As a passionate food plotter, I’m always enthusiastic about the different plant species I get to work with each year. But one that stands out to me is turnips. These beauties, belonging to the brassicas family, not only grow rapidly but also provide an abundant food source for the wildlife while looking stunning in the process. What’s more, they are easy to maintain. Being a large broadleaf plant, when planted densely and given a good start, turnips quickly outcompete other plants.
One of the things I love most about turnips is that they offer two food sources: the leafy greens and the turnip itself. With a protein content ranging from 15 to 22 percent, turnips are highly nutritious and easily digestible. They are a sumptuous meal for the wildlife, and the yields are usually exceptional.
However, there’s a trick to maximizing turnip consumption by deer. Although they may nibble on turnips from the moment they germinate, peak consumption doesn’t usually occur until mid-October to early November in areas with quality food sources. Most brassicas, including turnips, become highly attractive to deer because of a chemical reaction triggered by the first hard frost. This reaction increases the glucose levels, turning the once slightly bitter plant into a sweet treat. That’s when deer really go to town on them.
How to Plant Turnips
Before diving into turnip planting, it’s crucial to conduct soil samples to gauge the soil’s pH level. Turnips thrive best in soil with a pH over 6.0. If necessary, apply lime and fertilizer accordingly. Once that’s done, it’s time to get to work. Instead of simply broadcasting the seeds, it’s recommended to drill them into the soil at a rate of 7 to 9 pounds per acre. However, broadcasting at a rate of 10 to 12 pounds per acre is also effective. The seeds should be planted at a depth of around ¼ inch to ensure proper germination. Going any deeper may hinder germination under certain circumstances. After planting, ensuring good seed-to-soil contact is vital. Simply running a drag over the area or driving over it with a vehicle or ATV will suffice.
Where to Plant Turnips
Turnips are highly versatile and can grow well in most parts of the country. However, the quality of the soil is vital for their success. Turnips don’t thrive in clay-rich soil, so it’s essential to choose well-drained areas for planting to unlock their maximum potential.
When to Plant Turnips
Although turnips grow faster than most plants, it takes around 70 to 90 days for them to reach full maturity. In the Northern region, I prefer to plant them as early as July. Contrary to the old saying of never planting something unless the month has an “R” in it, I’ve had great success planting fall and winter food plots in May, June, July, and August. The key is to ensure sufficient moisture during the summer months, along with reasonable temperatures. If you’re experiencing regular rainfall and the temperatures aren’t consistently scorching, then planting turnips during the summer can yield excellent results. In the Southern regions, planting in September still allows for ample growth before the arrival of the first frost.
So, if you’re looking to attract wildlife to your land and provide them with a nutritious feast, turnips are a fantastic choice. By following these planting guidelines and being mindful of the optimal conditions, you’ll be on your way to creating a thriving turnip plot. Happy planting!
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