Garden varieties of turnip are always worth space. The tops are as valuable a food as the roots; the latter are at their best when about the size of a cricket ball. Soil of sufficient quality to produce a good potato crop will grow turnips, providing they never lack moisture. The latter is necessary to quick growth, without which turnips are unsatisfactory.
Varieties for early use include Snowball, White Milan; for winter, Chirk Castle Blackstone, Orange Jelly and Green Top White, which is one of the best for producing tops.
A A ounces of seed will sow three 30-ft. rows. Germination takes about twelve days.
Ready for Use. Turnips are most useful in late spring and early summer, and again in autumn and winter; tops, for cooking as a green vegetable, in spring, when other greenstuff is not too plentiful. Roots are available for use about eight weeks after sowing.
Ground should be dug at least I ft. deep, and some rich material – old manure, rotted greenstuff – buried about 8 in. down; and it should be made quite firm before sowing. But digging is not necessary if turnips can follow a crop that was well prepared for; it will be sufficient to weed the ground and break up the surface finely with a fork. Dry ground calls for a shaded position for later sowings; otherwise, with full exposure to sun and not much moisture the plants may run up to flower.
When and How to Sow.
Earliest sowing of the year, mid-March, is best made in a warm, sheltered spot.
Small successional sowings can be made up to the end of May. Sowings in June and July are risky; usually the weather is too hot to suit them.
Sowing period for the winter varieties is mid-August. A September sowing of one of the winter sorts will give a grand supply of tops the following March and April.
Seed is sown in. deep in drills 9 in. apart; thinly for root production, fairly thickly for tops. Germination is hastened by soaking the seed for about 24 hours before planting.
It will help the seedlings along tremendously if they are watered in dry weather. Growth then will be brisk, and thinning out will need early attention – first to 3 in. apart, then to 6 in., at which the plants finally stand. The intermediate thinnings will provide small but very useful roots.
If tops and not bulbs are wanted the plants are pulled up when they have produced enough leaves of sufficient size.
Gall Weevil and Other Troubles.
These are dealt with under ‘cabbage tribe’ in the chart ‘Remedies Against Enemies of Vegetable Crops.
Storing for Winter.
Roots not intended to stand the winter outdoors may be pulled up in November, the leaves cut off, and stored in a heap of sifted fire-ashes in a cellar or shed; or they may be clamped outdoors, in the manner explained under BEET.
If a late sowing fails to produce useful roots in winter the plants should be left to give a crop of tops when growth restarts in spring.
Preparing for Table.
Peeled thinly, roots are cut into slices before cooking. Tops, for boiling, should be washed. Both are of greatest value in the diet when young and juicy.