Image by Tim Sackton
By Kathleen Mierzejewski
Growing rutabagas is not much different from growing a turnip. They are a cross between the turnip and the cabbage plant. The difference is that growing rutabagas generally takes four weeks longer than growing cabbage or turnips. This is why fall is the best time when to plant rutabaga plants.
How to Grow Rutabaga
Remember that these plants are not much different from turnips. The difference is that the roots are larger, firmer and rounder than turnip roots and the leaves on the rutabaga are smoother.
When planting rutabaga, they should be planted about 100 days before the first frost in late fall. You will want to prepare your soil as you would when growing any vegetable. Make sure you rake the soil and remove any debris and rocks.
When planting rutabaga, you will throw the seed down in the prepared soil and rake it in lightly. Plant the seeds at a rate of three to 20 seeds per row and rake them about half an inch deep. You want to allow enough room to put one or two feet between rows. This gives room below the surface of the soil for the roots to plump up and form rutabagas.
If the soil is not moist, make sure you water the seeds to germinate them. You want to establish healthy seedlings. Once seedlings appear and are about two inches tall, you can thin them to about six inches apart. One of the great things about planting rutabaga and turnips is that when you thin the plants, you can actually eat the leaves you thin as greens. This is true for both rutabagas and turnips.
You will want to cultivate between the plants that are left, to a depth of two to three inches deep. This helps aerate the soil and gets rid of weeds. Also it loosens the soil around the root of the growing rutabagas allowing for larger root growth. Since rutabagas are a root vegetable, you want the dirt to be firm around the bottom of the leaves but looser underneath so the root is not stopped in growth.
When harvesting rutabagas, you want to be sure to pick them when they are tender and mild. Growing rutabagas are ready for harvest when they are about medium sized. Harvesting rutabagas when they are about three to five inches in diameter will yield the best quality rutabagas. Be sure the rutabagas you harvest have grown without any interruptions in the growing season.