Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Turnips Timing: How choosing when to sow turnip seeds can change everything


As we continue on into the early spring we begin to analyze the last of our winter decisions in the greenhouse.  This is a key moment, soon we will be back into our high season production and the increase in work is dramatic.  The time of growth and development of each plant will transition from weeks to mere hours.  Back in early February, we seeded a bed of mixed mustards.  It was not only the most beautiful bed I've worked with, but also the most unique in it's practicality.  We seeded the slower growing 'Hakurei' turnips with the fast-paced Ruby Streaks micro mustard green, both in the same plant family Brassicaceae.  Ruby streaks was cut out first leaving 6 evenly spaced rows of turnips to grow in and produce delicious and round turnip roots as pictured above.  This planting could not have come out any better.  It is almost a joke for me to try and explain how good it feels to set out on an unknown path for the first time and find a result as gratifying as this.  The boost in confidence is incredible and the growth and knowledge from the experiment is truly satisfying.  But what may be the most interesting finding from this turnip test is the comparison to...

the other turnip seedings from earlier in the winter.  As you can see below, this turnip doesn't look so round and beautiful and looking a little bit closer we can see that   

the stalk actually has started to bolt.  Why would this happen?

Internally, plants have triggers that are turned on at different times during its lifetime.  As we've mentioned many times, choosing when to seed involves many factors including the amount of sunlight, heat, soil moisture and moon phase to name a few.  The equinox is a very sensitive moment in the life of a turnip.  If it was seeded too early and hasn't quite matured going into the weeks approaching the spring equinox, the turnip may get excited and believe it is more mature than it really is and decide to flower, forgetting to develop its root.  These flowering turnips were actually seeded back in December, which was a time of much slower growth, so there maturation was just starting to occur when the equinox came about and thus never had the opportunity to reach their potential before jumping the gun and going to flower.

Nevertheless, it is difficult to get things perfect on the farm no matter how hard we may try.  There is always going to be trial and error and the best way to learn is to experience.  Even in the variable controlled greenhouse there is still room for error and with each mistake comes a new bit of knowledge.  You can't win them all, but as you can see below, it definitely feels incredible when you do.


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