By Susan Patterson, Master Gardener
Turnips (Brassica campestris L.) are a popular, cool season root crop grown in many parts of the United States. The greens of turnips can be eaten raw or cooked. Popular turnip varieties include Purple Top, White Globe, Tokyo Cross Hybrid and Hakurei. But what do you for a turnip gone to seed? Is it still good to eat? Let’s learn more about why turnips go to seed and what to do when a turnip plant bolts.
Turnip Bolting: Why Turnips Go to Seed
Bolting is generally caused by stress. Stress can take the form of too little watering or poor soil. Bolting of turnips is common when the soil is void of nutrients, a problem that can be easily prevented with a little work prior to planning.
Working plenty of rich compost or organic matter into your garden bed will help ensure that your turnips have plenty of vital nutrients. Soil must be light and drain well for best results. Other reasons why turnips go to seed include too many days of very hot weather. Therefore, proper planting time is important.
Proper Growing Can Prevent Turnip Bolting
One of the best ways to prevent the bolting of turnips is to practice proper planting. Turnips require soil that is rich in organic material and drains well. Spring crops need to be planted early, while fall crops develop better taste after a light frost.
Because turnips do not transplant well, it is best to grow them from seed. Sow the seeds 1 to 2 inches apart in rows. Thin to 3 inches apart once seedlings are big enough to handle.
Provide plenty of water to keep growth constant and prevent the plant from going to seed. Adding mulch will help with moisture as well as keeping the soil cooler.
What to Do When a Turnip Plant Bolts
If you are currently experiencing bolting in the garden then it helps to know what to do when a turnip plant bolts. Cutting the tops off of turnips that are bolting will not reverse bolting. A turnip gone to seed is fibrous, has a very woody taste, and is not suitable to eat. It is best to pull up the plant once it bolts or leave it to self-seed, if you have room.