Turnips grow best in cool, moisture-retentive soils and should be kept well watered before the onset of dry weather to stop them running to seed. Sow early varieties little and often for a constant harvest from spring until autumn. They mature in 6-10 weeks so may also be used as a catch crop or intercropped.



Sow seeds 1cm (½in) deep.

Early turnips: sow 'Atlantic' or 'Milan Purple Top' under cloches in February and other cultivars from March to June. Sow thinly with spacing between rows 23-30cm (9-12in) apart.

Maincrop turnips: sow thinly from July to mid-August. Space rows 30cm (12in) apart.

Turnip tops: sow thinly in August or September. Space rows 15cm (6in) apart.


Thin out turnips grown for their roots until they are eventually 15cm (6in) apart for early crops, or 23cm (9in) apart for maincrops.

Water during dry weather or the roots will be small and woody.

Common problems

Cabbage root fly

Cabbage root fly: White larvae approximately 5cm (2in) long, feed on the roots just below the soil surface, stunting growth and causing plants to wilt and die.

Remedy: Grow under insect-proof mesh or horticultural fleece. Seedlings are most vulnerable.

More info on Cabbage root fly

Flea beetle

Flea beetle: Leaves are covered in small holes and damaged areas turn brown. Seedlings are particularly susceptible.

Remedy: Grow plants under horticultural fleece and keep the soil moist. Water in nitrogen-rich fertilser to help the crop outgrow the pest.

More info on Flea beetle

Powdery Mildew

Powdery Mildew: Appears as a white powdery deposit over the leaf surface and leaves become stunted and shrivel.

Remedy: Keep the soil moist and grow in cooler locations.

More info on Powdery Mildew

Club root

Club root: Roots become swollen and distorted, and leaves become pale and yellow and wilt easily. Plants may die.

Remedy: Improve drainage and add lime to make soil more alkaline. Do not grow in affected soil.

More info on Club root


Early turnips: pull the turnips from May to September when the size of a golf ball for eating raw or the size of a tennis ball for cooking.

Maincrop turnips: lift the turnips from mid-October onwards when the size of a golf ball.

Turnip tops: harvest in March and April. Leave the plants to re-sprout as several cuts can be obtained.


‘Green Globe’:Maincrop: White fleshed with round roots – excellent for turnip tops

‘Golden Ball’:Maincrop: Small, round yellow variety, with succulent flesh.

‘Tokyo Cross’ AGM:Summer or early: Very fast growing with small, white, tasty roots.

‘Purple Top Milan’:Summer or early: Flattish roots with purple markings and white flesh. It's tender when young and early maturing, with an excellent flavour.

Oasis’ AGM:Summer or early: Has virus resistant white roots and is delicious eaten raw.

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