Saving and sowing small turnip seeds as a hobby is very fun, simple, and often helps you develop some of the best heirloom varieties to plant year after year. Turnip seeds can be found most of the year in local grocery stores and farmer markets, though generally just the normal red and white kinds. It's also possible to find freeze dried turnip seeds that are just as tasty, though they tend to be a little bit more expensive. These dry seeds can be stored for up to three months in moisture-resistant plastic zip bags. Another neat idea is to make your own turnip flour from turnips seeds and use it to make breads and cakes.
Many people keep their turnip seeds on hand as a source of quick seed sources, but if you're planting them yourself, there are some considerations you need to keep in mind before planting as well as after the initial planting. First, it's important to remember that even the best soil types won't hold onto a crop of turnip seeds for more than about 60 days or so. This means that if you plan on harvesting those seeds in a traditional way - by pulling the stem off at day's end and plucking a leaf out, you'll likely be missing the entire crop. You'll have to harvest the seeds and then replant them about six to eight weeks later.
Harvesting late summer through early fall is the best time, because the turnips grow much healthier during this time. If you have an idea of how fast your turnips grow, you can get started sooner and start getting your harvest before the plant becomes established. Keep in mind that while your turnips may be small, they also produce tiny shoots called rhizomes that can easily reach two feet tall. Harvest them before they've reached two feet tall so they don't grow into larger plants. Once you're sure the turnip seeds are dry and hard enough to pick up, you can take them home and show them in your garden.
Planting new turnips requires you to dig a hole two to three times the size of the root system of the turnip seeds. The hole should be lined with a good bit of gravel to the soil drain easily. You'll also need to line the bottom of the hole with something soft, such as a garden hose. Place the seedlings in the holes, press the hose to firmly pack the soil in the hole and water gently so the roots have a chance to establish themselves.
There are a few more considerations before planting turnip seeds. One of those considerations involves knowing which varieties of turnips are best for planting. Different varieties of turnips grow faster and produce different colors of leaves. Some varieties of turnips are fast growing, while others grow slower. The slower growing varieties will produce berries earlier and have greater storage capacity.
If you're planting for consumption within just 60 days, it's best to choose slow growing turnips. Shorter lived turnips tend to have a greater storage capacity and produce smaller berries, but they're not as nutritious. Long lived turnips, or those that live for more than 60 days, are packed full of vitamins, minerals and nutrients. They also tend to be higher in calories, so you may want to consider harvesting them for use in a variety of recipes over the course of your next cookbook.
While you're planting, keep in mind that there are several important factors. First, you need to choose the proper time of year to plant. Turnips aren't suitable to be planted during the coldest months of winter or the hottest months of summer, since they won't grow well. The same is true for early summer, since they don't do very well in the heat of this season. Remember that the cooler months are when turnips grow best, so try to avoid planting them during the hottest months. They'll probably dry up and die in no time at all if you try to get them planted during the summer heat.
Once you've selected the right season, you need to make sure that you prepare the soil properly. If your soil is too loose and moist or contains too much moisture, turnip seeds won't sprout properly. You should divide the seeds about three to four times, depending on how large your turnip plants are. If your soil is packed tight with soil, the turnip seeds will be able to sprout at a much faster rate, though it may take a few years to harvest an abundance of these tasty, tender little green plants.