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When to Plant Turnips for Deer

When to Plant Turnips for Deer

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July, August, or September – when exactly should you plant turnips to attract deer? Although this question confuses many food plot planters, the answer is simpler than you might think. 

The optimal planting date depends on your region’s climate. In the North, July is the best time to cultivate these plants. In the south, though, September is the ideal time.

Just keep reading to learn about when to plant turnips in your deer plot in detail.

Besides determining the right timing, I’ll also provide you with the best tips to optimize the health and growth of these plants. 

When Is the Best Time to Plant Turnips for Deer?

Overall, the ideal timing for planting turnips in your deer food plot depends on your location. You’ll have to be mindful of your local weather patterns to get the timing right.

That said, as a general recommendation, if you live in the North, try planting turnips in early July. 

In the South, however, I recommend cultivating these plants in September. This will allow them enough time to grow before the first hard frost.

Further, turnips take between 55 and 90 days to reach full maturity from the time you seed them, depending on their type. 

Still, the most popular turnip varieties, such as purple top turnips, can grow in as little as only around 55 days. 

Given that, if you plant the turnips too late, things won’t work out well – but you also don’t want to do it too early. 

You need to follow these recommended times. This way, you’ll give your turnips the right duration to grow healthy.

Why Are Turnips So Good for Deer?

A Deer In The Vegetable Garden

Turnips can fill a nutrition gap for the deer during the winter months. They’re good for deer because of their rich content of fiber and vitamins. They can also be a great source of iron, calcium, folate, and thiamine as well.

In addition, they can provide deer with decent protein, with both the tops and roots containing that nutrient. It’s worth noting too that deer like to eat the leafy tops of the turnips as well as the turnips themselves. 

Still, deer don’t usually eat the tops of the turnips until they’ve matured a bit. Before they mature, they taste a bit bitter, making them off-putting to the deer. 

Once the first frost sets in, the turnip tops will start to become sweet, and deer will begin to munch on them. 

How Do You Plant Turnips for Deer Plots? 

Picking the right timing is only one part of the formula. To maximize the growth of your turnips, you’ll need to give them the required care and growing conditions. 

Thankfully, turnips aren’t that hard to care for, but there are still some things that you should consider. Here are the steps to follow to plant and care for turnips in the deer food plot: 

1 – Pick the Right Turnip Type 

There are plenty of different turnip varieties you can plant in your deer food plot. However, some are easier for the deer to eat.

I recommend prioritizing purple tops above any other variety as they stick out of the ground enough, giving deer easy access to them. 

As such, the deer can easily eat their tops as well as the roots. This turnip variety is also slightly more nutritionally valuable than others. 

2 – Plant Turnips in a Loose, Well-Drained Soil

Harvesting Turnips

The type of soil you plant your turnips in makes a world of difference in how healthy they’ll grow.

Many types of soil will do just fine, but I recommend planting turnips in loam as it’ll help your turnips grow quickly. It also has the natural nutrients that turnips need to grow well.

In addition, you need to ensure turnips grow in soil with a pH balance between 6.5 and 6.8.

Equally important, cultivate turnips in well-draining soil as these plants can experience root rot if they don’t drain properly between watering sessions.

Moreover, the soil should be a little bit loose to ensure that the roots can grow properly. Aerate the soil well, and you’ll see the turnips thrive in your food plot.

3 – Give Sufficient Fertilizing

Turnips are moderate feeders; you’ll need to pay a little attention to their feeding requirements. 

To give them the required fertilizing just right, you should ideally conduct a soil test to determine the nutrients they need. Depending on the test results, you should provide the soil with a suitable fertilizer. 

That said, generally, I recommend using an all-purpose fertilizer such as 10-20-10 or 12-12-12 for turnips in food plots. 

When using these fertilizers, apply them to the top 6 inches of soil. Use from 2 to 3 lb of fertilizer for every 100 square feet of turnips.

You can lightly apply nitrogen-based fertilizer as well; six weeks after the emergence of turnips to speed up the plant growth. Apply this fertilizer to the sides of the turnip plants. 

