Turnips – people either love them or hate them. I think it has everything to do with where you were born. Here on the Atlantic East coast, turnips were a staple on the dinner table and in the garden. My grandmother always had a patch of turnip growing in the backyard. She had a few favorite companion plants for her turnips too, and she always had vigorous growth and a healthy turnip patch in the vegetable garden.
The best turnip companion plants are legumes, radishes, garlic, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, nasturtiums and marigolds. Planting turnip with these plants can help increase yields, reduce pests, and prevent disease.
The Best Companion Plants For Turnips
The best companion plants help repel pesky insects or benefit both vegetable crops with better health and growth.
Hairy, what now? Vetch is a legume primarily used for soil improvement but has many benefits in the garden.
It will pull nitrogen from the air and add it to the soil as a nitrogen-fixing plant.
In addition, the plant’s roots help anchor the soil, which reduces runoff and helps prevent soil erosion.
The plant also suppresses weeds, and when plowed into the ground in spring, it further improves soil structure by promoting draining.
But hairy vetch’s ability to protect the turnip crop from aphids is why it is on this list. Aphids can decimate turnips greens, so any natural organic way to prevent an infestation will improve the health and harvest of your turnips.
Vegetables like bush beans, pole beans, green beans, and peas are nitrogen fixer plants and are one of the best companions for turnips.
These plants cooperate with bacteria in their roots to take nitrogen from the atmosphere and make it available in the soil.
Consider planting turnips in front of trellised peas or beans or to the north side of runner beans in rows. This partnership encourages healthy plants on both sides.
Companion planting turnips with radishes will repel pests like cucumber beetles, squash bugs, squash vine borers, and aphids, making them good companion plants for all kinds of vegetables in the garden. Plant a few radishes around the edges of the turnip bed to ward off those pesky aphids.
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Garlic will protect the garden from Japanese beetles, aphids, weevils, and spider mites. Cabbage aphid infestations happen quickly and will cause damage if left unchecked.
- Learn More: See our complete list of garlic companion plants, including all the benefits garlic has to offer the organic garden.
Brassicas like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, cauliflower, and cabbage make great turnip companion plants. The relationship, however, is very one-sided. Turnips will become a trap crop and attract aphids and slugs. It’s a beneficial companion planting, but not for the turnips.
And it is essential to note that turnip is part of the brassica family and will share diseases and pests. Monocultures (a group of plants from the same family) in the garden can encourage pests and diseases and make them more challenging to control. Diversification is key to a healthy garden.
We include brassicas to the list of companion plants for turnip, hesitantly. The cabbage family members can make good and poor companions for turnips, depending on the garden environment.
When herbs flower, they attract beneficial insects like ladybugs, parasitic wasps, lacewings, and garden beetles which act as pest control for your turnips.
Strongly scented herbs such as dill, rosemary, summer savory, sage, borage, lavender, chamomile, and hyssop repel insect pests that would love to make a snack out of a turnip plant. Mints will also attract earthworms to help aerate the soil.
Nasturtiums make fantastic companion plants for turnips for a couple of reasons.
Firstly, the bright flowers of the nasturtium attract beneficial insects, like hoverflies, parasitic wasps, bees, and butterflies.
Secondly, the low-growing nasturtium vines also act as a living mulch, shading the soil around your turnip plants, helping retain moisture and choke out weeds.
The scent of nasturtium also repels cabbage moths, which you would love to snack on your turnip greens!
Nasturtium plants and vines also work as a ground cover providing shade to the soil and helping to prevent moisture loss around the turnip patch. Finally, nasturtiums help repel cabbage moths.
And, of course, planting flowers in the vegetable garden adds a wonderful splash of color and gives your garden an old-world feel!
- Learn More: I’ve got a whole post on the best nasturtium companion plants to help maximize your companion planting efforts! And if you’re planning on planting nasturtiums with your turnips, you might find this post on how to grow and care for nasturtiums handy.
Like nasturtiums, marigold’s bright flowers help attract helpful insects to your turnip patch. Parasitic wasps and ladybugs will help care for cabbage aphids, which will latch on to turnip greens. Marigolds also attract flea beetles, keeping them away from your turnips.
Instead of pulling up your marigolds at the end of the season, turn them into the soil. This will help reduce soil pests like root-knot nematodes.
Mexican marigolds or French marigolds are recommended if you want your marigolds to act as pest control.
- Learn More: We have a whole post dedicated to companion planting with marigolds. And if you’re interested in other flowers that will help your vegetable garden.
Vegetables to Avoid Planting With Turnips
Companion planting isn’t just about knowing which vegetables will help each other, it’s also about knowing which plants will not grow well together. Some plants can compete for nutrients, or share pests and diseases, making them spread faster. You should avoid planting these vegetables with your turnips:
Potatoes, Beets, Parsnips & Onions
These crops store their starches in their roots and compete for the same nutrients and water. This competition will cause stunted growth for turnip roots grown nearby.
