Plant in the spring or fall. Rutabagas thrive in cooler temperatures, so you should plant them when soil temperatures are still somewhat cool. For spring rutabagas, sow the seeds outdoors three weeks before the last expected frost. For fall rutabagas, sow the seeds in midsummer, roughly two months before the first expected frost of winter.
The soil temperature needs to be an average of at least 40 degrees F for the seeds to germinate, but temperatures between 50- and 70-degrees F encourage the most rapid growth.
Fall rutabagas are typically sweeter than spring rutabagas, and they are also less likely to attract root maggots.
Rutabagas thrive in full sun, so the area you choose should receive at least six hours of direct sunlight daily, if not a little more.
Loosen the soil with a rake or shovel to a depth of 12 to 15 inches, then mix in a 2-inch to 4-inch layer of compost.
Broadcast the seed or plant in rows in your prepared soil as evenly as possible. Cover the seed gently with 1/4 inch of soil for spring turnips or 1/2 inch of soil for fall rutabagas.
Gently water in.
When the seedlings reach a height of 4 inches, pull the weakest ones so that the strongest have more room and resources.
Rutabagas need 1 inch of water per week. Any less will cause the roots to become tough and bitter, but too much more can cause the rutabagas to rot.
When the plants reach a height of 5 inches, add a 2-inch layer of mulch around the greens.
While not strictly necessary, a monthly application of mild, organic fertilizer can help strengthen the rutabaga root. Choose a fertilizer high in potassium and phosphorus rather than one high in nitrogen.
You should be able to harvest mature, ripe rutabagas after seven to ten weeks depending on variety. See your seed packet for days to maturity.
Rutabaga, Brassica napus
Pollination, insect; Life Cycle, biennial; Isolation Distance, ½ mile
Rutabaga is an insect pollinated biennial that doesn't flower and set seed until the following season. Leave ½ mile between what you are growing and any other Brassica napus to prevent crossing. This includes Russian kales among others. After flowers have turned to seed, leave the seeds to mature and dry on the plant as long as possible before gathering. Once plant material is so dry it crumbles at your touch, separate seeds and winnow away chaff before storing.