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Turnip

UK Garden Centre - Information about the Turnip

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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 flavour.

Seed facts
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 weeks
Ease of cultivation: Easy

Soil facts
· 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 or shallow.
· 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.

Seed Sowing
· 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.

Calendar
· Early turnips: Sow Jersey Navet under cloches in February and other early varieties outdoor during March-June for a May-September crop.
· 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 and April.

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.

Harvesting
· 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.

Varieties
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 the suppliers.

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 winter storage.
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 change.

Troubles
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 sprouts.
Turnip Mosaic Virus
Soft Rot
Brown Heart
Black Rot


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