Swedes

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

Month by month

Sow

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.
 

Sowing indoors

Seeds can also be sown indoors in modular trays filled with multi-purpose compost. Transplant outdoors when the roots fill the modules.

Grow

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.

Harvesting

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.

Recommended Varieties

Common problems

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.

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.

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.

Get involved

The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.