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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 the first Jack O"Lanterns.

Varieties of Rutabagas:

  • Rutabaga ranges from a round root to a slightly oblong variety.

  • American Purple Top is the most common variety.

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 garden.

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.

Growing Rutabaga:

Rutabaga plants grow best in full sun.

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".

Also See:

Plant Problems

Soil Temperatures - Ideal germination temperature by vegetable

Ideal Soil pH - by vegetable


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 freeze.

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.

Garden Rutabaga Recipes:

Recipes: May we suggest:


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