone or Growmore for best results.
  • Sow the turnip seeds in early spring, after danger of frost has passed, for a spring harvest, or in early summer for a late summer harvest. 
  • Spread the seeds evenly along the top of each row of the seed bed. 
  • Ultimately your turnip plants will be 3 to 4 inches apart, but turnip seeds are small and hard to dispense evenly, so spread the turnip seeds as thinly as you can manage; you will thin them later. 
  • Cover the seeds with 1 cm (½ inch) soil.
  • Water the turnip seeds, keeping the seed bed slightly moist until germination. The seeds will germinate in three to five days.
  • Continue to water the turnip plants evenly, about 1.5 inches of water every seven to ten days. Drip irrigation is ideal for turnip greens in the home garden.
  • Thin the seedlings to 8 to 10 cm (3 to 4 inches) apart when they are about 5 cm (2 inches) tall.
  • Cultivate the soil between the turnip rows weekly. Cultivate 5 cm (2 inches) deep using an onion hoe as the turnip plants first begin to grow, and then more shallowly as the plants mature. Avoid disturbing the turnip's feeder roots.
  • Turnips are a relatively trouble free crop, further cultivation is mainly a matter of keeping them weed free and watering in dry periods to avoid woody texture and split skins. 
  • Because they are so fast growing, it is important to start thinning as soon as possible. 
  • If they are allowed to crowd, decent roots will not develop.
  • Spring turnips should be pulled or cut when the roots or tops reach usable size. 
  • Harvest autumn roots starting in early autumn or as needed. 
  • Harvest the turnip greens when they are small 10 to 15 cm (4 to 6 inches) for the sweetest flavour. 
  • Leave the inner, less developed leaf tips so that you can harvest a second round of greens in a few days. 
  • If you plan to also use the turnip root, only harvest the greens once before harvesting the root, since harvesting the greens inhibits the growth of the turnip root.
  • Harvest the turnip roots, if you plan to use it, when the roots are 5 to 8 cm (2 to 3 inches) in diameter. 
    • As the root grows larger, it will become less tender and sweet.
    They are hardy to fall frosts and may, in fact, be sweetened by cool weather.
  • A heavy straw mulch extends harvest through the early part of the winter. 
  • Turnips store well in a refrigerator. 

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