Growing Rutabaga To Perfection

Written by: Lars Nyman

Growing Rutabaga

Growing Rutabaga

Rutabaga is a root vegetable that resembles a turnip, but has a mild, sweet flavor. It is loaded with essential nutrition, such as fiber, vitamin C, and potassium. While it is a staple in Northern and Central European cuisine, it can also be cooked and presented in a variety of ways. Rutabaga can be boiled, mashed, fried, roasted, and even eaten raw.

Growing Rutabaga To Perfection

Choose the Right Variety

When selecting a rutabaga variety, consider the climate and growing season in your region. Some popular varieties include American Purple Top, Laurentian, and Improved Long Island.

Prepare the Soil

Ensure your soil is well-draining and rich in organic matter. Till the soil to a depth of at least 10 inches and remove any weeds or rocks. Aim for a pH level between 5.5 and 6.8.


Sow rutabaga seeds directly into the garden in early spring or late summer. Place the seeds ½ inch deep and 1-2 inches apart. Water the area gently after planting.

Provide Adequate Sunlight

Rutabagas require a minimum of 6 hours of direct sunlight per day. Ensure your chosen planting location receives sufficient sunlight for optimal growth.


Keep the soil consistently moist throughout the growing season. Rutabagas require approximately 1 inch of water per week. Be careful not to overwater, as this can lead to rotting.


Apply a balanced fertilizer before planting and once more during the growing season. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for the recommended amount and application method.

Pest and Disease Control

Protect your rutabagas from common pests such as aphids and cabbage worms by using row covers or organic insecticides. Keep an eye out for signs of disease, such as powdery mildew or clubroot, and take appropriate measures to prevent or control them.


Rutabagas are typically ready for harvest 90-120 days after planting. They should be firm and have reached the desired size (around 3-5 inches in diameter). Use a garden fork to carefully lift them out of the ground.


Remove the tops and store rutabagas in a cool, dark place with high humidity. They can last for several months if stored properly.

Tips and Tricks

  • Rotate the location of your rutabaga crop each year to reduce the risk of soil-borne diseases.
  • Thin out seedlings to provide adequate spacing for healthy growth.
  • Consider using mulch to suppress weed growth and retain soil moisture.
  • Monitor the soil moisture level regularly and adjust watering as needed.

By following these guidelines, you can grow rutabagas that are delicious, nutritious, and worthy of any garden or plate!

Rutabaga, also known as a Swede or Neep, is a nutritious root vegetable that is grown mainly in temperate climates. It has a slightly sweet yet earthy flavor and can be cooked and eaten in many different ways. Although a popular garden crop, it may be trickier to grow than other root vegetables, due to its lower tolerance for frost and its lengthy maturation time. However, with the proper knowledge and care, rutabaga can add a tasty, old-world flavor to your garden.

Planning Ahead

Although rutabaga takes a relatively long time to maturity, it is possible to harvest it even in short growing seasons. Begin your planning by selecting an appropriate variety of rutabaga, one which is suited to your region and tolerate shorter days. Also, remember to check the plant's days to maturity, as some varieties will take longer than others.

Planting & Spacing

We recommend sowing your rutabaga seeds directly into the garden after the last spring frost. plant one to two seeds per hill, 1/4-1/2 inch deep and 8-10 inches apart. once the seedlings emerge, thin them out so the plants are spaced 4-6 inches apart. rutabaga needs at least six hours of sun exposure each day.

Watering & Mulching

rutabaga needs 1"-2" of water per week throughout the growing season. to ensure the soil maintains an even moisture level, mulch with 2" of hay or straw around the newly planted seedlings. this helps to prevent weeds and retains moisture in the soil.

Fertilizing & Harvesting

rutabaga benefits from a balanced fertilizer such as 10-10-10. apply at the recommended dosage around the plants at least twice during the growing season, once right after planting and once when the plants start to flower. harvest rutabaga when it reaches softball-size, usually after 90-100 days of growth. enjoy the tasty root vegetable in soups, stews, and roasts!

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What are the ideal growing conditions for rutabagas?

Rutabagas thrive in cool climates and prefer full sun or partial shade. They require well-draining soil with a pH range of 5.5 to 6.8. Make sure to prepare the soil by removing any rocks or debris and incorporating organic matter.

2. When is the best time to plant rutabaga seeds?

For optimal growth, sow rutabaga seeds in early spring or late summer. These cool-season crops typically take around 90 days to mature. Plan your planting time accordingly and ensure the seeds are sown directly into the garden bed.

3. How often should rutabagas be watered?

Rutabagas require consistent moisture throughout their growth cycle. Water deeply once or twice a week, providing about 1 inch of water each time. Avoid overwatering, as it can lead to rotting or disease. Mulching around the plants can help retain moisture and keep the roots cool.

4. Are there any common pests or diseases that affect rutabagas?

While rutabagas are generally resistant to many pests and diseases, they can sometimes fall victim to flea beetles, cabbage worms, and aphids. To control these pests, you can use organic methods such as hand-picking, applying neem oil, or introducing beneficial insects.

5. How do I know when rutabagas are ready for harvest?

Rutabagas are usually ready to harvest when they reach a diameter of 3 to 5 inches. You can gently expose the top of the root to check its size. The skin should be smooth and firm to the touch. Harvest the roots carefully by loosening the soil around them and gently pulling them out.

6. Can rutabagas be stored after harvest?

Absolutely! Rutabagas can be stored for several months if proper conditions are provided. Trim off the foliage and store the roots in a cool, dark, and well-ventilated place, such as a root cellar or refrigerator. Make sure to keep them away from ethylene-producing fruits, as they can cause spoilage.

7. How can I incorporate rutabagas into my meals?

Rutabagas are versatile vegetables that can be enjoyed in a variety of ways. You can roast them, steam them, mash them, or add them to soups and stews. They have a slightly sweet and nutty flavor, making them a perfect addition to both savory and sweet dishes.

8. Are rutabagas a nutritious vegetable?

Yes, rutabagas are packed with nutrients! They are an excellent source of vitamin C, potassium, fiber, and antioxidants. Rutabagas also contain various B vitamins, which are essential for overall health. Including rutabagas in your diet can contribute to a well-rounded and nutritious meal plan.

Rutabagas are a root vegetable that is incredibly versatile, nutritious and easy to grow. This hardy crop that can be grown in all soil types, and prefers cooler temperatures, making them ideal for growing at home. Rutabagas have numerous health benefits, such as being a rich source of fiber, vitamin C, and numerous minerals and vitamins. Regular consumption of Rutabaga can help reduce cholesterol, regulate blood pressure, and keep diabetes in check. With it’s sweet nutty flavour, Rutabagas can easily be integrated into many dishes and can be enjoyed all year round.

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