Growing vegetables in containers is achievable and allows people to grow healthy, nutritious food in apartments or homes with limited outdoor space. Certain vegetables are better suited to container growing than others, posing the question of whether turnips can be grown successfully in containers or not.
Turnips can be grown in a container if the container is able to accommodate the turnip plants with the correct distance between plants. The container must be at least 12-inches deep to accommodate the root growth of the turnip. A container 12-inches in diameter can hold 3 turnips 4-inches apart.
Root crops are not generally the first choice for growing vegetables in containers, but that does not mean that they are excluded as a container crop. Turnips are a root crop that can be grown in containers by carefully selecting the right container and controlling the planting density. The correct maintenance during the turnip’s growth will ensure a good harvest.
Are Turnips Good For Container Growing?
Turnips are a cruciferous root crop part of the mustard family, with many important nutritional benefits, making it a popular garden crop for home vegetable growers.
The entire part of the turnip plant can be used, from the leafy greens to the nutritious root that develops below the ground.
Most people that start growing vegetables in containers begin with leafy plants such as lettuce or swiss chard, but root crops such as turnips are equally easy to grow in containers.
The likely reason that root crops are not as popular in containers is the low-density yield due to the space requirements of the plant. However, using the leaves from the turnip plant allows you to get nutritional benefits from the plant well before the root is ready to harvest.
What Containers Are Best For Growing Turnips?
There are several varieties of turnips, ranging from the larger standard turnip varieties to varieties with smaller roots.
The smaller root versions offer a higher yield potential when grown in containers because more plants can be grown in the same area than the larger plants.
Round pots can be used to grow turnips successfully, but I have found that rectangular containers, such as window boxes, allow for better spacing of the plants and are better able to hold a higher plant density.
While smaller pots can be used to grow a single plant at a time, this is not usually efficient use of the space since you will only get a single turnip at the end of the growing season. A larger pot that can hold 3 or 4 turnip plants at a time would make more efficient use of the growing space.
The minimum size pot I would recommend for growing turnips is a 12-inch or 305mm diameter pot which will give you the space to plant 3 turnips while maintaining the required distance between plants of 4-inches or 100mm.
What Root Space Do Turnips Require?
Since turnips are root crops, they need adequate space for the root to develop below the growing medium’s surface.
This requirement means that the depth of the container used to grow turnips is as important width of the container.
For standard turnip varieties, I recommend a container with a depth of at least 12-inches to give the turnip plants enough room to grow their root.
What Is The Best Soil For Growing Turnips In Containers?
The best growing medium to use for growing turnips in a container is a premium potting soil mixed in a 50:50 ratio with a good quality compost rich in organic material.
The growing medium should be well-drained to prevent the soil from becoming soggy, which will promote root rot, and the plant will die.
The soil in the container must not be allowed to dry out since this will produce a hard, woody, and bitter turnip if the plant is subjected to water stress. This requirement means the growing medium must have good water retention. The compost added to the potting soil will help in this regard.
How To Grow Turnips In Containers
Turnips are a relatively fast-growing root crop that does not require much maintenance throughout their growing season.
The key aspect to receiving a tasty harvest is to keep the soil in the container moist but not wet. Never let the growing medium in the container dry out completely, as it will affect the taste of the turnips when harvested.
Best Time For Growing Turnips In Containers
Turnips are a cool-weather crop, which gives two seasons that are ideal conditions for growing turnips in containers.
Planting turnip seeds in early spring will yield a harvest in early summer. You can plant a second turnip crop in late summer and have a harvest at the beginning of winter.
If your winters are mild enough or your containers are indoors, you can grow turnips throughout the winter.
Don’t Overcrowd Your Turnips In Containers
The best method for growing turnips is to grow them from seed directly in the container where they are intended to grow.
Turnips do not transplant well, so it is best to grow them directly in the container where they will grow through the entire season.
Plant the seeds ½ inch or 1cm deep and 4 to 6-inches or 100 to 150mm apart in the soil and cover lightly. Gently water the seeds immediately after sowing to bed them in and initiate the germination process.
Do not water the turnip seeds again until they have germinated and the seedlings have appeared. The seeds will take between 7 to 10-days to germinate and for the seedlings to appear.
Practice succession planting and plant a second container with seeds two weeks after the first one to have a second crop that is ready for harvest shortly after the first.
How Long Till You Can Harvest Container Turnips?
Turnips are generally ready for harvest between 45 to 50 days after planting. Another guideline for harvesting is when you can see 1 to 1 ½ inches diameter of the turnip root top sticking through the soil.
Summer planted turnips should be harvested as soon as they are ready and not left in the container soil for long. Turnip roots left too long in the ground during the summer heat can begin to rot. Rather harvest the roots and store them in your refrigerator.
Winter turnips can be left in the soil for longer, but if you leave them for too long, they will become hard, woody, and fibrous. It is best to harvest the crop and store it in a root cellar or a refrigerator where the temperature is around 32°F or 5.6°C.
Turnips grown in spring and harvested in early summer are generally more tender and succulent than an autumn planting and a winter harvest. However, the winter crop is hardier, and the turnips will store for longer in a cool, dry place after harvesting.
If you harvest the turnip greens for use in salads, don’t harvest all the leaves off one plant at once. Harvest one or two leaves from each turnip plant, leaving some leaves in place to continue photosynthesis as the vegetable grows. Leaves can be harvested once they reach 4 to 6-inches or 100 to 150mm in length.
Turnips can be grown relatively easily in containers, with the main challenge being the ability to grow enough plants in a container to produce a good harvest. Planting several containers simultaneously or succession planting two weeks apart will produce a usable harvest.
Well-drained soil in the container that is not allowed to dry out during the development of the root will ensure a successful tasty turnip harvest!