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Planting, Growing, and Harvesting Rutabagas

Growing rutabagas, Rutabagas, commonly known as turnip or Swedish turnip, belong to the Brassica napus family. The root vegetable often gets considered a hybrid of cabbage and white turnips. The masses consume the plant’s leaves as a leaf vegetable, while the sweet root is a delicacy. In regions such as Scotland, West England, and Ireland, they find its application in traditional Halloween parties by carving the roots into lanterns. They are highly nutritious, and their easy-to-grow nature makes them very popular among novice gardeners.

Overview of Rutabagas

Biological Name

Brassica napus

Plant Type

Root type

Maturity Period

They need about 80-100 days to yield fruits.

Maturity Size

They reach a height around 12-24 inches and 12 inches wide.

Soil Type

They thrive in slightly acidic to essential soil with the proper sound drainage system. Loamy-type soil enhances growth.

Soil pH



They require a lot of sunlight during their growth period.

Hardiness (USDA Zone)

The soil needs to remain slightly acidic to basic.


One to two inches in rows and eighteen to thirty inches side by side.

Bloom Time

Rutabagas can get sown in the summer and get ready for harvest after the season’s first frost.



Flower Color

The vegetable’s flesh comes in yellowish while the skin is purple with tinged yellow skin.

Growth Rate

The growth rate is about 90 days.

Native Zone

They are native to Russia and Scandinavia.


The plant tastes the patience of the cultivator as it takes to bear fruit. Continuous physical weed removal and routine watering are routine maintenance ones need to do to generate a healthy yield.


Rutabaga or the Swedish turnip are cultivated for their fleshy roots and edible leaves and belongs to the mustard family called Brassicaceae. They originated due to the cross hybrid between white turnip and cabbage in Russia and Scandinavia in the middle ages. They are a good source of fiber, Vitamin C, and potassium.

Rutabaga often got considered the food of last resort during the World War 1 days in France and Germany. The rutabagas have got a complex taxonomical history. The Swiss botanist Gaspard Bauhin mentioned the existence of the said root in his journal of 1620.

Nutritional Facts

Rutabaga can get considered an excellent source of various essential nutrients with few calories to it. They are an excellent source of potassium, calcium, magnesium, and several Vitamin groups.

The selenium content of this vegetable has an excellent positive effect on the reproductive system of a person. Rutabagas are an excellent source of antioxidants that prevents cell damage and maintain a healthy cell membrane in the human body. The antioxidants also prevent premature aging of ingrown human bodies by keeping a check on inflammation-promoting activities.

Vitamin C present in them neutralizes free radicals and thereby protecting the skin from UV damage and pollution. The excellent fiber content in Rutabaga promotes healthy bowel movement. They contain high insoluble fibers which do not dissolve in water, and they play a leading role in promoting regularity and bulk to stool. People on a weight loss diet often include this particular vegetable in their diets regularly.

Minerals and nutrients for Rutabaga:

The plant can grow as it does not require very high maintenance if we correctly follow the instructions. The best way to start growing them is by sowing them as they don’t transplant well; they cannot get produced indoors or in a greenhouse. A cultivator needs to keep them in mind as these are some of the few problems growing Rutabaga.

The Rutabaga seeds should get sown in the early spring at a depth of about ½ inches. Maintain proper spacing while instilling and aerate the soil properly. Now, finding the perfect spot for sowing the seeds gets critical as they require full or partial sunlight while growing. They do not require highly fertile soil as they are not heavy feeders, but they need soil with a slightly acidic nature along with loose and well-drained soil structure.

Using composting manure for fertilizing the soil proved sufficient while growing Rutabaga. If the earth remains too acidic, add some wood ash to lower the pH level to the desirable limit. Watering the plant is quite essential as they demand consistently moist soil to flourish. Heavy mulching of the plant proved helpful for a good yield, and they never plant it along with cabbage or kale. As the said plant doesn’t fall under the heavy feeder category, one can do crop rotation with heavy feeder crops like squash or corn to maintain the soil structure. While selecting fertilizers, ensure that they are not of weed killer type as they may kill the plant in the process.

When to plant Rutabaga:

Rutabagas growing season involves a long period of full sunlight; however, they need to mature in cold weather. Ideally, the best time to sow Rutabaga seeds is in May or June. Harvesting rutabaga should begin in the late autumn or during the winter season. The Rutabaga leaves of the plant also get consumed when they are young, but roots can get consumed only when they are about 90 days into the growth period.

The frost plays an important role when it comes to the taste of this vegetable. Countries that experience warmer weather conditions, where the soil doesn’t frost, can sow seeds before the last frost date or early spring. The plant cannot at all tolerate warm weather and starts becoming bitter and woody. Adding phosphorous and potassium to the need of the soil helps in the excellent and tasty yield from the harvest.

Well-rotted manure or compost during fall or spring can enhance Growing Rutabaga. After about 30 days, carry out side dressing with fertilizers using one-half cup of 46-0-0 for every 100 feet.

Where to plant Rutabagas:

Agricultural experts strongly advise not to grow them in a greenhouse set up, but one can grow them in their backyard in containers or pots. The container should be big enough to allow the Growing Rutabaga enough space to let their globes develop into 3-4 inches high. Using commercial soil mix instead of garden soil will enhance the growth of the Rutabaga significantly.

