How to grow kohlrabi (step by step)

Kohlrabi is a vegetable that belongs to the family of cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, and kale. It is also known as the German turnip and it has a taste that falls in between cabbage and broccoli stems. The name kohlrabi means cabbage-turnip due to the taste. It is a hardy biennial plant that completes two life cycles in two growing seasons as annuals. 

It has a swollen stem that forms a bulb-like globe-shaped vegetable and gives a look like that of turnips but has leaves as if turnips are growing on cabbage plants. They come in the colors of green, white and purple and have long leaves in blue-green color.

Grow Kohlrabi
Grow Kohlrabi in garden

As weird as the name of this vegetable sounds it is delicious to eat and can be grown in your vegetable garden easily. They have a milder taste than cabbage or turnip and are somewhat sweeter than them. Both the bulbous stems and the leafy parts can be eaten and you can have the young and tender ones in salads or make vegetables, soups, roast, and steam them and fry them even.

Kohlrabi can be grown in farms and your home gardens as well. So let us see how to grow kohlrabi in your garden.

Health Benefits of Kohlrabi

Kohlrabi is a highly nutritious vegetable to consume and is like a cabbage loaded with nutrients in it. This crunchy cruciferous vegetable is an excellent way to add lots of nutrients to your daily diet. Some of the nutrients are:

  • Vitamin A is good for your eyes 
  • Vitamin B6 is helpful in the production of red blood cells in your body and supports protein metabolism.
  • Vitamin C helps in boosting up of your immune system and protects the body in free radical damage and that in turn helps the body I healing wounds, collagen synthesis, and iron absorption
  • Iron helps you meet your iron deficiencies and prevents anemia 
  • Potassium is a mineral and electrolyte which is important to keep the heart healthy and balance the fluids.
  • Calcium that helps in maintaining strong bones
  • Fiber that gives you a good immunity system 
  • Protein to meet your daily protein requirements and 
  • Carbs to support your body

Not only this vegetable has other health benefits as well. It is very rich in antioxidants like anthocyanins, isothiocyanates, and glucosinolates in addition to vitamin C that are plant compounds that help in protecting the cells against any free radical damage that may increase the chances of many diseases.

The property of being rich in antioxidants makes it useful in diabetes and metabolic diseases. The purple kohlrabi varieties contain in them that lowers the heart disease risks. These compounds also lower the risk of certain cancers and inflammations.

Another benefit is that it makes your gut stronger by being rich in fiber content that is both soluble and insoluble fibers. The water-soluble fibers help in maintaining levels of blood sugar and cholesterol levels as well whereas the insoluble part of the vegetable helps in digestion and bowel movements.

Studies have shown that also for women who are aged 70 or above have a chance to prevent heart disease on the consumption of kohlrabi.

It supports and maintains a healthy immune system and promotes the production of white blood cells and T cells that are the cells that help you strengthen your immunity. So if you have not planned to grow kohlrabi plants in your garden you can always begin as it is super easy to grow and full of nourishment.

How to grow Kohlrabi in your garden

Together with being super versatile and tasty kohlrabi is also very easy to grow in your garden even when you are a beginner in gardening. So let us see step by step how to grow kohlrabi in your garden.

Buy Kohlrabi seed packet from Amazon

#1- Temperature Requirement

The right growing time of the kohlrabi plant very much depends on the zone of America you are living in. but you can check the temperature requirements of the plant to match with the time that will be suited in your location.

Kohlrabi is a biennial plant and is also hardy in nature. The ideal time to sow the seeds of this vegetable will be 3-4 weeks before the average last date of fog in springs. 

The best time for them to grow well is when the temperature is cold that is between 40 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit or 4.4 to 23.9 degrees celsius in such a way that can be harvested before the temperature rises above 75 degrees Fahrenheit or 23.9 degree celsius.

So you can sow them in early springs after the danger of hard frost is over or also in late summers when the winter is approaching and there will be an early autumn frost. 

#2- Soil preparation

grow Kohlrabi in your garden
Kohlrabi in a garden

Kohlrabi plants are heavy feeders and hence they require rich, moist, loamy, and well-drained soil. You must add good quality compost to the soil where you want to grow the plant whether in your garden soil or in containers.

You must prepare the soil well before adding seeds to them. Also, make sure that the soil is well-drained and rich in organic compost. 

These plants generally prefer a soil that is in between the range of 5.5 to 6.8. You must work your native soil well in the soil bed before you sow the seeds and improve them by adding several inches of rich organic matter and aged compost. You can also side-dress the plant at midseason with some aged compost.

