How To Grow Swedes and Tipperary Turnips

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flowerpotmanI love swedes – especially boiled, mashed and served with fresh mackerel and new potatoes. I live on the Galway coast near a pier and if I happen to pass by when one of my neighbours has pulled in some mackerel I can usually manage to talk them into parting with a few. Recently I traded a bag of my own home grown tomatoes for four delicious mackerel.

Still,  this isn’t a post about about mackerel this is a post about swedes, so back on topic…


Last year I had no luck growing swedes. They barely grew past the size of scallions.  I now know why. My soil was rubbish. Since I have little topsoil in my rocky garden I had bought several tons of what was supposed to be compost/topsoil mix but which turned out to be nothing more than lifeless clay.

When I complained to the seller he told me I was the only person ever complained. My response was ‘so what? ‘ He was probably right though. I had spoken to several people who had the same complaint about this soil but none of them probably did complain directly to the seller.


People don’t seem to do complain much here which is probably why rip-off Ireland continues to flourish.  After I complained some more and invited him to my garden to see for himself the seller gave me another ton of soil which was equally rubbish and will take a great deal of work to turn into real soil.


The other weird thing about this soil is that it is full of potato seeds. I planted a rose bed with it and ended up with a load of potato plants and some of these potato plants bore a very strange fruit indeed.

So last year was, sadly, without swedes. This year was different. I had added manure, some great seaweed from the bay down the road, as well as some real compost to the clay and mulched it under cardboard for the winter.


If you are planning on growing swedes remember it is best to have prepared the soil with manure the previous season – not just as you are planting.

Removing the cardboard from my beds in spring revealed a richer wormy soil and it was into this I sowed my swedes and crossed my fingers.


tipperary-TurnipI also sowed some Tipperary Turnips seeds I got from Irish SeedSavers. The packet says they are Turnip/swedes and are particularly hardy, soft skinned and sweet – they’re not lying either – they are lovely.

I sowed them about an inch deep directly into the soil in April. You can sow them between March and July but you need to be sure that the chances of frost have passed.


If you don’t have limey soil you need to add some as top dressing as this will prevent club root disease. This disease distorts and wilts the leaves and causes swelling and misshapes in the roots.

We live on Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way on the border of the Burren and Galway so we never have problems with lime. Our water is so limey we had to get filters installed to stop our appliances getting banjaxed  with lime scale.

swedeI sowed my swede and turnip seeds into rows and also sowed radish between them to have something to munch on while I waited for my swedes and turnips to grow.  I saw Alan Titchmarsh doing this and if it’s good enough for Alan…


You are supposed to thin the seedlings to about a foot apart which is something I am only getting round to. This summer has been a busy one and I am behind on absolutely everything in the garden with no hope of catching up.

If unlike me, you prefer to do a proper job then you should get into the rows earlier and thin them to give them a fighting chance of getting big.  This might be around the time the radish are big enough to eat.  Although why anyone wants to grow big old woody swedes and turnips is beyond me.

tipperary-turnipAt the moment I am pulling out the swedes and turnips that are clumped together. The advantage of thinning this late is that you can eat the thinnings and like most vegetables the younger the sweeter.

I enjoyed some today with some mackerel donated by one of the fishermen at the pier.  A lovely old man, who unfortunately for him and fortunately for me, just wasn’t quick enough to hide his catch in time when he saw me coming.

If I say so myself, the  boiled Tipperary turnip and young swedes were a perfect match for a perfect catch.

Bye for now





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