How to Grow Rutabaga

What is rutabaga?

Rutabagas (Brassica Napobassica), a cross between the turnip plant and the cabbage plant, is similar to growing turnips. Learn how to grow rutabaga and add it to your garden!

Rutabagas may be mistaken for turnips. However, they have a sweeter, more substantial flavor, larger roots with golden flesh, purple or yellow-tinged eyes, and smooth, waxy, smooth foliage.

They’re often called Swedish turnips, winter turnips, or yellow turnips. However, they are close cousins to turnips and are essentially a cross between a turnip, cabbage, and turnip.

The rutabaga leaves, which also can be eaten, are smooth, thick, and blue. The roots are thicker than a turnip and often have a longer neck.

How to grow rutabaga?

Rutabagas can be grown as an annual crop. Rutabagas require a more prolonged growing season, but they must grow in cooler temperatures which is why it is recommended to plant them in late May until the beginning of June to ensure an autumn harvest.

They mature in cool fall weather. Growing rutabagas takes approximately four weeks more than turnings or cabbage. Rutabaga is one of the best vegetables for fall. It ripens well in cool autumn temperatures.

The seeds of both species will develop quickly. You should expect seedlings to appear after about 10 days. The rutabaga plant is a healthy plant that’s easy to cultivate and can remain stored over a lengthy time.

two whole rutabaga plants on wooden surface

Rutabaga health benefits

Rutabagas produce a variety of nutritious vegetables. Magnesium, potassium, iron, zinc, and sodium are all abundant in these vegetables.

They also contain the glucosinolates. These are antioxidant compounds that have been demonstrated to reduce the size of cancer tumors.

Rutabagas can be a good source of protein. A medium root contains 8%, which is the recommended daily value. They could be a viable option for people with diabetes since they are less glycemic.

The roots are high-fiber and low-calorie but can still be enjoyed raw or cooked. They can also be mashed (roasted) or sautéed (fried) and used in soups or salads. The leaves of early leafy vegetables can be consumed raw or cooked.

How to grow rutabagas

Are you interested in joining the fun? It’s easy to grow this vegetable.

It is best to plant it in its natural habitat as this crop does poorly with transplants. Avoid starting rutabaga indoors or in a greenhouse.

When to plant rutabagas?

The most challenging part about rutabagas is timing. Rutabagas must mature in cool weather (nothing above 60 degrees Fahrenheit in the evening).

They must be at least three months old to be considered mature. To estimate the time it will take to sow, count back 90 days from when you received your first fall frost.

Roots become fibrous and woody as they grow older. A light fall frost can improve the root’s quality and flavor.

Planting rutabaga seeds

It would be best to sow seeds once the soil has reached 40°F. Temperatures in the soil should be between 40°F and 60°F.

  • Place the seed in the prepared soil before planting the rutabaga.
  • The seeds should be planted in a row of three or twenty seeds for each row.
  • Plant seeds 1/8 inch deep, 2 inches apart, and in rows spaced 14-18 inches apart.
  • This leaves enough space for roots to develop and become rutabagas.
  • Regular but shallow cultivation can be used to control weeds.
  • This helps to aerate the soil and also gets rid of weeds.
  • In 4 to 7 days, seeds will germinate. After the seedlings are germinated, thin them to about 6 inches apart.
  • To germinate seeds and establish healthy seedlings, water the soil if it isn’t wet.
  • It is best if the roots are watered for one to 1/2 inch weekly. Don’t let the soil dry. Make sure the soil is not too dry or soggy. The old saying, “If in doubt, drink water,” is good for rutabaga growing.
  • Please do not like the idea of rutabagas being crowded. They will grow tall tops and skinny roots.
  • You can make a stir-fry or salad with the thinned leaves.
  • It loosens the soil around roots, which allows for more root growth.
  • Because rutabagas are root vegetables, the dirt must be loose around the roots.
  • Mulch helps to retain water and helps keep your soil cool.
  • Bolting could result from high temperatures that last more than 60 to 70 degrees F.

How to care for rutabagas

You can grow rutabagas best in a moderately rich, fertile, well-drained soil pH of 6.2–6.68. Spring and fall are good times to add compost or well-rotted manure. Don’t use fresh manure. It can cause harmful bacteria and increase weed growth.

A soil test is necessary, and lime should be applied as needed. Branching of the roots can also result from nitrogen being readily available.

You might reduce or eliminate additional fertilizer based on how much manure or compost you use. Lower rates are used on soils with heavier content and higher ones on soils with lighter (sandier) content.

Rutabagas thrive in full sunlight, about six hours of direct daily exposure. They are tolerant of partial shade.

Fertilizing rutabagas

Rutabagas only require the first pre-plant fertilizer application. The application of fertilizer should be made following soil test recommendations.

According to the soil test guidelines, you should apply potassium (K) and phosphorus. If your soil test report does not recommend additional phosphorus, you can use a low or no phosphorus fertilizer.

Two to five pounds of 10-10-10 fertilizer per 100 square feet is a good recommendation one month after planting the rutabagas—half the amount at planting and the rest four weeks later.

You should not use fertilizers containing a “Weed-and-Feed” weed killer as this can kill your vegetable crops.

rutabagas growing

Watering rutabaga

  • Rutabagas need plenty of moisture to produce the best yields possible and maintain high quality.
  • These plants are large in their storage roots but do not have large root systems for water absorption.
  • Most soils will need to be hydrated every seven to ten working days It is obtainable through rain or by irrigation. They could turn woody or bitter when they’re subject to drought stress.
  • Watering should be done thoroughly. This is a great way to encourage root development.
  • Sandy soils require more frequent watering than a single time per day.
  • Sandy soil can be wetted to a depth of ten inches by water. Heavy clay soil will only need to be wet to six inches.
  • However, excessive rain is not something that the gardener can control. Rutabagas will taste better, last longer, and be firmer after a dry season.
  • As the root reaches maturity, the moisture level is of paramount importance.

