Rutabaga Plant: Growing Swedes In The Garden

The rutabaga plant is severely underrated and is one thing it’s best to plant rutabagas in your backyard! It’s associated to the turnip however is normally sweeter and gained’t style like a radish as turnips generally can. They like cool climate and could be grown within the spring and fall in most components of the US.

What are you able to do with rutabagas, you ask? You may prepare dinner the roots as you’ll a potato—mashed, roasted, hasselback, or spiralized right into a veggie noodle. They are often eaten uncooked in a salad or blended right into a soup. The leaves are good to eat, too, tasting very similar to turnip greens, so you’ll be able to take pleasure in your complete plant.

Rutabagas are comparatively simple to develop and don’t require a lot room within the backyard, so that they’re nice for brand new gardeners or these rising in small areas. If the situations are proper, you’ll be able to retailer rutabagas within the floor with a hefty layer of mulch and pull them out once you want them all through winter. Discuss comfort!

Whether or not you’re new to rutabagas or have heard of them earlier than, let’s get into the main points so you’ll be able to plant seeds and develop this versatile root in your backyard.

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Fast Care Information

A younger rutabaga plant doesn’t appear like a lot when it begins out. Supply: mom2rays
Widespread Identify(s) Rutabaga, swede, neeps, Swedish turnip, desk turnip
Scientific Identify Brassica napus var. napobrassica
Days to Harvest 80-100
Mild Full solar, partial shade
Water 1 inch per week
Soil Common soil; pH 6.0-7.0
Fertilizer Non-obligatory; excessive nitrogen to start with and 10-10-10 because it matures
Pests Aphids, cabbage loopers, cutworms, flea beetles, root maggots, slugs, wireworms
Ailments Alternaria leaf spot, anthracnose, black leg, black rot, clubroot, root knot, white rust, white spot

All About The Rutabaga Plant

Purple topped rutabaga roots
Like turnips, some rutabaga plant varieties produce a purple-topped root. Supply: Farmanac

Brassica napus var. napobrassica, generally known as the rutabaga, swede, Russian turnip in Northern Europe, or in the event you’re within the northern components of North America, desk turnip or Swedish turnips, is a cross between the turnip and wild cabbage. The leaves of those Russian turnips are lined with prickly hairs. Rutabagas are pretty turnip-shaped, though they’re a bit extra cylindrical towards the underside of the basis. Though there are some purple varieties, they’re extra prone to be brown or yellow quite than a turnip’s typical purple and white. Mature backyard grown rutabagas are typically concerning the measurement of a grapefruit, and they’re going to develop small yellow flowers in the event you permit them to go to seed.

It’s believed that rutabagas got here to be within the seventeenth century close to the Czech Republic. It turned widespread within the US within the early 1900s when it began for use as a meals supply for livestock. Nevertheless, it was an excessive amount of work to develop it, so farmers stopped utilizing it. The concept got here again within the Nineteen Seventies when farmers realized it was an excellent forage crop, which means they might throw rutabaga seed out for the livestock and let the crops develop themselves.

It’s not only for livestock, although! You may sautee the greens or use younger leaves in salads, or make some rutabaga root fries, au gratin rutabagas, or roast the roots with greens and garnish with rutabaga leaves.

Planting Rutabaga

Rising rutabagas requires cool climate after they mature since warmth will flip them bitter. For those who dwell in a heat local weather, you’ll get the most effective outcomes with a fall crop. You would in all probability get a spring crop in the event you time it proper and are further cautious! Cool climates can simply have spring and fall crops, however early freezing temperatures could make fall crops a bit difficult.

To plant within the fall, rely again 90 days from the primary common fall frost since rutabagas want 80-100 days to mature. You may plant rutabaga seeds for a spring planting as quickly as the bottom isn’t frozen.

Rutabagas develop finest after they obtain full solar and funky climate, so take into account this once you’re selecting out a spot on your rutabaga patch. They aren’t choosy about how they’re grown, so you’ll be able to put crops within the floor after the primary frost, in a raised mattress, or in a container. They don’t transplant nicely, so straight sow the place you wish to go about rising rutabagas. 

For those who select to develop these crops in a container, give them loads of room to develop to their full potential. A container that’s 10-12 inches deep with an analogous diameter will probably be ultimate, though you might go only a bit smaller if it’s good to.

To plant rutabaga seeds, place as much as three seeds in a shallow gap. For those who’re planting in a row, house the crops about 2 inches aside. Rows must be about 2 ft aside. As soon as the seedlings emerge, skinny rutabagas, so there is just one seedling per gap. It ought to take about ten days so that you can develop rutabaga seedlings.

As soon as the primary true leaves have emerged, skinny them to be 8 inches aside. Rutabaga foliage is edible, so you’ll be able to toss further seedlings right into a salad or add the crops to your compost bin.