However, don’t use excess quantities of nitrogen as it can boost the growth of lush leaves at the expense of root health. 

Besides fertilizing, you can also incorporate organic matter, like compost, to enhance soil fertility and structure.

4 – Spread the Seeds Out Properly

It might be tempting to cram as many turnip seeds in a small food plot area as you can to produce more plants. Still, this isn’t a wise idea.

The reason: when turnips are crowded, their roots will grow smaller than usual. Crowding can even lead to roots becoming malformed, among other problems. These issues will negatively impact the overall health and growth of the plants. 

With that in mind, you should try to space the turnips out, leaving approximately three to six inches between each one. If you do things right, you’ll have the best shot at growing healthy turnips and attracting a huge local deer population.

5 – Control Weeds as Much as Possible

Weeding Vegetable Garden

Weeds can slightly hinder the growth of your turnips if left uncontrolled. Meanwhile, using mulch in a food plot area to control weeds isn’t a good idea either since it can deter deer

This is why I recommend you do at least some minor weeding every now and then to keep things on track. Whenever you get a chance, weed your food plot area a bit to keep the growth of the turnips going in the right direction.

Nonetheless, you need to be careful when weeding the area to avoid disturbing the roots of your young turnips. 

Remember that when weeding, you don’t need to go overboard. Even if you don’t weed, things will be okay, but weeding can provide your turnips with much better growth conditions. 

6 – Plant in a Full Sun

Turnips grow well when planted in full sunlight, and they generally prefer temperatures between 40°F and 75°F. So, do your best to plant the turnips in a location where they’ll receive ample amounts of sunlight.

Here’s the challenge: You need to place food plots in spots where the deer will feel comfortable stopping to graze. This means that the place will likely contain nearby trees and tall grass.

An area like this could contain a bit more shade than you would normally want for a sun-loving plant, like turnips. Nevertheless, if you can’t give the turnips full sunlight, it should still be okay. Just try to ensure that they get enough light to grow well.

Overall, try to position the turnips in the most convenient place for deer, but ensure the location is sunny—at least partially.

7 – Always Keep the Soil Slightly Moist

Watering Garden

Ensuring your turnips have consistent moisture is vital. So, you should keep the soil slightly moist as much as you can. 

However, you shouldn’t go overboard with watering turnips. If you water them too much, you could end up causing root rot, potentially damaging the entire plant. 

Too much watering here means that the soil turns soggy or excessively damp. That way, if you water the turnips yourself, try not to go further than making the soil lightly moist.

During a rainy season, turnips should do well enough with approximately one inch of rain each week. At that time, it might be necessary to regularly check the food plot if it hasn’t rained lately. This is to ensure that the soil is still slightly moist. 

If it’s not, you should consider watering the plants yourself to avoid exposing them to excessive dryness. In addition, keep an eye on weather forecasts to ensure that the turnips are getting the moisture they need.


Can You Broadcast Turnip Seeds? 

Turnip seeds are small and only require shallow soil coverage to begin germination. This makes them highly suitable for broadcasting.

That being said, when using this method to plant turnips, you’ll need to avoid sowing the seeds too densely. As we mentioned above, crowded turnips will grow unhealthy and won’t reach their maximum size.

Should You Soak Turnip Seeds Before Planting? 

Contrary to many online recommendations, you should never soak turnip seeds before planting them. Doing so will likely lead to problems in their growth. 

This is because once these seeds get in touch with a hydrated substrate, they release their nutrients and energy. They may even form mold if you hydrate them before cultivation. 

So, stay on the safe side and plant these seeds without soaking.

Final Thoughts

Knowing when to plant turnips for deer should help you get the best results possible. The ideal time can vary depending on your location. 

If you live in a place where it freezes earlier than usual, it’d be best to plant turnips as early as August or even July. Otherwise, it’s okay to plant turnips in September or even November, depending on when your first hard freeze typically occurs.

Given that, it’s important to pay attention to the weather patterns in your area to decide the optimal time to plant turnips for deer. In addition to timing, it’s also important to know how to care for these plants. 

Apply everything you learned here to attract more deer to your property and have a widely successful hunting season. Good luck! 


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