Turnip Companion Plants: Best Pairings and What to Avoid

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turnip companion plants
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Turnip companion plants can help reduce pests, increase yield, and create a more balanced ecosystem in your turnip bed. So what are the best companion plants for turnips, and how do they help? Let’s see!

Turnips grow in cool weather between early spring and mid-summer, but you can extend the crop season to late summer by adding a late variety. They prefer moist, well-drained soil rich in organic matter. Good drainage is essential to prevent rot.

This turnip companion planting guide has all the answers to help you choose the right plants to grow with turnips for maximum benefit.

Close-up vertical image of purple and white turnips, harvested and washed.

What is Companion Planting?

Companion planting is the practice of growing different vegetables, flowers, and herbs together to improve the health and yields of your crops. These plants together create a natural balance in your garden by supporting each other, providing beneficial nutrients and protection from pests.

The Benefits of Companion Planting for Turnips

For turnips, companion planting can be especially beneficial. Here are some of the advantages:

  • Pest control – With an increased variety of plants, you will also attract a wider variety of beneficial insects that prey on pests.
  • Improved drainage and soil quality – Deep-rooted companions like radishes, carrots, and parsnips can help improve the drainage of heavy soils.
  • Increased yields – Some companion plants like beans and peas help fix nitrogen in the ground, providing more available nutrients for your turnip crop.
  • Weed control – Plants like lettuce and nasturtium can create a living mulch, inhibiting the growth of weeds.

Understanding the Needs of Turnips: (A Quick Care Guide)

Turnips thrive in cool weather and love basking in the sun. Get them in the ground a few weeks before the last frost in spring, and keep sowing every couple of weeks until mid-summer for a constant supply of tasty turnips all summer long. Remember to give each plant enough space to grow. Overcrowding can lead to smaller yields, so aim for about 4-6 inches apart.

Turnips don’t like too much water, so avoid overwatering. A layer of mulch around each plant can help retain moisture and reduce weeds too. To extend the season, provide shade once the temperatures start to soar, or else your turnips will bolt (go to seed).

The Best Turnip Companion Plants

Now let’s find out what are the best plants to grow with your turnips:

1. Radish

Radish is basically a sister plant to turnips. They are both from the same family, grow in similar conditions, and like similar soil. Sow radishes and turnips in rows with 10-12 inches between them. Radish grows and matures faster than turnips, which means you can have a harvest ready in time for the turnips to take over.

It’s a great space-saving combination, plus turnips are somewhat pest-repellent, which also helps protect your radish.

2. Broccoli

Broccoli makes a great partner because it takes longer to mature than turnips. That means you can plant them together without worrying about them competing for space and nutrients. The baby broccoli plants won’t shade the turnips, and they’ll be ready to harvest before the broccoli needs more space both above and below the ground.

Plus, as you harvest the turnips from the garden, they’ll leave behind well-drained, healthy soil for broccoli to thrive.

3. Spinach

Growing patches of spinach around turnips will act as living mulch keeping the soil moist and cool. It will also help reduce weeds, which frees up nutrients for your turnips. In exchange, turnips deter a few pests that would otherwise eat your spinach.

Many gardeners also grow turnips as hedges around spinach patches, as the turnip leaves are tall and thick enough to create a living barrier.

4. Lettuce

Lettuce is quite forgiving and doesn’t require much space, so it can act as ground cover while the turnips are maturing in the background. Lettuce also likes the same cool temperatures as turnips, so they live happily together.

But the real benefit is when you want to grow these vegetables under covers in peak summer. They complement each other nicely, as both prefer to be kept moist and cool while the sun, heat, and wind are out.

5. Garlic & Onion

Garlic and onion are started around the same time as turnip seeds. But they grow pretty slowly, which leaves a lot of empty space for quick crops like turnips to fill in.

Just remember not to plant them too close together because garlic and onion need lots of sunlight, and those turnip greens can get in the way. Also, try to harvest the turnips as soon as possible so they don’t take up space around the growing garlic and onion bulbs.

