Do not be mislead by
the overgrown, woody roots you may have bought
from the greengrocer for stews or casseroles –
home-grown turnips have much more to offer. There
are early or bunching varieties which are sown
in spring and then pulled when they are the size
of golf-balls for eating raw in salads or for
boiling whole for the dinner plate. Round is not
the only shape for these early turnips –
there are also flat and cylindrical ones. There
is not much variation in the globular maincrop
types sown in summer, but you can choose the yellow-fleshed
Golden Ball. Finally, turnips can be sown in the
autumn and the tops cut for spring greens once
winter is over – a green vegetable which
is more nutritious than spinach. Turnips are an
easy-to-grow and quick-maturing crop, but remember
that the early varieties are more demanding than
the maincrop varieties – any check due to
starvation, poor drainage, dryness at the roots,
etc. will drastically reduce both tenderness and
Expected germination time: 6-10 days
Approximate number per ounce: 8000
Expected yield from a 10ft row: 7lb (3.5kg) Early
varieties; 12lb (6kg) Maincrop varieties.
Life expectancy of stored seed: 3 years
Approximate time between sowing and lifting: 6-12
Ease of cultivation: Easy
· Turnips are brassicas and like other
members of the family need a firm, non-acid soil
which has reasonable drainage.
· Early varieties require fertile soil
– choose another crop if your soil is sandy
· Pick a reasonably sunny spot and dig
in autumn. Lime if necessary. In spring apply
Growmore fertilizer and sprinkle Bromophos if
cabbage root fly is known to be a problem. Prepare
the seed bed about a week later, treading down
and raking the surface.
· Dig drills ½ in deep and sow seeds
very thinly. Cover with soil. Drills should be
12in (30cm) apart for maincrop variety sowing,
9in (23cm) apart for early variety sowing and
3in (7cm) apart for sowing turnip tops.
· Early turnips: Sow Jersey Navet under
cloches in February and other early varieties
outdoor during March-June for a May-September
· Maincrop turnips: Sow maincrop varieties
in mid July-mid August for cropping and storage
from mid October onwards.
· Turnip tops: Sow a maincrop variety in
August or September for spring greens in March
Looking after the crop
· Thin out turnips grown for roots as soon
as the seedlings are large enough to handle. Do
this in stages until the plants are 9in (23cm)
(maincrop varieties) or 5in (12cm) (early varieties)
apart. Do not thin turnips grown for their tops.
· Keep the soil hoed and remember to water
in dry weather – failure to do so will result
in smaller and woodier roots. Rain following a
dry spell can cause roots to crack if the soil
has not been watered.
· Spray with Crop Saver at the first signs
of flea beetle damage.
· The roots of early varieties are pulled
like radishes rather than levered out with a fork
like Swedes. Pull whilst the roots are still small
– golf ball size if they are to be cooked.
· Begin lifting maincrop turnips as soon
as they are large enough to use – remember
that tenderness and flavour decrease with age.
Harvesting normally begins in October and in most
areas you can leave the turnips in the soil and
lift them out with a fork as required. In cold
and wet areas it is preferable to lift in early
November – twist off the leaves and place
the roots between layers of dry peat or sand in
a stout box. Store in a cool shed.
· Turnips grown for spring greens should
have their tops cut in March or April when they
are about 5in (12cm) high. Leave the plants to
re-sprout – several cuts should be obtained.
Early varieties – Flat, Cylindrical, Globular
These varieties are quick maturing and should
be pulled when the roots are still young and tender.
They cannot be stored and should be used within
a few days of harvesting.
Jersey Navet: A white-fleshed cylindrical variety,
recommended for sowing under cloches in February
or outdoors between March and May.
Snowball: Quick-growing, globular, white fleshed
– considered by many to be the best early
turnip for both table and exhibition use. It is
popular and you will find it at your local garden
centre – choose it for growing under cloches
if you can’t find Jersey Navet.
Early Six Weeks: Also known as Early White Stone,
another white-fleshed globular turnip which is
similar to but no better than Snowball.
Purple-Top Milan: Something different –
a flat, white turnip with a purple top. This is
the earliest of the popular turnips.
Red Globe: The roots are globular and medium-sized
– the flesh is white and the outside white
with a red top.
Golden Perfection: A flat variety with tender,
yellow flesh. You may have to search to find it.
Tokyo Cross: An unusual turnip – an early
(that is, quick-maturing) variety which is sown
late. A May-early September sowing produces small
white globes ready for pulling in about 6 weeks.
Sprinter: A selected strain of Purple-Top Milan.
Slightly smaller and even earlier, according to
Maincrop varieties – White, Yellow, Green-top
These varieties are larger and slower to mature
than the early types. They are also hardier and
have good keeping qualities – they can be
lifted and stored in November for use throughout
the winter and spring.
Green-top White: The variety recommended for use
as spring greens. If left to mature the roots
are large and green-topped, as the name suggests.
Very similar (or identical) varieties are Marble-Top
Green and Green Top.
Manchester Market: a typical green-top, producing
large, white-fleshed turnips with a mild flavour.
Manchester Market is especially recommended for
Golden Ball: The best of the maincrops, according
to some experts. The plants are compact and the
yellow-fleshed roots are tender. It has good keeping
qualities and is widely grown for exhibition but
it is not quite as hardy as Manchester Market.
Arca: Another green-top – reliable, white-fleshed
and medium-sized. No particular virtues compared
to Manchester Market but you can try it for a
The brassica family is notorious for the frightening
number of pests and diseases which can attack
the plants. The root-producing members are no
exception, but in practice the troubles you are
likely to encounter in the garden are very few.
Flea beetle is the only serious problem of the
radish crop – turnips and Swedes have to
face a few additional ones, including club root,
powdery mildew and soft rot. Gall weevil and cabbage
root fly are occasionally a nuisance, but the
root brassicas are generally much healthier than
the leafy ones such as cauliflower and brussels
Turnip Mosaic Virus