As we all know, they are light feeders; cultivators can do crop rotation using heavy feeders like squash to maintain the soil structure. It is strongly advised never to grow cabbage or kale or around the mustard green. Using drip irrigation helps the plant enhance its growth as they require constant moisture flow in the soil. They are excellent companion crops for onion or climbing peas.

How to grow Rutabagas:

Despite being a low-maintenance crop, growing Rutabagas involves a lot of patience on the cultivator end to bear the fruit for its effort. A cool-weather crop requires one to two frosting to enhance its taste, so the sowing of seeds should get timed so that it becomes ready for harvest in the late autumn when the plant becomes prepared to eat.

The cultivators should keep in mind that keeping Rutabaga too long under the soil may destroy its texture and flavor by turning rubbery and bitter. Drip Irrigation is the best bet for its growth as the high water demand of this plant. Heavy mulching of the leaves just after a month will make them bushy and enhance growth to a great degree, as it helps to check on the weed growth, improves moisture retention, and eliminate damage from frost.

Variety of Rutabaga:

  • American Purple top: People often confuse them with the purple top variant due to its close resemblance to a distinct purple top. They have a creamy or yellow-colored bottom, while the base comes in white.
  • Joan: They produce uniform round roots along with that purple cap-like structure on the top. The flavor of this variant becomes sweeter when it experiences the first frost. They take about 120 days and are ideal for harvesting rutabaga in the fall.
  • Laurentian: They produce medium to small roots ranging from 4-6 inches in diameter. The red top, along with the cream-colored body, is a sight of beauty for any cultivator. The small size coupled with a mild flavor and attractive appearance makes them a crowd favorite.
  • Marian: They grow up to as big as 8 inches in diameter. The maturity time of this variant ranges between 85-95 days, depending on how well the cultivator maintained soil pH and irrigation.

Harvesting and storing Rutabagas:

The rutabagas get best left in the ground for that first frost which gives their flavor but is not frozen. So, it’s pretty critical when it comes to timing the harvest. The best time to do so is in the late autumn, when the first frosts have just occurred. They are ready for harvest when the diameter of the globe reaches about 2-3 inches in diameter. However, if it’s kept further longer till 4-5 inches, the taste enhances significantly.

The roots start pushing upward when it’s fully grown, and cultivators can take it to signify that the vegetable is ready for harvest. The plant’s foliage can get consumed, but people prefer Rutabaga leaves in their early days of growth. Now comes the part of storing the harvested Rutabaga; always cut off about 1 inch from the top near the crown using a sharp knife. Give a light wash using water before patting them dry and place them in a cool place. Now, bag them using polythene and put them in the refrigerator. They have got a long lifespan and can get consumed after 2-4 months.

Pests and Pesticides for Rutabagas:

  • Rutabaga seeds, foliage, and leaves attract a lot of pests, and we have listed some of the leading names in the list:
  • Caterpillars: They attack the foliage and gradually kills the plants. Experts suggest heavy mulching of the plant will keep them away from cultivation.
  • Cutworms: They feast on the seedlings of the plant.
  • Root-Knot nematode: A soil infested by these organisms creates deformation in the formation of the root.
  • Aphids and Flee Beatles: They wreak havoc on the green parts of the plant, and spraying pesticides helps to get rid of them.
  • Root maggots and wireworms: Spraying pesticides, especially during the first thirty days, will help keep them in check.

Apart from various pests, rutabagas often get affected by multiple diseases, and it can get prevented if a cultivator doesn’t grow Rutabaga in the same site more than two years in a row:

  • Clubroot
  • Leaf spot
  • White rust
  • White spot
  • Alternaria
  • Downy mildew


There are various ways in preparing rutabagas, and they are as follows:

  • Roasted Rutabagas.Easy mashed Rutabagas.
  • Rutabaga Noodles.


When to harvest rutabagas?

Rutabagas are the crop of cold weather and require frost for their taste enhancement. It’s best to harvest them in the early spring when the first frosts have passed away and imparting the flavor to them.

How to store Rutabagas?

Rutabagas can get stored for a long haul and consumed after 2-4 months from the day of their harvest. Cut 1 inch from the top, wash it water lightly, and put them in the refrigerator inside a plastic bag.

How long does it take to grow Rutabagas?

The answer may vary from one variety to another, but roughly it takes about 80-100 days before it becomes ready for harvest.

How deep do you plant rutabagas?

Normally, ½ inches into the soil, but in early spring sowing of rutabagas, seed sow them about ¼ inches deep.

How do you harvest and store Rutabagas?

When the globe reaches about 4-5 inches in diameter and starts pushing the soil surface, the vegetable can get harvested with its flavor intact. One can store them in a cold place wrapped in a plastic bag for about 2-4 months.

How long can you leave rutabagas on the ground?

The time to pick that perfect time to harvest gets very critical. Leaving the vegetable longer than need will turn it rubbery and bitter. Approximately when it reaches about 4-5 inches and starts pushing the soil surface, harvest them.

How do you know when the Rutabaga is ripe?

When the globes reach about 4-6 inches, they are ready to get harvested. When the globe starts pushing the surface of the soil, we can consider the vegetable is ripe.

Where are rutabagas grown in the US?

They are widely grown in the northern states of the United States along with few other Canadian states. The plant loves cold weather conditions and requires frosting to enhance its taste.

What are the benefits of rutabagas?

Rutabagas, loaded with antioxidants and various Vitamin groups along with insoluble fibers that enhance bowel movement. The low carb content helps in the weight loss program.

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