6. Pole Beans

Pole beans are usually a great companion for most vegetables, and the same goes for turnips if you train them well to grow up poles or netting. Turnips need full sun, so try to position the beans so they don’t block the sunlight. If done correctly, beans will provide the turnips with shade on hot days and give them some extra nitrogen, which should help them grow.

The same goes for peas; they also nourish the soil and pair well in terms of space if you use a tall pole system for them to climb.

7. Celery

Celery has a different kind of relation to turnips. It’s not a companion, per se, but it is a great plant if you’re growing turnips in late summer undercover. It tolerates partial shade and likes moist soil, which turnips also need in hotter days.

You can easily fit it in with your late-season turnips without stressing about bad conditions. And since it’s a slow-growing crop that matures late, you won’t have to worry about it overshadowing or having nutrient deficiencies.

Best Herbs to Grow with Turnips

In addition to the vegetables above, the following herbs make great companion plants for turnips:

1. Mint

Generally, mint is not considered a good companion for many plants, but turnips do well with its presence, especially in hotter climates. Mint’s strong scent is an excellent natural pest repellent, and its dense foliage helps give dappled shade to the turnips.

Just remember to plant mint away from other plants, as it can become invasive and quickly take over your garden.

2. Oregano

Oregano likes cool, moist conditions favored by turnips, so they complement each other in the same garden bed. It also deters many pests, while turnip greens will act as trap crops for the insects that may find their way to your oregano.

Plus, unlike many other herbs, it’s a docile plant that can get a bit out of control. So go ahead and plant oregano without worrying about it taking over your turnips.

3. Borage

Borage is a lovely plant with star-shaped blue flowers and deeply cut green foliage. It attracts pollinators and beneficial insects that keep nasty critters away from your turnips.

It also fixes nitrogen to some extent and provides shade to your turnips, so overall, it’s a decent companion that can bring you some pretty flowers to enjoy in your garden.

Turnip Companion Plants to Avoid

Now let’s talk about some plants you should avoid when planting your turnips.

Potatoes: Potatoes and turnips are similar in many respects, so it’s easy to think they might make a good pair. But unfortunately, potatoes can be infested with various fungal diseases that could also affect the turnips.

They also don’t let neighbor plants get enough nutrients from the soil, so it’s best to keep them away from your turnips.

Thyme: Thyme is an invasive herb, so it’s generally not recommended as a companion plant. But when it comes to turnips, we specifically avoid them because thyme prefers dry conditions, while turnips thrive in moist soil. So better keep this one away for both plants’ best interest.

Hedge Mustard: Hedge mustard tends to spread and take over your garden quickly, so it should be avoided when planting turnips. Plus, the plant’s flowers can act as a host for pests that may find their way to nearby crops or vegetables like turnips.

Carrots: Carrots and turnips are both from the same family, so they share a lot of common traits. But the two don’t go along that well, as turnips can quickly outcompete carrots in terms of nutrition and space, resulting in stunted growth for the carrots.

Frequently Asked Questions

What grows well with turnips?

Plants that like cool weather, moist, well-drained soil, and don’t shade turnips too much are generally good companions for turnips. Broccoli, spinach, lettuce, garlic and onion, and pole beans are some of the best companion plants for turnips.

What should you avoid planting next to turnips?

Avoid plants that can outcompete turnips in terms of nutrition, space, or sunlight. Also, be mindful of invasive plants that attract too many pests. A few examples are potatoes, thyme, hedge mustard, and carrots.

What kind of care do turnips need?

Turnips are pretty easy to grow in most climates. They like cool weather, moist soil, and full sunlight. Keep the soil aerated with light compost or mulch to avoid disease problems. Water regularly, but don’t leave standing water on top of the ground, and harvest when turnips are still small for the best flavor.

How often should I water my turnips?

Turnips need about two inches of water a week; you can water them every other day or twice a week, depending on your soil conditions. Always check the moisture content of the topsoil before watering to avoid over-watering.

Final Thoughts

Turnips like companion plants that help them keep cool and moist in summer while not compromising on sunlight, nutrition, and space to grow properly. Some of these are garden staples like radishes and peas that gardeners prefer to keep in the same beds. But you can also experiment with less traditional companions like broccoli, mint, and borage to find the perfect mix that suits your own needs.

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