The Q&A Archives: Rutabaga

Question: Last year I planted rutabagas in raised beds. The lush leaves were 24-36 inches high but my rutabagas were long and thin. I do have clay soil. What did I do wrong and how can I correct it?

Answer: Like all root vegetables, the leaves of rutabagas can deceive you into thinking the roots are as impressively large as the tops. Rutabagas can grow as large as 6 or 7 pounds, but they take well prepared soil and lots of moisture to reach their full potentials. Here are some basic growing hints for them: Rutabagas need cool nights as they mature. For this reason, it is best to grow them as a fall crop. Plant directly outdoors in the lat spring or early summer, about 15 weeks before the first expected frost, so the roots will mature in cool autumn weather. Rutabagas do well in medium-heavy soils such as yours, cultivated to a depth of 6". Sow seeds 1/2" deep and 1/2" apart, thinning to 8" apart. Then mulch the soil to keep down weeds and help conserve soil moisture. Soils moisture is critical as the plants mature, so water when necessary. Harvest roots just after the first frost, which improves the flavor, but before real freezes. (Freezing shortens their storage life.) After harvest, store in a root cellar, or any cool, dark place that remains above freezing.

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