How to Grow Kohlrabi

I remember the first time I saw kohlrabi in a vegetable garden. I thought it was some alien weed that had run amuck. There was this small bulb just above the ground with all these stems with leaves shooting out from it.

It was the strangest vegetable I’d ever seen.

Growing KohlrabiKohlrabi is not an alien species, but in fact a member of the cabbage family. In German, kohlrabi actually means “cabbage turnip“.

The taste of kohlrabi is much like a mix between broccoli and turnips, and can be eaten raw, grated in salads or slaws, and can be cooked much like you would cook turnips.

Kohlrabi hasn’t gained as much love in the United States as it has in many European countries where it is grown quite frequently.

Two very popular varieties of kohlrabi grown in most home vegetable gardens are ‘Early White Vienna‘ and ‘Purple Vienna‘.

Growing kohlrabi is pretty straightforward and is not very difficult with the right conditions. Here is a simple guide on how to grow kohlrabi in the home vegetable garden.

How to Plant & Care for Kohlrabi

Kohlrabi is mostly sown directly in the vegetable garden by seed, but can be started indoors using peat pots or a seed starting system. Sow the seeds 1/4″ deep with spacing about ten inches apart.

Kohlrabi PlantsKohlrabi grows best in cooler temperatures so sow seeds four to six weeks before the last frost date in spring and about ten weeks before the first frost date in fall.

Kohlrabi enjoys a fertile soil amended well with compost or other organic materials. The soil temperature should be 50°F to 70°F for optimum germination rates. The seeds should germinate within five to ten days.

Keep the soil consistently moist until the seeds sprout and for best growing results after sprouting. Mulch around seedlings to keep the soil moist and to suppress weeds.

If the soil is amended well no fertilization is needed, but for soils lacking in nutrients an organic fertilizer such as fish emulsion can be used once every three weeks.

How to Harvest Kohlrabi

Kohlrabi grows pretty fast and the bulb will begin to swell out quickly with uninterrupted growth. Harvest the bulb once it reaches a diameter of 1-1/2″ to 3″ for the best flavor.

This size should be reached in 50 to 75 days after the seeds have sprouted. Bulbs that are allowed to grow too big will gain an undesirable woody taste.

Remove the leaves and store kohlrabi bulbs in the refrigerator crisper drawer, or a root cellar for three to six weeks.

Kohlrabi can be diced, blanched, and frozen for later use.

Pests & Diseases of Kohlrabi

Kohlrabi can be affected by many pest insects, including cabbage worms, harlequin bugs, and flea beetles.

Hand pick cabbage worms and harlequin bugs as they are found. All of these kohlrabi pests can be controlled using organic garden dust.

Pyrethrin spray can be used for large flea beetle infestations.

Kohlrabi can also be affected by clubroot which can sometimes be very common among plants in the cabbage family.

Make sure to use crop rotation to help control pests and disease issues.