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How to grow organic Asparagus
How to grow organic Aubergines
How to grow organic Beetroot
How to grow organic Broad beans
How to grow organic Broccoli
How to grow organic Brussels sprouts
How to grow organic Cabbage
How to grow organic Calabrese
How to grow organic Carrot
How to grow organic Cauliflower
How to grow organic Celeriac
How to grow organic Celery
How to grow organic Celtuce
How to grow organic Chinese broccoli
How to grow organic Chinese cabbage
How to grow organic Chicory
How to grow organic Corn
How to grow organic Cucumbers and Gherkins
How to grow organic Endive
How to grow organic Florence fennel
How to grow organic French beans
How to grow organic Garlic
How to grow organic Globe artichokes
How to grow organic Jerusalem artichokes
How to grow organic Kale and borecole
How to grow organic Kohl rabi
How to grow organic Komatsuna
How to grow organic Land cress
How to grow organic Leaf beet
How to grow organic Leeks
How to grow organic Lettuce
How to grow organic Mizuna
How to grow organic Mustard greens
How to grow organic New Zealand spinach
How to grow organic Onions
How to grow organic Parsnips and Hamburg Parsley
How to grow organic Peas
How to grow organic Peppers (hot and sweet)
How to grow organic Potatoes
How to grow organic Radishes
How to grow organic Rocket
How to grow organic Runner beans
How to grow organic Salad onions
How to grow organic Salsify, Scorzonera and Scolymus
How to grow organic Seakale
How to grow organic Shallots
How to grow organic Spinach
How to grow organic Squash
How to grow organic Swede
How to grow organic Texsel greens
How to grow organic Tomatoes
How to grow organic Turnips
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How to grow organic Turnips
by Frann Leach
Tasty young turnips
Brassica campestris Rapifera group
Family: Cruciferae (Group 2)
Turnips are grown mainly for their roots, which can be flat, round or long in shape, with white or yellow flesh. The leafy tops can also be used, and make excellent spring greens. By selecting appropriate cultivars, turnips can be available for use all year round.
If you're looking for what the Scots call 'neeps, check out the page on swede.
Recommended varietiesEarlies: Snowball, Purple Top Milan, Tokyo Cross F1 (sow May-August)
Maincrop: Golden Ball
Site and soil
Choose an open, unshaded site with fertile, well-drained and moisture retentive soil, which should be slightly acid (min pH 5.4, but see note on clubroot - add lime if necessary to adjust pH). Brassicas have a high nitrogen requirement and also need very firm soil. To ensure sufficient nutrient levels, it is best to topdress or apply a liquid feed such as seaweed fertiliser during growth.
Because brassicas are prone to soil infections, for example, Clubroot, it's important to use a minimum 3 year rotation plan.
Turnips like cool, moist conditions; summer sowings can be made in light shade, provided there is plenty of moisture in the soil. The soil should have plenty of organic matter worked in for the previous crop, or a top dressing of general fertiliser applied before sowing.
Sow thinly and successionally from mid March to mid August on well prepared soil about 2cm (¾") deep, early cultivars in 22cm (9") rows, winter cultivars in 30cm (12") rows. Thin gradually to 10cm (4") apart for earlies, 15cm (6") for maincrop. It is important this is carried out as soon as possible when seedlings are about 2.5cm (1") tall.
Keep soil well weeded and water in dry weather at 2 gals/sq yard per week.
Early turnips mature in 6-10 weeks, and are best used small, as they deteriorate rapidly. They can be pulled like radishes when 4-5cm (1½-2") in diameter and eaten raw, or up to tennis ball size for cooking. Hardy cultivars may take 3 months to mature and are grown for autumn use and storage. They can be left in the soil until late December, then lifted and stored in soil covered clamps.
Turnips for spring greens
Sow thinly in rows 15cm (6") apart in August and September or as early in spring as soil conditions allow. The first cutting can be made when seedlings are 12-15cm (5-6") tall, about 2.5cm (1") above soil level. If left longer they become tough. Provided the ground is not allowed to dry out, several further cuttings can be made before they run to seed.
Pests and diseases
Most common is flea beetle, which can be prevented with crop covers.
Turnip gall weevil may cause hollow swellings on the roots, but is not generally serious. Discard galled seedlings.
Mealy cabbage aphid and cabbage root fly are other possible pests.
Mildew is the most common disease - increase aeration if possible and avoid overcrowding.
Soil may remain infected for 20 years; steps to avoid introduction include:
Once infected avoid growing any brassicas except fast maturing types such as Texsel greens or cut and come again oriental seedlings. If you have no other land available, and you must grow types with a lengthy growing season, you can try sowing seed in modules, and potting up until the plants reach a height of 10cm (4") before planting out. A root drench may also help.