Days to Germination:4-14 days
Turnips prefer cool weather, so direct sow in the spring as soon as the soil can be worked and/or in the summer for fall harvest. For smaller Turnips, thin seedlings to 3" apart. For larger Turnips, thin seedlings to about 6" apart. Choose a well-draining, sunny site which is moderately fertile. Dig the soil deeply to a depth of 6" to 8" and add moderate amounts of compost and/or well-rotted manure. Do not overdo nitrogen fertilizer, as this will result in excessive green top growth and no Turnips! Water regularly and fertilize as needed with kelp, fish emulsion or manure tea. Harvest when golf-ball size for immediate use or harvest larger for winter storage. The greens are delicious steamed and dressed with butter or olive oil. Turnips belong to the Brassica family and should not be grown in the same site as other Brassicas for 4 years.
The best thing about Turnips is that they are two crops in one. Both the roots and the tops are tasty and nutritious, so you're doubling the return from your garden space. We particularly love Turnips when they are golf ball sized and so sweet and mild that you'd barely call their flavor a "Turnip taste". Leave a half inch of the greens on the roots, then cook them in a tightly covered skillet or saucepan over low to medium heat with butter: nothing else! Turnips contain so much moisture when young that they'll steam in their own juices. Shake the pan from time to time to keep them from sticking: it's OK if they get slightly golden and caramelized. Cook for just a few minutes, while they still have a bit of crunch. Tender young Turnip greens are delicious chopped coarsely, steamed, then dressed with butter or oil. Or, you can use them as a bed on which to set pork chops or sausages, letting the meat juices ooze down to flavor the greens.
It's always enlightening to find out where our common vegetables hail from. For example, the fact that turnips are native to Siberia and other reaches of the far north tells you something important about their needs. Plant them as early as possible in spring to get a few quick crops in before summer's heat, then sow them in cold frames for winter munching. The cold just makes them crisper and sweeter. Even the greens are tastier when the weather is chilly.
Right Time, Right Place
Nothing beats a fall crop of tender baby Turnips, sweetened by crisp cool nights. The best way to grow them is to plant in a bed where you have just pulled out your summer Onions. During the first half of the twentieth century, the University of Rhode Island did extensive studies on crop rotations such as this one. Among the findings: proof that Turnips and other brassicas do best following an Onion crop.