It can be a challenge to grow root vegetables in a container because they grow deep into the soil. But you won’t find that problem with turnips as they are of a small size.
You can grow turnips in a container as long as you choose one that has at least 8-12 inches of depth. You need to add good potting soil and fertilizer to the container. And you need to give the turnip plant a good supply of water.
I’ve written a step-by-step guide on what you need to do if you want to grow turnips in your own container garden. So keep reading.
1. Pick a suitable variety for the container
Most turnip varieties are short, round, and grow 1-5 inches in diameter which makes them a very suitable plant to grow in a container. As long as you have a container that is
I’ve listed some popular varieties of turnips that you should be able to find. You can get the seeds at a local garden center or an online store.
|Tokyo Cross||35 days|
|Golden Globe||55 days|
|Purple Top White Globe||55 days|
|Silky Sweet||65 days|
|White Knight||35 days|
|Scarlet Queen||45 days|
|Golden Ball||45 to 65 days|
|Market Express||40 days|
2. Choose the best time to grow turnips
Turnips are a cool-season plant which means they need the temperature to be less than 75 degrees to grow well. I would suggest growing them when the temperature is between 50 to 75 degrees.
If the temperature is too low, the seeds won’t germinate fast and the plant will take time to grow. If the temperature is too high, the plant will die or the turnips will turn bitter.
The best time to grow turnips is early spring or late summer when the temperature is within the suggested range. Make sure the last frost date has passed before you plant the turnips.
3. Understand how long it takes to grow
This will depend on the turnip variety you are growing but usually the turnip plant takes about 30-60 days from sowing seeds until the turnips are ready for harvest.
You should check the seed packet to get the exact timeline on when your turnips will be ready for harvest.
It’s best to harvest the turnips as soon as the roots are about 2-3 inches in diameter. If they grow too large, the turnips become woody and tasteless.
4. Choose the right container to grow turnips
You can choose a container that is 8-12 inches deep for the turnips to grow well. Smaller varieties will grow comfortably in a container that is 8 inches deep.
I prefer using a plastic container to grow turnips because it is lightweight, inexpensive, and does not lose moisture as fast as some other materials like terracotta.
Pick a container that has drainage holes in the bottom. This helps prevent problems of overwatering as the excess water has a way to drain out. Overwatering is the main reason why plants would die from fungal problems such as root rot.
5. Prepare the container for planting
You can use any container you prefer as long as it has the required depth for growing turnips. You can buy a new one or reuse an old one you have.
Make sure to sterilize the container before you put the potting soil in it. It’s easy to do this with a mixture containing 1 part bleach and 9 parts water.
Soak the container in this mixture for about an hour and take it out. Then you can rinse this mixture off the container with water. Keep the container to dry out before you think about adding the potting soil.
Sterilizing the container ensures that there are no harmful pests and diseases present in it that can harm the turnip plant.
Select a good location where you can keep the container because once you add the potting soil it will get heavy.
You can now add potting soil to the container. It’s best to use good potting soil as this is the most important factor to grow good turnips. Don’t try to use garden soil that may contain too much sand or clay and is unsuitable for growing such plants.
The garden soil may also contain harmful chemicals, pests, and diseases that affect the plant.
You can either buy the potting soil from a garden center, nursery, or online. Or you can make some of your own using a mix of 1 part perlite, 1 part vermiculite, and 1 part peat moss. If you have compost, add some of that to enrich the potting soil.
The compost will provide it with good texture, nutrients, and beneficial microorganisms that help the turnip plants grow well.
Add a layer of newspaper at the bottom of the container and put the potting soil in it. The layer will prevent the potting soil from leaking out of the drainage holes at the bottom.
Now keep adding the potting soil till you fill the container and only about 2 inches remains from the rim. You want to leave some space at the top of the container so that when you water the potting soil it does not spill out.
6. Plant the turnip seeds in the container
The turnip’s roots don’t like to be disturbed once they are growing. I suggest to directly plant the turnip seeds in the potting soil in the container.
You should not try to start seeds indoors or buy seedlings for turnip plants because there’s a higher risk that the plant roots will get damaged.
If the container is wide enough having at least a width of 12 inches, you can plant at several spots in the container. Make sure to keep a distance of 4 inches between the spots.
In each spot, you can place 2-3 turnip seeds together. Push the seeds 1/4 inch into the soil and water the potting soil to make moist.
Be careful when you water the potting soil so that you don’t displace the turnip seeds. Make sure the potting soil gets sufficient sunlight and water and the seeds will germinate after 4-7 days.
If the weather outside turns too hot or cold or there’s heavy rain, you’ll need to bring the container inside to protect the seeds or seedlings.
7. Give the plants the required sunlight
Turnips need full sun which means you need to provide at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight every day.
You do need to take care that the temperature does not get too high or the plants will not grow well. If it gets too hot in the afternoon, you may need to move the container to a shaded location for protection.
8. Water the turnip plants well
Turnip plants need a lot of water to grow well. But that does not mean you should overwater them. The soil has to be moist but not soggy.