Rutabaga leaves
As they mature, rutabaga leaves will defend the forming root bulb from the solar. Supply: Michael Caspar

It’s simple to develop rutabagas once you perceive their wants. For those who can provide them solar, hold them watered, and be careful for pests, you’ll be harvesting rutabagas very quickly!

Solar and Temperature

Rutabagas want full solar, a minimum of 6 hours of direct daylight. They’ll do okay with partial shade, normally 3-6 hours of direct mild. When you have restricted daylight, an appropriate-sized container will assist you to transfer the rutabaga round to get as a lot daylight as doable.

Rutabagas develop nicely in USDA zones 3-9. The perfect temperature vary is properly chilled at 50-65°F (10-18.3°C), so rising them within the spring and after the primary fall frost is right in lots of zones. Rutabagas have to have these cool temperatures proper as they mature, so in some hotter climates, you’ll be able to plant them in Could and harvest them within the fall when the climate is ideal.

Regardless that they like cool temperatures, rutabagas are fairly tolerant of hot and cold climate, nevertheless, they’ve limitations. Publicity to mild frost is understood to advertise a sweeter  taste of rutabaga roots, however freezing temperatures will kill the plant. Alternatively, temperatures persistently over 80°F (26.6°F) in early summer time or late summer time could cause cracking or skinny roots and make the flavour bitter or trigger the plant to bolt. So depart rutabagas within the floor over summer time.

For those who’re fighting unpredictable climate or a brief rising season, use floating row covers and mulch in your planting beds to maintain your roots comfortable.

Water and Humidity

Like different root greens, rutabagas require loads of water for good root growth. Purpose to provide them about an inch of water every week. For those who’re undecided after they want water, stick your finger within the floor about two inches deep. If it’s dry, it’s time to water!

Water on the base of the crops so the roots can obtain as a lot water as doable. You may cease watering when the highest two inches of soil are moist. You gained’t must water as a lot when it rains, so verify the soil continuously through the days following a bathe to see in case your rutabagas are thirsty once more.

Rutabaga roots want constant moisture, so that they aren’t drought tolerant. Dry spells can flip the roots woody or bitter, so it’s vital to maintain the soil moist. Be sure you have well-drained soil as a result of standing water isn’t good for them, both.


This root vegetable isn’t too choosy about its soil. Clay, sand, loam—it doesn’t matter an excessive amount of so long as it drains nicely and has sufficient vitamins obtainable. Sandy soil would require extra water because it drains simply, whereas clay soil doesn’t drain nicely and could also be tough to take care of in the long term.

The soil pH it’s best to goal for must be between 6.0-7.0. It prefers impartial soil however can tolerate barely acidic soil as much as 5.5. As for soil vitamins, poor soils could require compost or fertilizer, nevertheless it gained’t take a lot to make your rutabagas comfortable.


In case your soil is wholesome and stuffed with vitamins and natural matter from the start, you gained’t want a lot fertilizer aside from periodically including a contemporary layer of composted manure all through the season. In case your soil has room for enchancment, then anticipate to want to provide some vitamins.

Rutabagas don’t require a lot fertilizer, so you should utilize a general-purpose fertilizer with an NPK of 10-10-10. Apply some proper on the planting time, and add some once more in 4 weeks. Your crops could profit from some nitrogen-heavy fertilizer one month after planting however an excessive amount of nitrogen will dampen your harvest. Search for one thing that has an NPK of 46-0-0 or one thing related, relying on the scale of your rising space or planting row.

Natural fertilizer is really helpful as a result of it’s much less prone to burn your crops and is safer for the surroundings. Nevertheless, you should utilize no matter you will have obtainable. You too can use composted manure (not contemporary) or aged compost as wanted to provide your roots just a little increase all through the rising season. 


Pruning isn’t required, however you could wish to choose younger leaves to saute. Watch out solely to take just a few leaves per plant, although, so the plant can have sufficient leaves left to continue to grow.


Rutabagas can solely be propagated by seed. Permit them to develop till they produce small yellow flowers and seed pods. As soon as the seed pods dry, you’ll be able to open them up, and also you’ll have loads of seeds for subsequent 12 months!

Harvesting and Storing

Golden rutabagas
Many rutabaga plant varieties produce beige to orangish roots. Supply: wikioticsIan

Harvesting and storing rutabagas would require checking the temperature day by day, however you’re in all probability already doing that anyway! It’s a easy course of as soon as what to anticipate, and also you’ll discover that storing them is fairly simple.


Bear in mind, don’t wait too lengthy when it’s time to reap rutabagas. Scorching temperatures on the finish of spring and chilly climate on the finish of fall can have an effect on root development or make the style and texture disagreeable.

