How To Plant Turnips

How To Plant Turnips

Turnip greens are my favorite kind of greens, but don’t get me wrong I love them all. The wonderful thing about turnips is you get the best of both worlds – a tasty and flavorful root, and the delicious green tops. Growing turnip greens is not very hard as long as you give them the correct amount of water, and provide nutrient-rich soil. Here is how I plant my turnips.

Get The Turnip Bed Ready

I am planting my turnips in a raised bed that measures 4′ wide by 4′ long and 2′ feet deep. Your bed does not need to be quite this deep – 18 inches should do fine. This raised bed was actually going to be a compost bin, but I changed my mind and decided to use it to grow some root crops in.

First I loosened the soil using a hand shovel, then lightly graded it back out until it was somewhat level.

Raised Bed for Planting Turnips

Here are the turnip seeds I will be planting. This variety of turnips is called 'Purple Top White Globe'. They are fairly common, and can be found at

Seed Packet of Purple Top White Globe Turnips

These turnip seeds need to be planted at a depth of 1/2-inch deep. I use my finger to poke holes in the soil that are about 1/2-inch deep. I am planting the turnips about 10 inches apart, which enables me to plant 20 turnip plants in this box with those measurements.

Use Your Finger To Create Holes for the Turnip Seeds

Continue Creating Holes for the Turnip Seeds

Sowing The Turnip Seeds

With all the holes established, it is time to sow the seeds. Turnip seeds are very tiny, about the size of a grain of sand. The itty-bitty seeds can make it somewhat cumbersome to handle. There are some tricks you can use to simplify sowing these seeds, such as using seed tapes, or a small seed sower. I will be attempting to  sow these seeds by hand. It will be interesting, that's for sure.

Turnip Seeds

Grab two or three (or seven) seeds between your thumb and index finger. Roll the seeds into the appropriate hole. Repeat this until you have sowed the seeds in each hole. You can also use a pinch of sand with each hole to help properly distribute the seeds.

Carefully Sow a Couple Turnip Seeds In Each Hole

Give The Seeds Some Cover and Mark Them

Once you have dispersed all the seeds in the holes, it is time to cover them with soil. I like to cover the seed hole with soil, then place a toothpick beside each hole. I do this so I can tell where I planted the seeds later on. This way I can see what is sprouting, and what isn’t, plus I will quickly know if it is a weed or a seedling.

Use a Toothpick To Mark Where the Turnip Seeds Are Planted

Give The Seeds A Good Drink

Now the seeds are sowed, covered, and marked. The next step is to give them a good drink of water. The soil needs to remain moist until the seeds have germinated, and the plants become established. This might mean that you need to water a couple times a day, especially during very warm weather. I use a mixture of fish emulsion and water in my trusty  hose-end sprayer to water the seeds.

Water the Turnip Seeds In Well

It’s Just A Matter Of Time Now

Once the bed is thoroughly watered, it is a good time to kick back and wait for the seedlings to emerge, which should take seven to ten days. Once the seedlings have reached about two or three inches tall, they need to be thinned out so the turnips have plenty of room to grow. After the seedlings have emerged, go back and resow any spots that may not have germinated.

Turnip Bed Completely Planted

Simple and Easy Planting With Seed Tapes

10 Comments on How To Plant Turnips

  1. when is the best time to plant turnip greens?

    • Hi Jobe – Thank you for the question.

      Typically the best time to plant turnips is in the fall for most locations (in the US). You can plant them in the early spring about 4 – 6 weeks before the last frost date for your area. If you plant them in the fall, sow the seeds about 70 days before the fall frost date for your area.

      I have had better luck sowing the seeds in late summer/early fall, then harvest in early winter. I have even allowed them to overwinter some and harvest some throughout the winter. Growing them in the fall tends to have a little sweeter flavor.

      If you grow them in early spring, try a fast-maturing variety like ‘Tokyo’. For fall, ‘Purple Top White Globe’ is a great choice.

  2. A turnip sprouted little green leaves. I didn’t have the heart to throw it away, so I put it in a cup with water and the leaves are really growing, not to mention the roots! So what can I do? Can I plant it? What will happen? Thanks very much!

    • Hi Susan – I’m not really sure what will happen. I’ve never had that happen personally.

      I say plant it and see what happens!

      • thanks! I’ll keep you posted!

      • same thing my turnip in the fridge started growing lttle green leaves and musty roots.(kept it too long). I planted it outside and covered it with a dark planter with holes in it. Water it every day and the leaves are really growing well. Can I use these leaves in salads?

  3. I a new gradner!! moved from the west coast of ca to millington tn. a friend gave me a package of turnip greens (seven top) what is seven top?

  4. How much sun light does Turnip need to grow properly?

  5. Let me make a suggestion: I have found that a “Salt/Pepper Shaker” will evenly spread those pesky little turnip seeds when sowing! How bout that…

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