Swedes (short for Swedish turnips) are extremely hardy and do well in cool, damp climates. They need a constant supply of moisture to grow well and are happy in heavier soils. Harvested in autumn and winter, swedes have a sweeter flavour than turnips – they’re delicious mashed with pepper or nutmeg and a little cream.
Jobs to do now
- Sow seeds
- Thin out seedlings
- Keep soil moist
- Weed regularly
Month by month
Sow seeds outdoors from late spring to early or mid-summer, depending on your location – sow from early May in the north of the UK, and until mid-June in the south.
Choose an open, sunny site with moist, free-draining soil that is very fertile, ideally with added garden compost or well-rotted manure, as well as fertiliser containing trace elements, such as Vitax Q4.
Prepare the sowing site by weeding thoroughly, then raking the soil level and firming gently. Swedes like a firm seedbed.
Sow the seeds thinly, 2cm (¾in) deep, in rows 38cm (15in) apart. Thin out the seedlings when large enough to handle, leaving plants 23cm (9in) apart.
Seeds can also be sown indoors in modular trays filled with multi-purpose compost. Transplant outdoors when the roots fill the modules.
Swedes are a long-term crop, taking up to six months to mature. Keep the soil moist and weed-free throughout.
Water during dry periods, but try to keep the soil evenly moist to prevent cracking and corky growth. Dryness at the roots can also lead to a bitter taste.
Lift swedes from September to November, once large enough to use, or leave in the ground until Christmas.
Cover with straw or bracken before the onset of cold weather. In cold regions, store in containers of soil or potting compost in a shed or garage.
Appears as a white powdery deposit over the leaf surface and leaves become stunted and shrivel.
Keep the soil moist and grow in cooler locations.
Roots become swollen and distorted, and leaves become pale and yellow and wilt easily. Plants may die.
Improve drainage and add lime to make soil more alkaline. Do not grow in affected soil.
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.
Grow under insect-proof mesh or horticultural fleece. Seedlings are most vulnerable.
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