By September 29, 2018

Rutabagas belong to the cabbage family and resemble a large turnip. You may have heard this root vegetable called a winter turnip, yellow turnip, Swede or Swedish turnip because its name originated from the Swedish rotabagge.

How to Grow Rutabagas



Rutabaga is a late-season crop that takes longer to mature than a turnip. Known for long-term storing, the rutabaga’s large root needs to be harvested after a frost, but before the ground freezes. The leaves of rutabaga are also edible, just be sure to leave some on the roots while they’re growing.


  • Most rutabaga varieties need 90 days to mature, so time the planting for roots to be ready to harvest in the cool fall weather.
  • Prepare the garden bed by amending the soil with compost to make a loose soil that’s easy for seeds to germinate and grow. Spread fertilizer over the planting area before adding the seed.


  • Plant rutabaga seeds when the soil temperature has warmed to at least 40 degrees. Place seed 1 inch deep and 1-2 inches apart in a row; rows should be at least 18 inches apart.
  • Prevent flea beetle damage to the leaves by growing the rutabaga crop under floating row cover. Use the covers right after planting and make sure they’re tied down tightly so insects can’t get underneath.


  • When plants grow to 4 inches tall, thin them to  6-8 inches apart to give the root room to grow. These thinnings are edible, similar to turnips.
  • After the plants are thinned, sidedress the rutabaga crop with a well-balanced fertilizer. Apply a dry fertilizer on both sides of the rows, about 6-8 inches from the plants. Carefully rake the fertilizer into the soil and water after applying it.
  • Keep the soil moist to avoid letting the roots dry out.


  • For the best flavor, wait until the roots are 3-5 inches in diameter and then pull or dig the entire crop. Rutabagas can take a little frost, but be sure to harvest or protect with a thick layer of mulch before a freeze.
  • Rutabagas store well if the leaves are removed first. Use in cooking and rutabaga recipes or for recipes that also call for turnips.

Companion Plants

Plant artichokes with these companions:

  • Onions
  • Peas
  • Turnips

Avoid planting near potatoes.

Materials for Success

  • Soil thermometer
  • Soaker hose
  • High-quality compost and manure
  • Row cover cloth
  • Well-balanced fertilize

To learn more about growing rutabagas or about growing your own edible vegetable garden, contact the pros at Nick’s Garden Center. 

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