Turnips are an easy to grow crop to grow at home. And if you've been put off by the flavourless shop bought version, you may be pleasantly surprised by what a delicious and versatile crop it can be. Although the root is normally round, cylindrical root shapes are not uncommon in earlier varieties and colours can range from white to yellow and purple.

Is there a Difference between Turnips and Swedes?

Are swedes turnips?  Or are turnips swedes?  The answer is not clear cut. You will find that in some places such as Scotland and Cornwall they call swedes turnips and it is this you will find in your traditional Cornish Pasty.

But the true answer is that swedes and turnips come from the same family so they are closely related.  In fact, a swede is a Swedish turnip, hence the name.  

The Difference Between Swedes & Turnips

You will find that swedes are bigger,harder and have tougher skins than turnips. They are also yellower in colour.

Turnips are smaller and more delicate with smooth skin and white flesh and grow quicker so are a great vegetable to start growing.   

Where to grow turnips

Turnips thrive in firm, fertile soil that retains moisture. Dig in the autumn and incorporate plenty of well rotted manure or garden compost to help retain moisture. They grow best in a sunny position but turnips can tolerate some degree of shade. As always, especially with root crops, rotate your planting to avoid soil-borne pests and diseases. 

How to Grow Turnips from seed

Turnips don't transplant well so it is best to grow turnips from seed rather than a plug plant. 

Different varieties are sown at different times of the year from late winter right up until September. So you can get early, spring sown and main crop turnips.Check your seed packet before planting to find out which variety you have.

Spring Sowing

Sow thinly in rows 1cm deep with 20 cm between rows for the early crops. And thin to around 15cm apart after germination. Successional sowing during spring and summer will ensure a steady supply.

Summer Sowing

For turnips to be harvested in autumn or winter, sow in late summer to the same depth but thin to 20cm between rows for a slightly larger root.

Winter Sowing

For a crop for next year, sow under cloches in late winter. Easy Tunnels would work. you could also use a tunnel to protect spring sowings (March to June) from particularly harsh spells of weather. 

Turnip Plant Aftercare

Water regularly to prevent bolting. Keep rows weed free using a Speedhoe 

Harvesting & Storing Turnips

Pick turnips harvested in summer when they are the size of a golf ball - don't allow them to become woody and they will taste better when picked young. 


Leave autumn and winter varieties in the ground and harvest when required. Alternatively lift and store in moist sand in a shed or garage or even easier, in a natural jute bag such as the Haxnicks Vegetable Sacks. (Great for your potatoes and carrots too!) 

Turnip Pests and Diseases

Turnips are prone to the same pests and diseases as cabbages; mainly flea beetle. You should avoid growing in ground previously used for brassicas and cabbages, considering turnips in the same group when planning crop rotation. Violet rot and clubroot can be a problem which can be prevented by good crop rotation. To combat it destroy any affected plants on the bonfire or dispose of away from the garden.