Rutabagas have wonderfully aggressive root systems and are capable
of growing continuously through long, severe drought. But where I
live, the results aren't satisfactory. Here's what happens. If I
start rutabagas in early April and space them about 2 to 3 feet
rows 4 feet apart, by October they're the size of
basketballs and look pretty good; unfortunately, I harvest a hollow
shell full of cabbage root maggots. Root maggots are at their peak
in early June. That's why I got interested in dry-gardening giant
In 1991 we had about 2 surprising inches of rain late in June, so as
a test I sowed rutabagas on July 1. They germinated without more
irrigation, but going into the hot summer as small plants with
limited root systems and no irrigation at all they became somewhat
stunted. By October 1 the tops were still small and a little gnarly;
big roots had not yet formed. Then the rains came and the rutabagas
began growing rapidly. By November there was a pretty nice crop of
medium-size good-eating roots.
I suspect that farther north, where evaporation is not so severe and
midsummer rains are slightly more common, if a little irrigation
were used to start rutabagas about July 1, a decent unwatered crop
might be had most years. And I am certain that if sown at the normal
time (July 15) and grown with minimal irrigation but well spaced
out, they'll produce acceptably.
_Varieties:_ Stokes Altasweet (STK, TSC) has the best flavor.
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