Monday, July 6, 2015


Today was a big day in the garden.

I finally figured out I either had to brave the heat-of-the-day or fight off mosquitoes.  I picked the heat-of-the-day.  My friends in Louisiana and Florida will laugh at me.  For them, a high of 80 degrees Fahrenheit is a pleasant day in April.

I worked six hours.  I mowed.  I pulled weeds (30 seconds per foot).  I cut weeds.  I mowed some more.  I rototilled.

And I planted most of my "root cellar" crops.  I wanted to beat the rain.  A heavy rain delays working in the garden for about three days.  It was either "get it done today" or wait until Friday. 

This rain system is heading directly east.  We might pick up a little bit of rain.  Eaton Rapids is about where the "n" is in "Lansing".


Biennials only live one year.  But unlike annuals, the life cycle of biennials spans the winter.

Typical biennials include beets, turnips, carrots, parsnips, rutabaga, radishes, cabbage and so on.

The seeds germinate in the summer.  The plant grows and stores up food.  Then, in the early days of spring, the plant uses those saved resorces to  leap into growth like a jack-in-the-box being released.  The binennial's  competitive advantage is that it quickly over-tops neighboring annuals that have no more resources than what is within their seed.

Biennials are trust-fund babies while annuals are community college and State U. graduates.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, biennials for the root cellar do not "want" to be planted in in the early spring.  They want to be planted in mid-summer.   Graziers often spin turnip seed into wheat stubble (early August, in Michigan).  Given decent rains, those turnips can produce 5000-to-8000 pounds of dry matter per acre with almost no cost or effort.  Success is a matter of respecting the preferences of the plant rather than trying to force the plant to bend to our preconceived notions.

It is comforting to know that we have options should TEOTWAWKI happens in the month of July.  A gallon of glyphosate concentrate,  an athletic field or the median of a freeway and 4 pounds of turnip seeds and you are good-to-go.

The specifics

I planted my root crops in the pasture garden, the one with the corn, cabbage, Brussel sprouts and pole beans.  The radishes and rutabagas are closely allied to the cabbage, so this works well for crop rotation.

The rows are about 70 feet (20 meters) long.

I planted a row of Seoho-Westlake (Korean) radish.  This is for kimchi and to give to my Korean friends  These radishes can weigh up to a pound and a half (650 grams).

Magres rutabaga
I planted a row of rutabagas.  I am trying Magres a new variety.  Rutabagas are indispensable for producing pasties...a delicacy from the Upper Peninsula.

I planted a row of Lutz Greenleaf beets.  Grows to monster size without getting woody.

I planted a row of Red Ace hybrid beets.  There are probably a half dozen hybrid beets and I do not know if there is a nickles worth of difference between any of them.  This is the one I went with this year.
I planted two kinds of beets.

I planted a row of Nelson hybrid carrots.  Nelson is a heavy yielding variety with a wide range of adaptability.
I planted a row of Eskimo hybrid carrot, a variety that is highly ranked for flavor.
I also planted two varieties of carrots.  I love running A-B comparisons. Sometimes I cannot see a difference and sometimes there are very clear winners.

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