#3- Spacing 

The kohlrabi vegetables are bulbous round globe like vegetables and they need proper space to grow to their full potential. Therefore make sure you provide enough space for them to grow initially while sowing the seeds itself because if you want to later shift the plants to give them space you might end up damaging the roots.

Ideally, it is good if you can sow the seeds ½ inches deep in the soil and an inch or 2.5cm to 4cm apart and space rows 12 to 18 inches or 45cm to 60cm apart.

#4- Sowing Seed

After you have started the soil preparation at the right time that is ideal for the kohlrabi plants to grow you can just make the soil moist and sow the seeds ½ inches deep in the ground by gently pressing them. Sow the seeds by taking care of the spacing requirements of the plant.

#5- Sunlight Requirement

Kohlrabi needs full sunlight each day of at least 6 hours a day in order to grow to their full potential and grow plump. Sunlight helps the vegetable to also get its flavor quite well.

So choose a place in your garden to grow kohlrabi that gets ample amount of sunlight during the day and you can also grow them near trees in your garden that doesn’t have enough leaves during the season as they will help the sunlight to reach the kohlrabi plants too.

#6- Water Requirement

In order for the plants to grow well, you must keep them well watered as they need good amounts of water. The rich loamy well-drained soil will help the plant to be moist when water will be added to it.

If however, you don’t keep the soil moist they will tend to become woody. Sometimes you can also make compost tea for your plants to give them a nutrient boost to grow well.

#7- Fertilizers and Pesticides 

Kohlrabi plants are heavy feeders and need soil that is rich in compost. If you keep feeding the plants well they will ensure that the plants grow good excellent leaves and for that, you can use water-soluble plant food. You can also add more compost and side dress the plant with rich compost from time to time and that can help the soil to keep improving.

You can apply a layer of mulch to block the weeds and it will also help to retain the moisture in the soil. You can handpick the caterpillars if any on the plant like cabbage worms. You can also remove the eggs that can be on the underside of the leaves by water sprays.

#8- Harvesting

The best way to rely on to understand whether the plants are ready to harvest or not is by checking if the vegetables have grown in size. The color change would not be a very prominent and reliable way to make sure whether the plants are ripened. For best flavors and textures you must pull out the young bulbs and leaves that are between two to three inches in diameter. 

You can keep harvesting the plants continuously since if you don’t they can get old, tough, and woody. It takes about 45 to 60 days for them to be able to harvest from seed sowing time.

On an estimate, you can grow 4-5 plants for every member of your house. For storage, you can use cool dry places to store the bulb vegetables and add them to your salads, soups, and vegetables.

Varieties of Plants

Kohlrabi plants come in various varieties and you can choose from them depending upon the preference and the zone of America that you are located in. They come in about 2 dozen varieties with a range of colors, size, shapes, flavors, storage life, resistance to diseases, etc.and even in hybrid forms. You can procure the seeds of different varieties online or even in the local markets. In the color range, they come in

  • White,
  • green and 
  • purple colors 

and you can choose them according to your color preference or you can choose to grow them in color combinations alternatively or just a single color of your choice, whatever suits you the best. However, the inner part of the bulbs remains white only.

 Some names for purple kohlrabi are

  • Kolibri,
  • purple Vienna and 
  • Rapid. 

Whereas white varieties like 

  • Kossak, 
  • white Vienna,
  • Logo,
  • early white Vienna and
  • corridor.

Medium-sized bulbs like

  • Early white delicacy
  • Quickstart
  • Peking strain and 
  • Dyna

Some of the good ones among these are white Vienna which is the dwarf variety which takes about 60 days to grow and be ready for harvesting and they can be in the garden without bolting for a longer time.

Grand duke takes 50 days to be ready for harvesting and this variety has obtained all America selections winner distinction.

Gigante is the variety of a disease-resistant plant and can be stored for a longer time together with being very large bulbs with good flavor.

So you can choose the best variety of kohlrabi that suits you the best.

How long does it take to grow kohlrabi
kohlrabi garden

How to add kohlrabi to your diet

This cruciferous plant belongs to the family of cabbage and is like an apple on the inside and has a flavor in between broccoli stems and cabbage and is a little sweeter than that. They are super-rich in nutrients and have a crunchy texture.

You can consume both the stems and the leafy parts of the plant. Young and tender ones have great flavor. You may or may not peel off the snacks. You can chop and have them as salads or you can have them with hummus with snacks.

The leaves parts you can also add to salads and you can sautee them or stir fry them or make soups out of them. You can make many healthy and delicious recipes out of kohlrabi.

