How to Grow Purple Top Turnips for a Productive Fall Crop

Although turnips don’t have a fancy name, small, young ones with their green, leafy tops are actually very tasty.

They’re one of the easier Brassica family plants to grow, and you can pick them whenever you need to during the winter. They’re delicious simply cooked as a side vegetable, roasted or added to winter stews.

Purple top turnips are a popular cool season crop grown for their nutritious greens and roots. These quick growing plants thrive in cool weather and can be planted in early spring or late summer for a fall harvest. Growing purple top turnips is easy and rewarding with just a little knowledge of their preferences. Follow this guide for tips on planting caring for, and harvesting an abundant crop of purple top turnips in your garden.

Growing Conditions for Purple Top Turnips

Purple top turnips grow best in full sun and fertile, well-drained soil with a pH between 60-70. They prefer cooler temperatures, ideally between 45-75°F. Turnips can tolerate light frosts once established.

Purple top turnips grow poorly in heavy clay soils or areas with standing water Improve drainage before planting by building raised beds or rows Adding organic matter like compost or manure to clay soils can also help,

When to Plant Purple Top Turnips

Timing is key when planting purple top turnips. They take 50-80 days to reach maturity, so count backwards from your first fall frost date.

In northern areas, plant seeds directly in the garden 4-6 weeks before your average first fall frost. In southern zones with mild winters, plant in late summer or early fall.

Purple top turnips grow best when temperatures are cool, ideally below 75°F during the day. Hot summer temperatures cause them to bolt and become bitter.

How to Plant Purple Top Turnip Seeds

Purple top turnip seeds are small, so take care not to plant them too deep. Follow these simple steps:

  • Prepare soil by loosening and raking smooth. Remove any rocks or debris.

  • Broadcast seeds thinly over the soil, or sow seeds 1 inch apart in rows 12-18 inches apart.

  • Cover seeds with 1/4 to 1/2 inch of fine soil. Gently firm the soil.

  • Water gently to avoid washing away seeds. Keep soil moist until seeds germinate in 5-10 days.

  • When seedlings are 2-3 inches tall, thin to 4-6 inches apart. Enjoy the tender thinned greens!

Caring for Growing Turnips

Here are some tips for keeping your purple top turnips healthy and productive:

  • Water regularly, about 1-2 inches per week. Prevent soils from drying out completely.

  • Add a balanced fertilizer or compost prior to planting. Side dress with nitrogen 3-4 weeks after sowing.

  • Weed carefully by hand to avoid disturbing shallow turnip roots. Mulch helps suppress weeds.

  • Rotate planting location each year to prevent disease. Avoid planting in same spot for 3-4 years.

  • Cover plants with row cover or garden fleece to protect from pests.

Troubleshooting Common Turnip Problems

Turnips are relatively problem free, but watch for these potential issues:

  • Bolting – Rapid growth of flower stalk caused by hot temperatures or inconsistent watering. Prevent by planting at optimal times and maintaining even soil moisture.

  • Downy Mildew – Gray fungal coating on leaves. Improve air circulation and avoid wetting foliage.

  • Root Maggots – Small white grubs tunneling roots. Rotate planting sites and cover with row cover fabric.

  • Clubroot – Roots form misshapen clubs. Caused by soil-borne fungus. Solarize soil prior to planting and lime to raise pH above 7.0.

Harvesting Purple Top Turnips

  • Begin harvesting greens when they reach 4-6 inches. Pick outer leaves, allowing the center to continue growing.

  • For full size roots, pull up entire plants after 50-80 days when roots are 2-3 inches across.

  • Use a garden fork to loosen soil and pull plants by the tops. Rinse off soil.

  • Roots keep 2-3 weeks stored refrigerated in plastic bags. Greens store for about a week.

  • If leaves yellow, harvest remaining roots promptly. Mature turnips become woody with prolonged time in soil.

Enjoying Your Turnip Harvest

Purple top turnips have a sweet, mild flavor with a texture similar to radishes when eaten raw. The versatile roots and greens can be:

  • Sliced raw for salads, coleslaws, and sandwiches
  • Roasted or steamed as a side dish
  • Added to soups, stews, and casseroles
  • Sauteed with garlic and olive oil
  • Pureed into a creamy root mash
  • Fermented into turnip kraut for probiotics
  • Pickled in brine for a tangy condiment

Don’t let the humble turnip be overlooked – embrace this nutritious and delicious crop. With proper timing and care, you can grow an abundant harvest of purple top turnips to enjoy from your garden.

How to sow turnip seed

how to grow purple top turnips

Plant early, maincrop, and turnip tops at different times of the year to get different types of turnips.

For early turnips, sow seeds in February, directly into the soil. Make a drill approximately 1cm deep and sow in rows 30 cm apart. Protect these early sowings with a cloche. You can do a second sowing of early turnips from March to June.

For maincrop turnips, sow from July to August. And if you’re just after the leafy turnip tops, sow seeds in closer rows just 15cm apart.

This video shows Monty planting turnip seeds: Green Video Post Element Video ID: “da6dd20f484184d6197c10456fcd57398b978658” Mix ID: “” Player ID: “qAUyOzk5” If the player doesn’t show up in a few seconds, the Player ID or License Key (set in IM Green Video settings) might not work.

How to harvest turnips

how to grow purple top turnips

Harvest turnips when they’re young and small – about the size of a golf-ball. If you’re growing bigger, maincrop varieties, you can pick these as needed, but the longer they stay in the ground, the less sweet they taste and the less tender the flesh gets.

Don’t forget, you can harvest and eat the leafy greens, too.

how to grow purple top turnips

How to Grow Lots of Turnips from Seed to Harvest


How long does it take for purple top turnips to grow?

Turnips are quick and easy to grow from seed, forming small rounded or flattened roots, usually with white or purple skins. They are ready in as little as six weeks and are best harvested young, at their most tender and tasty.

What is the secret to growing turnips?

Small turnips need to be grown fast, much like radishes, and thus they need good growing conditions. Sow into a layer of well-rotted compost mixed with sand if on heavy soil as they do best in rich, but well-drained conditions. As the saying goes: “Turnips like a dry bed and a wet head”.

Will purple top turnips grow in shade?

Turnips, like their cousin-family Rutabagas, can be a Partial Shade plant because they need at least 6 hours of sunlight. They love cool soil so if you give them some shade, especially in warmer gardening climates, it can really help them be productive longer.

How do you grow purple top turnip?

Four to six weeks before the final frost, sow purple top turnip seeds approximately 1 inch apart in the trenches, gently burying the seeds with soil, for harvest in late spring. Temperatures of 60 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit are ideal for growing purple tops and other turnip kinds.

How long does it take to grow white globe purple top turnips?

Days till maturity: White Globe Purple Top turnips typically take about 50 to 55 days to reach maturity. Planting depth: Seeds should be about 1/4 to 1/2 inches (6 to 13 mm) deep. Plant spacing: Sow seeds about 1 inch (2.5 cm) apart, then thin the seedlings to 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 cm) apart.

How far apart do you plant purple top turnip?

With your finger, make 1/2-inch deep shallow trenches. 12 to 24 inches apart is a good distance for trenches. Four to six weeks before the final frost, sow purple top turnip seeds approximately 1 inch apart in the trenches, gently burying the seeds with soil, for harvest in late spring.

How do you grow turnips in a pot?

If you want to grow turnips in pots, select a container that is at least 16 inches wide and at least eight inches deep with drainage holes. Fill the container with potting soil that has been amended with organic matter and water well. Scatter the seeds and cover with about one inch of soil.

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