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How to Sow Turnips for Container Growing

By Edited Sep 4, 2016 0 0

Container Growing Turnips

This is the first time I've tried growing turnips and I liked the look of this heritage variety Manchester Market by Thompson & Morgan. You can sow these seeds in mid June to July for larger roots or August to September for smaller roots. The leaves are edible too and you can steam them. I chose to sow these seeds in July, unfortunately just as the weather turned wet and windy. 

Manchester Market is also known as Green Top Stone which makes perfect sense because the fully grown and rounded, globe shape turnips are a pale creamy white on the bottom with a pale green color on top. You get approx 750 seeds in this packet by Thompson & Morgan which is more than I will ever need since I can only grow into containers and not an actual vegetable plot.

Information on This Manchester Market Variety

Manchester Market Green Top Stone Seeds
  • Position needed: full sun
  • Type of Soil: rich fertile
  • Ideal for: a kitchen garden
  • Hardiness: hardy
  • Sowing Months: June, July, August, September
  • Harvest Months: September, October, November, December
  • Ultimate Height: 25 cm (10 inches)
  • Ultimate Spread: 25 cm (10 inches)

Note: Best sown in July, sowings made in August through to early September will result in smaller roots and nutritious, edible green leafy tops. 

Sowing the Seeds into Small Cell Modules

Gardman Windowsill Seed Plant Raising Kit Photo

I decided to make two sowings a day apart and to use slightly different containers for each as well out of interest. I chose a windowsill seed and plant raising kit by Gardman for one lot of seeds and I some tiny fiber pots for the other set of seeds.

The fiber containers are biodegradable which means that I can pot the seedlings on without disturbing the roots. You just plant the container as they are into the ground or a bigger container and the roots naturally push through the fiber as it breaks down. You can see these with upcoming images.

Part of the Gardman seed kit is in the photo above. It's a long, rectangle shaped container with 36 individual little cell modules ideally sized for planting seedlings. With that you get a base and a lid. The base helps with any water run off which is perfect if you are using it on a windowsill. The lid is a clear top cover which helps with seed germination as it acts like a mini greenhouse when it is on.

I filled these modules up with a John Innes No. 1 compost packed in firmly and watered well before sowing. The packet said to sow 1 cm or 1/2 inch deep. Since I'm sowing into little modules instead of directly outdoors, which is the norm with turnips, I decided to go with a very shallow sowing.

To sow these I carefully placed just two seeds into each compartment. The seeds are very hard to see as they are tiny and the same color as the compost. With my finger, I gently pushed the seeds under the top and scraped the thinnest bit of soil over. Other methods involve placing them on top of the compost surface and sprinkling fine soil or a fine grade of vermiculite over the top. There are lots of methods and it's best to find ones that work for you.

Testing Biodegradable Fiber Pots

Fiber Pots for Growing from Seed

A day apart, I also made sowings into these biodegradable fiber pots. I'd never tried these before and I'm not entirely sure that I like them. They feel permanently soggy, even though I'm very careful with watering. As the material feels damp, they don't stand up so well as the plastic pots do. From that perspective, I prefer the normal plastic containers which stand nice and level.

The bonus of the fiber pots is when you come to re-pot the seedlings or plants. Once you notice lots of roots growing through it is probably a good time to get these in to a larger container - or even in the ground depending on where you are planting. You can leave the pots to degrade down in their new home or you can help them along by carefully tearing a section away at the bottom. They are worth testing to see whether you like them or not.

Fiber pots eliminate the need to remove plants from a container and re-pot. Since the fiber breaks down over time, you just need to plant the whole pot up. Roots can grow through this material. 

Note: This post contains affiliate links for which I may be compensated. 

Watering with a Fine Mist

Watering seedlings with a fine mist can prevent over-watering

Because I'm prone to over watering, I read a tip about using a water spray bottle to use to keep seedlings moist instead of actually watering. So I've started to use this method instead and it seems to work well. I use the fine mist over the top of the compost instead of a powerful jet stream which could move the seeds and prevent germination.

Germination of the Turnip Seeds

Germination of turnip seedlings

I put two seeds into every module with the view of pricking out and removing the weakest one in each. The very first signs of germination came just a few days after sowing. I took this photo 3 days after sowing for the plastic Gardman pots and 4 days after for the fiber containers on the right.

Pricking Out Unwanted Seedlings

Pricking out weaker seedlings

Blunt ended tweezers are great for pricking out unwanted seedlings. I use these to grab hold of the stem and gently pull as my other hand firms down the soil next to the seedling. This is to try to cause as little disturbance to the remaining seedling that is left on to grow. It is easier if the soil is damp before you do this but the seedlings normally come out very easily at this stage. 

Good Video on Sowing and Growing Turnips

This includes a demonstration on sowing the seeds into a raised bed as well as lots of tips on growing these tasty roots. 

Turnip Seeds Have Been Fast and Easy to Grow

I was really happy with how these seeds came along. I grew mine outdoors from the start in their individual modules. Overnight I put them under cover into the polytunnel for shelter from the cold. On days with torrential rain and bad weather I also kept them under cover where I could check the correct levels of warmth and moisture.

Since I don't have a vegetable plot, I will pot these on into growing bags as they get bigger. My aim is to discover whether it is possible to grow turnips successfully for container gardening.

Image Credits: The introductory image belongs to the author, Marie Williams Johnstone. All other images (unless watermarked with the author’s name) are product photos from Amazon.



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  1. "Seed Germination Requirements." RHS. 2/12/2015 <Web >
  2. "How to Grow Turnips." RHS. 2/12/2015 <Web >

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