Grow your own: Turnips & Swede

Home-grown turnips are the best to eat. They can be harvested about golf ball size and eaten raw in salads, rather like radishes, or cooked in many ways.

They are also fast to mature and have a long sowing season. Their leaves can be harvested in spring as an alternative to spinach. Grown in the same way, swedes are a great winter standby.


  • ‘Aramis’
    A purple-topped turnip that is ideal for growing at closer spacings to produce really small roots.
  • ‘Tokyo Cross F1’
    This turnip has an RHS Award of Garden Merit. It is a white turnip that is ready to harvest in as little as 35 days from sowing.
  • ‘Invitation’
    A club root and mildew-resistant swede with great winter hardiness.
Two Turnips on a white background.

Growing Tips

Turnips can be sown in February if protected with cloches or a polytunnel. The main sowing period of March to April will produce a crop as early as May.

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Swedes are sown later – from May onwards. Both crops like a good soil that is slightly alkaline so a dressing of lime will be necessary if you have acidic soil.

Sprinkle some Growmore or chicken manure on the plot a week before sowing. Sow the seed direct in channels (seed drill) that have first been watered. Sow 6mm (1⁄4 in) deep and as thinly as possible.

The rows should be about 23cm (9in) apart, but for autumn-sown turnips they can be as close as 8cm (3in) apart as you want a mass of leaves. If sowing in spring or summer, thin to 13cm (5in) apart.

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Water well as dry soil can cause woody roots. As soon as the turnips are large enough, start to lift.

For more growing tips and guides, you should subscribe to Kitchen Garden – you’ll receive free seeds with every single issue too!

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