How to Grow Swedes or Rutabaga

Swedes (Brassica campestris napobrassica), also known as rutabaga or yellow turnips, are hardy root vegetables that grow when many other veggies won't. They have been the survival tactic of many an army and poverty stricken family over the centuries. Growing swedes is not hard and is in fact even ideal in frost prone areas, as they continue growing through frost, improving in flavour as a result! Here is how to grow them.


  1. Image titled Grow Swedes or Rutabaga Step 1
    Get the soil type right. The best soil type for swedes is a well-drained, light soil that has been manured well. Provided there is good drainage, swedes will also grow well in heavy clay soils that receive regular moisture.
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    Sow the seeds in mid-summer. This is very important as it allows the bulbous roots plenty of time to grow before the coldest of winter strikes.
  3. Image titled Grow Swedes or Rutabaga Step 3
    Sow thinly. Place the large, bullet-shaped seeds in drills to a depth of 2 centimeter (0.8 in) in light soils. Make it only 1.25 centimeter (0.5 in) for a heavier soil.
  4. Image titled Grow Swedes or Rutabaga Step 4
    Watch for germination. The seeds should germinate within 7 - 12 days. Thin the seedlings to 22 centimeter (8.7 in) intervals about three weeks following sowing. This will be when the seedlings have developed their first set of rough leaves.
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    Allow to grow. Swedes will grow through autumn (fall) and winter. They can be pulled when required and left in the ground to keep growing in the meantime.
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  • Swede leaves can be eaten if wished; cook and serve as for cabbage.
  • If you harvest your swedes, store them in a dry, dark and cool area of the garden, in a wooden crate or some similar device that rats and mice cannot access. Only harvest during dry weather or the swedes will rot. Also remove leaves and root tails to discourage rot if storing. Indoor storage can be as easy as placing in a hessian sack or layering them in a box filled with sand. Again, the area should be cool, dark and dry. If kept at temperatures between 0ºC - 4ºC, swedes will store for up to 6 months.
  • Swedes are happy in both full sun and partial shade.
  • Quickly boil swede leaves, strain, add olive oil and lemon juice. May add a hard-boiled egg or some cheese to the dish. Delicious.


  • Be aware that seedlings cannot tolerate minus temperatures, hence the need to sow them when it is hot. However, once established, low minuses won't bother the plant once over a month old.

Things You'll Need

  • Swede seeds
  • Garden space, tilled and ready for planting

Article Info

Categories: Growing Vegetables