Turnip Seeds

Sowing and saving tiny turnip seeds is fun, easy, and helps you grow some of the most interesting heirloom varieties for planting year after year.

Turnips are available most of the year through grocery stores and farmers’ markets, but usually only the standard purple and white varieties. Growing your own from seed opens a world of different varieties with a wide range of colors and flavors from spicy, like radishes, to smooth, mild, almost apple-like sweetness. Plus you can harvest when you want, while they are small, tender and sweeter, and save seed for following years.

Planting Turnip Seeds

When you buy a packet of turnip seeds, they will be surprisingly small. At nearly two hundred thousand seeds per pound, even a small packet can provide a lot of turnip plants!

Turnips grow best in cool weather; hot temperatures cause the roots to become woody and bad-tasting. They are typically planted in March, April, or May, depending on soil temperature and late freeze predictions; in areas with long seasons they can be planted again in August, September or October.  

Sow seed onto fertile, well-drained soil. Turnip seeds sprout best, within a week or two, between 60 and 70 degrees F; however, if sown in cooler soils, down into the mid 40s, they take longer to sprout. Keep soil moist and the plants will grow quickly, being ready for harvest between 40 and 60 days after planting seed.

Saving Seed

Though hybrids rarely come true from saved seed, heirloom turnip varieties are “open pollinated” meaning you can save seed from year to year with the same results, as long as you don’t have different varieties flowering at the same tine very close to one another.  

However, though turnips are planted as one-shot annuals in the garden, they are actually biennials – the first season they grow leaves and store nutrients in the thickened root; the second year they sprout tall spires of yellow flowers followed by pea-like pods of seeds, then die. While a few spring-planted varieties such as popular Shogoin will flower and make seed at the end ofthe first season, most have to go through a dormant period first.

In mild winter areas, roots can be mulched and left in place, and they will flower early the next spring. But in very cold areas, gardeners harvest a few large, mature roots from fall-planted turnips before they freeze, cut off the leaves leaving a few inches of leaf stem, then store the roots, unwashed, in a cool, dark, humid place over the winter. They set the roots back in the ground in the spring, which quickly sprout leaves and begin to flower and make seeds.   

Wait until the seed pods turn brown and dry, and shake them into a paper bag where they will continue to dry before shattering. Clean them through a kitchen sieve, blowing away the chaff, then store the darkest ones in a cool, dry place for up to four or five years. It is always a good idea to replenish your heirloom turnip seed supply every two or three years.

Keep Reading

Next Up

Vegetable Garden Plans

Taking time to plan a vegetable garden before you plant can pay dividends throughout the season. Clever use of low rows and tall accent plants creates microclimates that different vegetables enjoy, as well as great visual effects.

Tips for a Raised-Bed Vegetable Garden

Raised-bed vegetable gardening takes very little space and allows vegetables to be grown closer together.

Choosing a Site for Your Vegetable Garden

Growing vegetables in ideal conditions is not always possible, particularly if you have limited space, but it pays to find a sunny spot that is sheltered from the wind and easily accessible for watering and weeding.

Combining Vegetables and Flowers in Your Garden

Small gardens need to look their best year round and usually have no room for a separate vegetable garden, but with a little imagination, vegetables can look striking alongside flowers and produce a tasty harvest, too.

Is a Potato a Vegetable?

Gardeners sometimes get needlessly fussy over technical issues, such as is a potato is a vegetable. The short answer is yes! But even though it grows underground, it is not a root.

Incorporating Vegetables Into Flower Beds

If you're limited on space for a vegetable garden, incorporate veggies into existing flower beds.

To-Do List for Fall Gardening

October and November are good months to do some gardening and landscaping. Here are just a few things a gardener could -- or should -- be doing.

How to Determine Your Gardening Zone

The newly revised USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map can help pinpoint your gardening zone to within a half-mile of your home.

On TV

Get Social With Us

We love to DIY. You love to DIY. Let's get together.

Consult Our A-Z Guide

Everything You Need to Know

Browse a full list of topics found on the site, from accessories to mudrooms to wreaths.  

How-To Advice and Videos

Get video instructions about kitchens, bathrooms, remodeling, flooring, painting and more.

Watch DIY Downloads Now

Watch DIY Network LIVE

Don't miss your favorite shows in real time online.