Learn More: See our complete guide on :
Hedge mustard makes a poor turnip companion plant because it will attract cabbage whitefly, stunting the growth of the turnips.
Planting and Care for Turnip
Turnip plants are members of the cabbage family and are cool-season crops.
Planting out: Direct plant turnip seeds in early spring or late summer as possible to give turnips enough time to mature before the hot weather of summer or cold weather of winter arrives. When seedlings reach 4 inches, thin them to 4 inches apart to prevent crowding. Fall crops tend to be sweeter than spring-grown crops.
Sun Requirements: Grow best in full sun but will tolerate partial shade.
Soil requirements: Loose, well-maintained soil free from rocks and debris. Turnips also require well draining soil filled with organic matter to make the soil light and airy.
Water requirements: Turnips require 1 inch of water a week through rain or manual watering.
Did you know that turnip greens are edible? They are incredibly healthy and tasty!
Learn More: Turnips are a good vegetable to grow in the shade. If you’ve got a shady spot in the garden, I have a list of the best vegetables to grow in the shade.
General Companion planting Tips
Companion planting is a wonderful way to help keep your whole garden healthy while reducing the number of chemicals and pesticides you use. Companion planting can help:
Attract Beneficial Insects: Pollinators like butterflies and bees are necessary for fruit-bearing vegetables like cucumbers and pumpkins. Meanwhile, predatory insects like parasitic wasps, ladybugs, and hoverflies eat pests like aphids that can damage crops.
Repel Pests: Some harmful insects can’t stand being around certain plants. You can repel pests like tomato worms or squash bugs by interplanting with these plants.
Lure Insects Away: Some harmful pests will be more attracted to some plants than others. You can use these plants as trap crops, luring the pests away from your prized vegetables by giving them a tastier snack.
Improve Soil: Some plants help to improve soil conditions in your garden. Legumes can fix nitrogen in the soil, while marigolds can be turned into the soil to prevent root-knot nematodes. Root vegetables like carrots and turnips can help break up the soil, increasing aeration.
Weed Reduction: The less weeding you have to do, the better. Plants that grow close to the ground can choke out weeds, reducing the work you have to put into weeding. These plants also act as mulch, shading the soil and helping with moisture retention.
Disease Reduction: Large swaths of a single crop are a haven for disease. By having the same vegetable planted side-by-side, diseases can hop from one plant to the next easily. Companion planting breaks up your crops into smaller groups, interrupting the disease’s ability to spread.
Learn More: If you’re interested in learning more companion planting techniques, I wrote a whole article about the benefits of companion planting vegetables.
Important Note About Planting Multiple Companion Plants
Companion planting is more complex than choosing the best beneficial plants and throwing them together in a garden bed. Some plants benefit from one type of vegetable but are harmful to others. For example, garlic and peas can each be great companion plants for turnips, but garlic and peas should never be planted with each other.
Learn More: Want to know why garlic is a bad companion for peas? This article on the best and worst companion plants for garlic explains why.
Companion Planting Starts with Planning
The trick to companion planting is first determining the problems your garden has. Are your vegetables over-run with aphids? Is your soil depleted of nitrogen? Are your pumpkins not pollinating? The right companion plant will address these issues specifically.
Once you know your garden’s problems, you can choose the right plants to address those issues. For example, peas would help improve the soil for your turnips, but if the problem is that pests are eating the greens, a better companion plant would be marigolds or nasturtiums.
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If you’re interested in learning more about companion planting, I recommend the book “Carrots Love Tomatoes. “
Rutabagas and turnips are similar vegetables with the same growing conditions and companions. The only difference environmentally is that rutabaga will require a longer growing season.
Rutabagas and turnips are interchangeable, but they differ in looks and taste. Turnips are smaller with white flesh, while rutabagas are bigger, usually yellow to their skin and flesh. I find rutabagas sweeter.
All brassica family members (turnips and rutabaga included) will stunt the growth of tomato plants. Tomatoes have so many good companions that choosing something else will benefit your garden bed.
All brassica family members (turnips and rutabaga included) will stunt the growth of pepper plants. Peppers have so many good companions that choosing something else will benefit your garden bed.
Looking for more info on Companion Planting?
Check out these posts for more information on companion planting in your garden:
- A Guide to The Best Eggplant Companion Plants
- The Best (and Worst) Strawberry Companion Plants
- Companion Planting with Celery
- Zucchini Companion Plants
- Top Companion Plants for Pumpkins
- Canning Tomatoes Whole – The Quick and Easy Cold Pack Method
- Growing Romaine Lettuce From Seed to Harvest
- The Best Companion Plants For Asparagus Beds
Editorial Note: This post was originally published on February 13, 2022, and was updated on April 2, 2022.