If you give too little water to the potting soil and it dries out, the turnip plants will not grow well. If you give too much water and the potting soil remains soggy, you risk the plants getting root rot.
The best solution is to check your potting soil every day as part of your daily routine. Stick your finger 1-2 inches in the potting soil and check if the tip of your finger feels moist.
If it does not feel moisture, it’s time to water the potting soil. You should water the potting soil deeply and thoroughly so the water can reach the roots at the bottom of the container.
If you have enough drainage holes in the container, the excess water will flow out from the bottom and avoid the problem of water staying in the container.
I recommend the best time to water the potting soil is in the morning so that enough moisture reaches the roots. The excess moisture on the potting soil and foliage will evaporate when the sun comes out.
You can also add a layer of organic mulch such as dried leaves, wood chips, or grass clippings on the potting soil. This helps the potting soil retain moisture longer as the mulch insulates it.
This is especially beneficial in hot summer because the potting soil will not dry out too fast and you don’t have to water the potting soil as often.
9. Thin the unwanted turnip seedlings
When we plant the turnip seeds in a spot in the container, we always use 2-3 seeds. This increases the chances that at least one seed will germinate.
If more than one seed germinates, then we let them grow till the seedlings are 2-4 inches tall. Then we need to keep the healthiest one and pull out the remaining from that spot. This is known as thinning.
If you had planted seeds in multiple spots in the container, also make sure there is at least a distance of 4 inches between the seedlings. If it’s less than that, you may need to pull one of them out.
You want to only grow one seedling per spot in the container so there is no competition for nutrients and resources. This helps the single turnip plant to grow the best it can.
You can pull the unwanted seedlings by placing your fingers near the base of the seedling and plucking them out. You can then either add them to your salad or toss them in a compost pile if you have one.
10. Provide good fertilizer to the turnip plants
Turnip plants will need fertilizer to help them grow big and healthy turnips. If you can manage to get compost, make sure to add it to the potting soil when preparing the container. The compost contains the nutrients and the beneficial microorganisms that will help enrich the potting soil.
If you don’t have compost, you can add a balanced organic fertilizer to the potting soil when preparing the container. You can choose a slow-release granular fertilizer and mix it in. You can use any balanced fertilizer like 5-5-5 or 10-10-10. Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions when adding it to the soil.
The slow-release fertilizer will release into the soil when you water it and help the nutrients reach the plant’s roots. This type of fertilizer will be available in the potting soil for around a month.
After that, you can continue adding fertilizer every month. Or you can consider using liquid organic fertilizer that gives a quick boost of nutrients to the potting soil as well as foliage. You’ll need to spray such fertilizer once every couple of weeks.
Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how much you need to dilute the liquid fertilizer with water before use.
11. Harvest the turnips from the container
The turnips will be ready for harvest about 30-60 days after you have planted the seeds. You should check the seed packet for the precise days it will take for the turnips to grow.
You can also check the size of the crown of the turnips to figure out whether they’re ready for harvest. The crown will be visible as it sticks out from the soil. Or you can clear a little bit of the potting soil to observe them.
If they have grown about 2-3 inches in diameter, you can harvest them. If you allow the turnips to grow larger, they will turn bitter so it’s best to harvest them as soon as they are ready.
You can just hold the base of the turnip greens and gently pull the turnips out of the soil. If they are a bit tight, you can just wiggle them a little before pulling them out.
The turnip greens are also edible and you can toss them in with your salad.
The turnips can store in a cool, dry place for a month without any problems. If you place them in a refrigerator they will last a couple of weeks.
Here are some of my favorite container gardening tools
Thank you for reading this post. I hope it helps you with your gardening needs. I’ve listed some tools below that can help you with container gardening. These are affiliate links so I’ll earn a commission if you use them.
Gardening Gloves – I find the Pine Tree Tools Bamboo Gardening Gloves really good for both men and women. It’s made from bamboo so helps absorb perspiration. They are also comfortable and fit very well.
Containers – You know picking the right container is crucial for your container gardening. I’ve written a detailed post on the best containers you can choose from. If you’re happy with a plastic container, you can check out the Bloem Saturn Planter.
Watering Can – This is a must-have tool when you’re growing plants in pots or grow bags. It helps to water the potting soil without splashing on the foliage. The Kensington Watering Can is stylish, strong, and can provide precision when watering potted plants.
Trowel – Garden Guru Trowel is my favorite because it’s durable and comfortable to use. My gardening friends really love having a trowel because they use it for digging soil, mixing fertilizer, moving seeds, leveling out the soil, mixing compost or mulch, and also dividing tubers
Bypass Pruner – I really like the Corona Bypass Pruner because it’s durable and gives a clean cut that helps plants recover faster. If you’re looking for something cheap, get the Fiskars Bypass Pruner that is really good as well.
To see an extensive list of the best container gardening tools gardeners recommend, check out this resource that I made for you.
Kevin is the founder of Gardening Mentor, a website that aims to teach people to grow their own food in a limited space. As a self-taught gardener, Kevin has spent several years growing plants and creating gardening content on the website. He is certified in Home Horticulture and Organic Gardening by expert gardeners from Oregon State University.