Temperature & humidity

Rutabagas excel in vast variety of temperatures and levels of humidity. In dry regions, they’re susceptible to cracking and won’t be able to develop their sweetness if not provided with sufficient water.

Rutabagas are sweetened with a small amount of frost. They can be harvested in the autumn (or later in the winter season in more temperate climates), or you can put them in the soil with an incredibly thick layer of straw mulch and harvest them when required.

Harvesting rutabaga

  • Harvest approximately 90 days after the planting date or about the first or third frost if the flavor has improved by cold weather.
  • Pick the roots when they are 4 to 5 inches long for the best flavor. Pick the roots with care.
  • As they gain in size, the roots will push their way up from the ground; this is perfectly normal. The rutabagas grown in the garden tend to be more oval than circular.
  • You can store pruned roots in a cold basement, root cellar, refrigerator, or freezer.
  • Rutabagas can be sweetened with a light dusting of frost. However, be sure to take your harvest before the time when the ground is frozen.
  • Rutabaga is best picked when still soft. Because they need their leaves to grow big roots, it is important that you only harvest a handful of leaves.
  • Cook some roots from this variety immediately after harvest, then keep the rest for later. Rutabaga has an extremely long shelf life. It can be stored for up to a year.

How to store rutabagas

  • To store them, trim the leaves to within 1 inch of the top using an abrasive knife. Clean the roots thoroughly and let them dry for at least a day in a cool, dry place.
  • The roots can be stored in plastic bags and keep them in the refrigerator.
  • Store a bigger harvest in sawdust or sand in the cold basement shed garage or a root cellar. To last for a long time (up to 4 months), they require an extremely high level of humidity (90 to 95 percent) as well as cold temperature (just above freezing).

Rutabaga growing tips

  • Switching to plant species with heavy eaters, such as squash or corn, is a good example.
  • Planting near other brassicas such as kale or cabbage is not recommended.
  • Plant away from mustard-colored greens, which can stunt growth.
  • A great companion plant for onions or climbing peas.
  • Use drip irrigation to keep the soil uniformly and evenly moist while preventing it from becoming waterlogged. Mulch thoroughly when leaves are a couple of inches tall to hold moisture, reduce weed growth, and protect against frost damage.
  • Harvest as soon as the first frost arrives for the best flavor.

Types of rutabagas

American Purple Top: A popularly cultivated variety with large bulbs matures within 90-100 days. It is crowned with a deep purple globe-shaped root system that is 6-7 inches in height and yellow in flesh. medium-cut blue-green leaves.

Altasweet: This wine is milder, less spicy, and develops between 90 and 100 days.

The Laurentian: Heirloom variety with uniform sweet bulbs matures within 90 to 120 days. The crown is purple; the yellow part appears lighter below the crown’s globe-shaped roots, which are 5 or five and a half inches with yellow flesh and middle blue-green leaves.

Pike is similar to ‘Laurentian’ but a bit tougher, maturing between 100 and 120 days.

Rutabaga pests

There are many bugs, including aphids of the turnip and flea beetles. Wireworms and root maggots are the two most significant insects.

Aphids and flea bugs damage the tops of the trees, and spray programs may be required to keep them out. 

Root maggots

The tiny white bugs are found in soils that feed off the roots of various crops. Wireworms and root maggots infest the roots.

Root maggots can cause an issue because they destroy bulbs. An infestation can be difficult to spot at times. Check for holes or tunnels in the roots and yellowing of leaves.

Their control is dependent on the prior application of appropriate insecticides to the soil. Row covers can assist in this regard, too, to stop the moths from nesting upon the leaves.

raw organic brown rutabaga root vegetables on gray napkin

Rutabaga diseases

While not extremely susceptible to diseases, a few problems could arise if crops are not rotated regularly, or the soil is overly acidic.

  1. Root-knot
  2. Club-Root

These are two of the most common issues that can lead to root deformation, and both can be avoided with the strict rotation of crops.

The primary disease that damages crops are clubroot. It can be found in soil for as long as 20 years. If your plants suffer from the disease, it’s advised to wait for six years before you plant another Brassica species in the exact location again. In addition, it is essential to get rid of diseased plants quickly to prevent the spread of disease.

Rutabaga profile

Botanical Crop Name                   Brassicas Napus (Cabbage family)

Common Crop Name                   Rutabagas, Swedish turnip, Swede

Native Zone                                  Europe

Crop Type                                     Root Vegetable Plant

Soil                                                Should be fertile, well-drained, and Loamy

Soil pH Level                                 Acidic to Neutral 6 – 6.7

Plant Size                                      Height 1 to 2 feet, wide 9 inches to 1 foot

Light Position                                Full Sun

Frost tolerance                             Improved rutabaga texture and flavor.

Fertilizer                                        Feeding is not always necessary.

Mulch                                             Keep the soil moist and cool.

Harvesting                                     Done in the mid-to-late autumn, once the soil has cooled.

Trimming –                                     Can do trimming in the basement or root cellar.

Troubleshooting                            Rutabagas left untreated in the soil for too long are becoming woody.

Hardiness Zones                           3 to 9 zones

Other gardening articles:

  1. Herb Gardening For Beginners
  2. Growing Strawberries In Raised Beds
  3. How To Keep Basil Alive
  4. How To Grow Green Onion
  5. Easy Fruits And Vegetables To Grow
  6. How To Grow Lettuce
  7. How To Grow Kale

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