The perfect time to reap rutabagas is when the diameter is 3-5 inches, and the temperatures are 50-65°F (10-18.3°C). An evening of sunshine frost could sweeten the flavour, so you could wish to take an opportunity to see what occurs when you’re snug. 

For those who dwell in a chilly space local weather and winter approaches earlier than your rutabagas are prepared for harvesting, harvest the leaves so there are solely 2-3 inches aside from the bottom, after which cowl the realm with a beneficiant layer of mulch. It will assist you to lengthen the rising season just a bit longer.

Dig up your complete rutabaga roots evenly such as you would turnip roots by both utilizing your fingers or a trowel. Watch out to not harm the basis so you’ll be able to correctly retailer it.


Rutabaga varieties, like different root greens, are fairly simple to retailer for lengthy durations with out the necessity for canning. One of the best ways to retailer them is in a dry root cellar above 32°F (0°C). 

For those who don’t have a cellar, take into account conserving them within the floor! Take away the foliage and depart rutabagas in a thick layer of mulch. Dig them up once you’re prepared to make use of them. This technique gained’t work all over the place since freezing temperatures will spoil them. Think about testing this storage technique with only one rutabaga to see if it really works in your zone.

You too can retailer them within the freezer or cowl them in a coat of paraffin wax and retailer them in a cool, dry place like a pantry. The wax technique can spoil the basis if it’s not executed accurately, so that you would possibly wish to follow it earlier than committing!


Rutabaga, turnips, and parsnips
Rutabagas develop nicely with different root crops like parsnips and turnips. Supply: Baha’i Views

Rutabagas aren’t resistant to illness issues and pest issues, so that you’ll have to hold an eye fixed out for indicators that your crops need assistance. You may simply hold most issues at bay with just a few preventative measures.

Rising Issues

Rutabagas aren’t susceptible to many issues exterior of pests and ailments. Cracked roots are normally an indication of inconsistent water or dry soil. A blockage could trigger poor bulb formation within the soil or clubroot, which we’ll speak about in a minute. In case your rutabagas are struggling, reduce the foliage again to 2-3 inches, water persistently, and it’s best to see them perk up once more.


Aphids are a standard backyard pest that you simply’re nearly assured to see annually! They suck out sap from leaves, so that you’ll see wilting or curling. Merely spray them off with water or use neem oil to do away with them. Plant flowers to draw helpful bugs, like ladybugs as a result of they love an aphid buffet.

Flea beetles, loopers, and slugs will chew up the leaves of your rutabagas. Take away them by hand when doable or use insecticidal cleaning soap. You too can use pesticides to kill them. 

Root maggots and wireworms will chew up mature and growing roots ruining a harvest. Use row covers and diatomaceous earth round newly planted seedlings to stop them from making their dwelling in your backyard. Helpful nematodes like Heterorhabditis bacteriophora (Hb) could be utilized to the soil to kill them as soon as they’ve already invaded.


Many ailments can’t be reversed, so prevention will probably be your key to success. Apply fungicides early within the season to stop ailments akin to Alternaria leaf spot, Anthracnose, black rot, white rust, and different fungal infections. As soon as your crops are contaminated, you’ll must take away contaminated tissue to stop the unfold of the illness. Merchandise akin to copper fungicide could be efficient preventatives in opposition to a few of these ailments.

Root-knot is attributable to root-knot nematodes that aren’t helpful (Let’s consider, detrimental nematodes?). You may forestall them by rotating your crops annually. Since rutabagas are within the brassica household, keep away from planting them the place you beforehand had different brassicas like broccoli, brussels sprouts, or turnips. Planting marigolds may also help deter these nematodes, and there are merchandise known as nematicides you’ll be able to deal with the soil with. Nevertheless, keep in mind that nematicides can even destroy your helpful nematode inhabitants, so use these sparingly.

Clubroot impacts brassicas and infects soils. It causes deformed roots that can trigger crops to wilt and die. Crop rotation is one of the best ways to keep away from this illness, and it’s best to make sure to take away all roots once you take away the plant.

Incessantly Requested Questions

Q: How lengthy does it take for a rutabaga to develop?

A: Very like different brassicas which might be root greens, rutabagas normally take 80-100 days to develop.

Q: Are rutabagas simple to develop?

A: They’re simple to develop when you’ve got the timing proper! They want cooler climates, and heat spring temperatures or freezing fall temperatures can negatively have an effect on them.

Q: Is rutabaga perennial?

A: Rutabagas are biennials that can produce flowers and seeds of their second 12 months. You may harvest and eat the basis within the first 12 months.

Q: How tall do rutabaga crops develop?

A: Rutabagas can develop to be as much as 1 foot.

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