a bunch of purple topped turnips with smooth skin

When Should You Sow Turnips?

Turnips are a fast-growing root crop that is ideally suited for beginner gardeners. They are also perfect crops for the times between seasons when temperatures are warm during the day and cold at night. This is also a time when garden beds are empty or sparse. So when should you sow turnips?

Depending on the climate of your region, when you should sow turnips will vary a little. For most people, it will be in the fall or early spring. Some lucky turnip growers might be able to cultivate turnips all winter long. To have a continual supply of turnips, you can also continuously sow seeds every couple of weeks for continued harvest.

As a rule of thumb, sow your turnip seeds in cooler temperatures, but these fast-growing and cold-tolerant plants can be quite forgiving. So keep reading below so you can take advantage of turnip growing seasons to the maximum.

When should you sow turnips?

The amazing thing about turnips is that you can sow seeds at just about any time. However, they do best if grown during periods when the days are warm and the nights are cool. Usually, by the end of April, or the beginning May is the best time to sow turnips. By this time the temperatures are high enough to ensure frost-free nights, which would destroy young turnip plants. Depending on your climate zone, you can plant turnips in the spring, fall, or winter in warmer climates.

white turnips with a smooth skin
Turnips have a beautiful smooth skin and are a tasty companion in many dishes

Warm days and cool nights encourage the plant to store sugars, making it more delicious. If it’s too warm, turnips will channel that energy into a burst of growth making the root tough and bitter. Fall and spring are generally the times when temperatures behave this way.

Sowing turnips in the fall

Fall is the best time to plant turnip seeds and this is what they are naturally inclined to. As temperatures get colder, the plants are encouraged to store energy for the winter. Ideally, you’ll want to start seeds 10 weeks before the first frost so that they have enough time to get big before their growth slows. When you sow your turnip seeds in the fall, keep in mind that you can store mature plants in the ground over the freezing winter.

At the beginning of the season, plant a few seeds every couple of weeks so you can eat them as they’re ready. Then about six weeks before the first frost, make a big planting and overwinter all the turnips you’ll want. The plants can be stored in the ground and you’ll be able to harvest as needed.

Sowing turnips in the spring

For spring planting, you’ll want to start in the early season. Ideally, you’ll sow the turnip seeds as soon as the ground has unthawed and temperatures are above 25 degrees. Just make sure the last frost has passed. If you’re worried about an unexpected cold front, consider protecting the young plants with lots of mulch.

Once temperatures reach about 60 – 65 degrees F the root crops will become tough and not pleasant to eat. If you’re trying to extend your spring planting as much as possible, choose a cooler microclimate in your garden. A shadier spot and thick layers of mulch, for example, will keep temperatures cooler for longer.

Sowing turnips in the winter

Turnips are very cold-resistant and will survive freezing temperatures, but the cold will affect their growth. So you have two options to grow turnips in the winter, depending on your climate.

If you happen to live in a region with mild winters and above-freezing temperatures, you can plant turnips all winter long. Just keep planting new seeds every couple of weeks.

Should you live in a climate with freezing temperatures, plant a large batch of seeds about 8 weeks before the first frost. By the time it freezes, the turnips should be ready to harvest. They will keep in the ground until you are ready to eat them.

a bunch of purple topped turnips
Turnip varieties grow in many different colors – purple, green, and white to name a few.

Like most root crops, they don’t like to be transplanted, so place the seeds directly into their permanent location.

What seed spacing should I use for sowing turnips?

Plant turnip seeds ¼ to ½ an inch deep. Depending on what agricultural method you’re using, you can use two different spacing methods. In beds, using the zig-zagging bio-intensive method, sow the seeds 4 to 6 inches apart.

If you’re planting in rows, place seeds 5 inches apart and leave 20 inches between the rows. Modify these measurements based on the specific variety you’re planting.

You can also broadcast the seeds and thin them out. Turnip seedlings are edible so you can intentionally plant extra turnip seeds and thin them out for a microgreen salad.

What soil type do turnips prefer?

The perfect soil for turnips is loose, well-draining soil. They prefer neutral to alkaline soil and if clubroot is a problem, I would recommend purposely raising the pH to 6.5.

In order to stay tender, they need to grow quickly. So maintaining good soil will enable their rapid growth. Keep your soil in the best shape by adding lots of organic matter. Compost will keep the soil loose while also fertilizing the brassica.

How long do turnips take to germinate?

Turnip seeds germinate extremely quickly and continue to grow quickly. Typically, turnip seeds germinate in one to five days.

turnip seeds germinating
Turnip seeds germinating in 5 days in good conditions.

If conditions are warm enough, about 77 F, seeds can germinate in a couple of days. Under slightly cooler conditions up to 50 F, the seeds will take up to five days to germinate.

Short germination times make turnips a great option for growing as microgreens. Within a week of planting, you’ll be enjoying a highly nutritious and gourmet microgreen salad.

How long do turnips take to grow?

Turnips are fast-growing plants that take between 40 to 80 days to harvest depending on the variety, temperature, and soil conditions.

Once germinated, turnip plants will develop rapidly. Within six weeks of planting, you’ll be happily eating your homegrown turnips.

small white turnips in a bunch with their leaves on
Turnips are fast-growing and shouldn’t be grown too big as the flesh can become tough.

Turnips don’t like being transplanted, so it’s not recommended that you try and start them early in the greenhouse. They have a natural tendency to germinate when temperates are warm and to mature as they get cooler. Because of their reactions to temperature, planting turnips in the early fall makes the most sense.

If you pay close attention to the temperatures in your region, you can successfully grow turnips quickly and easily in under two months.


Besides being a crop that is extremely easy to sow, it grows very quickly. Fast growth and harvest times of up to 50 days make them amazing plants to grow between seasons.

Sow turnip seeds into your garden beds in the spring while your summer veggies are in the nursery to take advantage of the space. If you live in warmer climates you can sow turnips in the fall, just be sure you are guaranteed frost-free nights for the turnips to grow. In the fall, sow them amongst your larger winter vegetables. You’ll end up harvesting your turnips just as the other plants need more space to grow.

Traditionally, turnips were considered food for animals and peasants. Their incredible nutritional value and versatility in the kitchen have turned them into garden staples. You can eat both the leaves and the root, so make sure to add these no-stress crops to your next fall or spring planting.