Sunday, June 27, 2010

Growing Turnips

Select your turnip variety. Alltop, Seventop, Shogoin and Topper are turnip varieties that are grown primarily for the greens. Purple Top and White Globe are good for both the greens and the turnip root.

2. Prepare the seed bed. Your turnips will grow best in a light, rich, sandy loam soil with a pH of 5.5 to 7.5. Use your spade and garden rake to cultivate the soil thoroughly, so the turnip roots can develop fully. Form the soil into raised rows about 4 inches high and 12 inches apart.

3. Sow the turnip seeds in early spring, after danger of frost has passed, for a spring harvest, or in early summer for a late summer harvest. Spread the seeds evenly along the top of each row of the seed bed. Ultimately your turnip plants will be 3 to 4 inches apart, but turnip seeds are small and hard to dispense evenly, so spread the turnip seeds more densely; you will thin them later. Cover the seeds with 1/2 inch soil.

4. Water the turnip seeds, keeping the seed bed slightly moist until germination. The seeds will germinate in three to five days.

5. Continue to water the turnip plants evenly, about 1.5 inches of water every seven to ten days. Drip irrigation is ideal for turnip greens in the home garden.

6. Thin the seedlings to 3 to 4 inches apart when they are about 2 inches tall.

7. Cultivate the soil between the turnip rows weekly. Cultivate 2 inches deep as the turnip plants first begin to grow, and then more shallowly as the plants mature. Avoid disturbing the turnip's feeder roots.

8. Harvest the turnip greens when they are small--4 to 6 inches—for the sweetest flavor. Leave the inner; less developed leaf tips so that you can harvest a second round of greens in a few days. If you plan to also use the turnip root, only harvest the greens once before harvesting the root, since harvesting the greens inhibits the growth of the turnip root.

9. Harvest the turnip roots, if you plan to use it, when the roots are 2 to 3 inches in diameter. As the root grows larger, it will become less tender and sweet.

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