How to Grow Rutabaga
As members of the mustard family, Rutabaga is not an overly common crop in
home gardens in the U.S. They are however, quite popular in Europe and Canada.
Like it's cousin the Turnip, Rutabagas are an easy to grow root crop. They
are nutritious, versatile and taste good raw, with dips or cooked. Of the
two, rutabagas are larger, and takes longer to reach harvest.
For some reason, when we speak of Turnips and Rutabagas,
we talk about them together. Perhaps, that's because they both are root crops,
and both are more obscure and uncommon in the vegetable garden. There are
significant differences. Rutabagas for example, are a cross between a turnip
and a cabbage, hence we consider them cousins. Turnips are quick to grow,
and can produce two or more crops in a season. Growing Rutabagas require
80-100 days. You will only get a fall crop.
Did you know? In Ireland, Turnips and Rutabagas were hollowed out
and a small ember put in them to ward off demons and devils. They were
Varieties of Rutabagas:
Sowing Rutabaga Seeds:
Sow Rutabaga seeds 1/2 inch deep, two to four inches apart, in rows 1 1/2
to two feet apart. Plant seeds in double rows to conserve space in your home
Time the sowing of seeds for a fall harvest. This can vary significantly,
depending upon the length of the season in your area. Try to time the harvest
between the last couple weeks before frost to about a month after the first
frost. Being hardy plants, they survive frosts. Even after hard freezes,
the rutabaga roots are fine to harvest.
Rutabaga plants need 80-100 days to harvest.
While Rutabaga plants tolerate poor soils, they grow better in richer
garden soils, and be less likely to take on a woody texture. Work the soil,
and add compost and manure. Make sure to remove any large rocks and stones
that may impede the growth of the root.
Rutabagas sprout in about a week to ten days. A couple of weeks after they
have sprouted, thin seedlings to six to eight inches apart.
Provide ample water throughout the growing season.. As with other root crops,
the action is below the soil. You want to encourage steady growth of the
roots. As a rule of thumb "when in doubt, water".
Harvest Rutabagas as they get larger than a tennis ball. The younger roots
will be more tender than older roots.
Some people leave their fall crop in the ground, and pick a few as needed
well into the winter months. Cover the crop with mulch, so the roots do not
You can also harvest them and store indoors. Cut or twist off the leaves.
Brush off the dirt. Store them in a cool, dry place. Many people will store
them in dry sand or peat, to help retain moisture and freshness.
Rutabaga leaves are also edible. Try some in your next salad!
Insects and Pests:
Rutabagas can be visited by a variety of insects and pests. The insect world
knows that this vegetable is tasty and nutritious. Insect pests include slugs
and snails, aphids, beetles, cutworms and root maggots.
Disease of Rutabaga:
Occasional mildews and a white blister disease can affect the crop. However,
it is infrequent.
Plant Problems - Diagnosis,
causes and cures for many common plant problems.
Turnips and Rutabagas are cool weather crops. They withstand light freezes.
Rutabagas are the hardier of the two, and can be harvested well after the
first killing frost.
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