Turnips are an easy crop to grow, quick to mature and sown in January will be ready in Autumn. The turnip roots are rich in vitamin C. The turnip leaves however, are even richer in vitamins and minerals being a good source of vitamin K, A and C, B complex and an excellent source of important minerals like calcium, copper, iron, potassium, and manganese.
If harvested small as baby turnips, white turnips are sweet and delicate and can be eaten raw in salads. Purple top globe turnips are picked larger and they can be pickled and are traditionally eaten with tomato, lettuce and falafel on fresh pita bread throughout the middle east.
Growth habits and planting needs
Turnips thrive best in a deep, rich, moist loam soil and the soil should be kept of clods and well tilled. As with other root crops, such as carrots, beets, and parsnips, a soil that is easily moved by the enlarging fleshy portion of the root is essential. Enrich the soil to a depth of 50 cm with well rotted compost and aged cow manure and a good handful of blood and bone. Avoid chicken manure which is rich in nitrogen that will push leaf formation at the expense of the bulbs.
Turnips should be planted after fruiting crops like tomatoes and cucumber in the crop rotation system because they need potassium and less nitrogen than the fruiting crops.
Turnips do best sown directly into the garden bed. They like a sunny position and adequate moisture.
Sow thinly, 5 mm deep. Cover with a thin layer of potting soil and water in. The seedlings will emerge in 6-10 days. Then when the plants have their true leaves they can be thinned to 15-20 cm apart. It is important to thin the plants so that the root will develop and not just leaves. You can add the thinned leaves to your salads for extra nutrition.
Mulch well to protect from heat. Keep the plants well watered to promote growth of the bulb.
Feed weekly with fish emulsion to promote growth.
Sowing every 3-4 weeks will give a continuous supply over the season. Turnips can be grown throughout the year by planting in early Spring or late Summer.
Turnips will be mature for harvesting in 6-9 weeks. If you pick the turnips small you can eat the whole plant raw.
Purple top globe turnips can be left in the ground during winter and should be the size of a tennis ball when harvested.
Loosen the soil gently around the bulb to remove. Cut the leaves leaving some of the stem. Use the bulbs and leaves in salads, baked, seamed or stir fried.