Rutabagas and root development

I know many people (members of my family) don’t like rutabagas. I love them. I love chopping them up into a hearty stew, mashing them with potatoes, and just roasting them. They are soooo yummy! I planted seeds for American Purple Top Rutabagas on March 15th (98 days ago). Rutabagas only need 90-100 days to grow. So I pulled them out of the ground today. Three of them had nice big bulbs, three of them were straight and not bulbous. ūüė¶ I had the same problem with the beets and radishes.

About rutabagas
Rutabaga harvest

Rutabaga harvest

Rutabagas are a cross between a cabbage and turnip. They’re sweeter than turnips. And¬†the leaves are edible like turnip leaves (I didn’t know that until I was researching today).

Rutabagas do better when ripening in cooler weather. And they sweeten up after experiencing a frost (good to know!). Many people leave the roots in the ground overwinter (cutting back the tops and heavily mulching) and pulling the roots out of the ground as they need them.

I plan to plant rutabagas again for this fall. Our last frost date is mid-October so I’ll plant seeds around mid to late July. Hopefully I’ll get a better crop then.

Root problems

After some reading I found there are two reasons for no root development. One is not thinning or too closely spaced plants. The other is the nitrogen levels of the soil.

The¬†spacing of all my crops is according to the square foot gardening method. I’m having a hard time believing that the book, and all the people who square foot garden, could be wrong.

I’m thinking my problem¬†might be¬†nitrogen levels. I never tested my soil so it could¬†be too high in nitrogen. High nitrogen levels usually lead to all tops and no roots. I’m going to pick up a soil test kit this week and test my soil.

Anyone else have advice for getting root crops to bulb? Or have a favorite rutabaga recipe?


Categories: root crop | Tags: | 5 Comments

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5 thoughts on “Rutabagas and root development

  1. Interesting. While I don’t grow rutabagas (yet!), my beets have always produced but when I try radishes, they almost never form an enlarged root – they look like your skinny rutabagas. Spacing’s not a problem for me so I think you might be on to something with the nitrogen. Thanks for the info.


  2. miaslittlefarm

    I’ve never grown, or even eaten rutabaga. I’m biased against it because I loathe turnips. Maybe I should give it a try though, because I do love cabbage. Good luck with your fall crop!


  3. Mia, pick up a rutabaga in the store and try one. Though the ones in the store are covered in wax, that is taken care of by peeling, they are still good. I wound up roasting the ones I harvested and no one else in the family liked it. I guess you just either like them or you don’t.


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