How to Grow Rutabega

Rutabagas, also known as swedes or neeps, are root vegetables that are similar to turnips but with a sweeter and milder taste. They are rich in vitamin C and dietary fiber and can be cooked in a variety of ways. If you want to grow your own rutabagas, here’s a guide on how to do it successfully.

Planting Instructions

Rutabagas are a cool-weather crop that is typically planted in the late summer or early fall. They prefer well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter and a pH between 5.5 and 6.5. Choose a location that gets full sun to partial shade, and plant the seeds about ½ inch deep and 2-3 inches apart. Thin seedlings to 6-8 inches apart when they reach 2 inches tall.

Watering Requirements

Rutabagas need consistent watering to ensure healthy growth. Keep the soil moist but not waterlogged, and water deeply once or twice a week, depending on weather conditions. Inconsistent watering can lead to tough, woody roots, so it’s important to keep the soil consistently moist.

Fertilizing Tips

Rutabagas prefer soil that is high in phosphorus and potassium, so you may want to fertilize lightly with a balanced fertilizer at planting time. You can also apply a phosphorus-rich fertilizer mid-season to promote root development.

Pest Management

Rutabagas can be susceptible to pests such as flea beetles, root maggots, and aphids. To prevent damage, keep the garden clean and weed-free, and remove any damaged leaves or plants. You can also use organic pest control methods such as row covers or companion planting with herbs like mint or thyme.

Disease Management

Rutabagas can be prone to diseases such as clubroot and powdery mildew. To prevent these diseases, rotate crops each year and avoid planting rutabagas in the same location for several years. Keep the soil well-drained and avoid overhead watering, which can promote the growth of fungal diseases.

Harvesting Instructions

Rutabagas are ready to harvest when the roots are about 3-5 inches in diameter and the tops are about 6-8 inches tall. This usually takes 90-120 days from planting. To harvest, use a garden fork or shovel to loosen the soil around the roots, and gently pull them up. Cut off the tops and store the roots in a cool, dry place.

Storage Tips

Rutabagas can be stored in the refrigerator or a cool, dry place for up to 3 months. Remove any dirt or debris before storing, and store in a perforated plastic bag to allow for air circulation.

Recipe Ideas

Rutabagas are a versatile vegetable that can be used in a variety of recipes. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Mashed rutabagas: Boil peeled and diced rutabagas until tender, then mash with butter, milk, and a pinch of nutmeg.
  • Rutabaga fries: Cut rutabagas into thin fries, toss with olive oil and salt, and bake in the oven until crispy.
  • Rutabaga gratin: Layer sliced rutabagas with cream, grated cheese, and breadcrumbs, and bake in the oven until bubbly and golden.
  • Rutabaga and apple slaw: Shred rutabagas and apples and toss with a dressing made from apple cider vinegar, honey, and Dijon mustard.

Rutabagas are a delicious and nutritious root vegetable that are easy to grow in your home garden. With a little bit of care and attention, you can enjoy a bountiful harvest of this flavorful vegetable.