How long does it take to grow kohlrabi?

Kohlrabi plant is a biennial plant that means it completes two lifecycles in two seasons annually. Kohlrabi loves cold temperatures and grows well in cool seasons.

In a year you can sow the seeds in two seasons being one during the early spring that is 3-4 weeks before the average last frost in spring. And then you can also sow the seeds after the summer season in the early autumn time as the plant can tolerate early autumn frost and will give you a winter harvest. 

The ideal temperature for growing kohlrabi plants is between 40 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit that is 4.4 to 23.9 degrees celsius. Usually, kohlrabi plants take 45 to 60 days to mature and get ready for harvest depending upon the variety of plants that you choose to grow.

It should be such that the plant gets ready for harvest before the temperature gets beyond 75 degrees Fahrenheit or 23.9 degrees celsius.

What can you not plant near kohlrabi?

Being bulbous stems. kohlrabi plants need some space to grow. They should be planted at a distance of upto 4 cm apart to help them grow to their full potential.

They are also heavy feeders and so the soil you are growing them in should be converted into rich soil by adding compost and organic matters to draw nutrients from them. 

Companion plants are grown near plants due to some benefits like minimizing the risk of yields, crop protection by wind, and other factors, trap cropping being a kind of pest management, and positive hosting for reaping benefits.

Companion plants that can be grown around kohlrabi are Beets, celery, onions, herbs, brassicas, cucumbers, and potatoes.

However, it is advised to not grow tomatoes, strawberries, peppers and pole beans as their companions 

Is kohlrabi a Superfood?

A superfood is a food that is rich in nutrients and yes kohlrabi is a superfood because it is loaded with nutrients together with being tasty. It is like a cabbage that is loaded with nutrients and has fibers like an apple and tastes like broccoli stem but has a sweeter flavor than that somewhere between cabbage and broccoli.

Kohlrabi has nutrients like vitamin A that is good for eyesight, vitamin C that boosts your immune system, iron that will help you prevent anemia that is caused due to iron deficiency. 

Not only that it also has potassium that helps maintain your blood pressure and helps your nerves and muscles to function well. It contains calcium that will improve your bone health and lots of fibers that will help in good digestion.

In addition to all the above mentioned nutritional values, they also have good antioxidant properties. It will help you in your weight loss plan as well and you can have them in salads, bake them, have them raw or have them cooked. So yes having all these great properties make kohlrabi a superfood indeed.

Can you eat the kohlrabi leaves?

Can you eat the kohlrabi leaves
kohlrabi with leaves

The leaves of kohlrabi can be eaten within a day or two of being picked up from the garden. You can add them to your salads or vegetables. You can store them also but don’t store them while they are still attached to the stem rather take them off the stems and then store them separately. 

If the leaves look green and firm you can cook them within a day or two. The leaves of kohlrabi are very rich in nutrients just like the stems are very rich in nutrients therefore since they are edible you can always include them in your diet.

How tall does kohlrabi get?

Kohlrabi plants can be harvested after 45 to 60 days of sowing seeds depending upon the variety of plants you choose to grow.

The ideal temperature for sowing seeds would be 40 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit and you can harvest them within 45 to 65 days but the temperature should not go higher than 75 degrees Fahrenheit. You can keep harvesting the stems and leaves continuously throughout the harvesting season instead of harvesting all of them at once. 

They grow upto 2 to 3 inches that are 5 to 7.6 in diameter and are bulbous and globe-shaped vegetables belonging to the family of cabbage. It is best if you harvest young and tender stems and leaves for good crips and flavors. The longer you let them grow there is a chance that they will get woody.

Final Thoughts

Kohlrabi is a great plant to grow in your garden since they are healthy and are loaded with nutrients together with being super tasty. Both the bulbous stem part and the leafy green foliage are edible and can be consumed in many ways. They belong to the family of cabbage and although the name kohlrabi means cabbage-turnips they have nothing to do with turnips. You can grow them easily in your garden. 

Kohlrabi prefers cold temperature so take care of the temperature requirements of the plant and choose the right time for growth according to the zone of America you live in be it early springs or early autumn. 

Also, make sure the soil is super rich in compost by adding a few inches of compost to the existing well-drained loamy garden soil since they are heavy feeders. Take care of the water requirements of the plant because they need moist soil and if they are dry they may turn woody. Grow Kohlrabi in a place in the garden where they can get a good amount of sunlight of at least hours per day. Also, make sure you take care of the fertilizer requirements, control the pests, and other things as mentioned and you will get a great yield of kohlrabi.