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June 21st, 2011

DIY Turnip Seeds Continued….

So far my turnip seed saving adventure is rolling along smoothly. As you may remember, I gathered and bundled a bunch of turnip seedpods and let them hang out to dry for a couple of weeks in the sun. This past weekend, I took the bundle up to the deck and crumbled the dried bunch in my hand and to my amazement, a shower of tiny turnip seeds rained upon the table.

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Dried Seedpods

I’m not sure why I found it so amazing. It was similar to the excitement I experienced earlier this spring when the seeds I started in my basement began to sprout. I guess I’m excited to be playing a bigger role in the cycle. It’s easy to buy a pack of seeds at the store and stick them in the ground, but it’s a whole-nuther feeling to know you have been with these seeds through several seasons. On some level, it’s a lot like parenthood.

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Tiny Turnip Seeds

I wished I had crumbled the seedpods onto a smoother surface. The table on my deck is textured which made gathering the seeds a little challenging, but I made creative use of the dust pan and brush and was able to get all the seeds into a little manila envelope.

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Safely stored for late summer planting.

Of course my experiment in seed saving is not over.  The true test, of course, will be to get the seeds to germinate and grow into more turnips. Stay tuned. I’ll be plating them late summer for fall harvest.

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June 6th, 2011

DIY Turnip Seeds

Late last summer I planted turnips, and by the fall I was harvesting them, delicate and delicious. I covered them in late fall with a heavy layer of alfalfa and straw, and by early spring I was harvesting some very tasty turnip greens.

Turnip greens in early spring

Turnip greens in early spring.

And then the rain started. I feel like it rained for weeks. Maybe it did. All I know is that when it stopped, the grass in my yard was knee high, and my turnips looked more like wild mustard than turnips. That’s when I decided to let them go to seed and see if I couldn’t save the seeds and grow another crop of turnips this fall.

Turnips in flower and seed.

Turnips in flower and seed.

The tall flowers attracted lots of beneficial insects, but I had no idea what to expect from these plants. What would the seeds look like? How would I know when they were ready? Will they be viable?

A bundle of turnip seed pods hanging to dry

A bundle of turnip seed pods hanging to dry.

After a few weeks it became clear that seeds were developing. I left the turnips alone for a while and when the flowers began to fade and fall away, I pulled out the plants. Then I cut a random sampling of the seed pods, tied them together and hung them from my trellis, figuring that they should dry for a while. And that’s where they are now.

A closer look at the bundle.

A closer look at the bundle.

Have you ever grown turnips? Have you had luck saving seeds? I’d love to hear your tales of turnips.

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May 26th, 2011

Delinquent blogger, busy gardener

Hello. It’s been as while. Please forgive my absence from this blog. I’ve had a lot going on lately. We had a baby last month and I was home for a few weeks helping around the house. I am extremely thankful for the generous paternity leave Rodale gave me. It made such a huge difference to my family and me. Besides being around to help with the new baby, I was also lucky enough to get to spend an unprecedented amount of time with my almost-3 year old daughter. Together, we spent a lot of time working and playing in the garden.

I’ll give you a quick tour:

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You can see the pea trellis in the foreground and the bean teepee in the background. In a few months that teepee will be a cool and shady hideout for my daughter.

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The zucchini we started indoors finally made it’s way to the garden. This is our first blossom. Fresh zucchini is right around the corner.

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And our potatoes are starting to push through the straw mulch.

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This is what I call strategic volunteer cilantro. After last year’s plants went to seed, I broadcast the seeds along the fence on the southwest corner of the garden. It should make a nice herb border that attracts lots of beneficial insects.

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We also planted four rows of corn and two rows of bush beans on the east side of the garden. I tried the three sisters here last year, but the squash bugs were terrible and they seemed to have their way with my corn too. So I’m not planting any winter squash this year.

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And finally, here are the turnips I planted last September, gone to seed. The turnip roots were awesome in the late fall, and the turnip greens were tasty in early spring. It’s amazing what will survive over the winter with a good layer of mulch.

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