ou know it’s bad when you garden for a cow. Certifiable if you save seeds for cow food. It’s still winter but the parsnips in the garden are just starting to show signs of life, and the threat of any kind of deep freeze hurting the mangel seed stock is nil. In fact I think the roots I have carefully selected for seed stock will fare better in the garden where they can begin the process of utilizing that succulent root for seed feed, than they will languishing in storage. Time to plant.
Gardening on farmstead time is more of a long-term proposition. The parsnips I planted last spring, are feeding us this winter and will, fingers crossed, yield seeds this summer for next year. Next year, the gardeners lament; some of my crop plans span 3 years, a perpetual garden of eatin’ if you will.
In my garden plan I usually earmark one single row for seed saving of biennials for the year. I plant in long straight rows for ease of working my soil, planting, weeding/cultivating, and harvesting. Following in that vein, I want my seed stock in one row so it won’t be in my way when I am initially preparing the garden for planting this spring. I also don’t want it in my way should I decide to irrigate. I dryland garden for the most part, but when we get those 100°F weeks in August I want my options open for possible irrigating, and I don’t want to get my seeds wet. So if you’re planning on some seed crops, keep irrigation plans in mind. I outlined our thoughts on seed saving for our garden here.
I’m selecting seed stock that meets my criteria. I’m growing parsnips mostly for Jane, so a long and slender type is not what I am selecting for. I want more bang for my buck, parsnips are wicked hard to dig, that is why they fell from favor for a crops for cattle back in the day. Here is an old post detailing that a little more. I am selecting for large parsnips. It’s just as much work to grow a little one as a big one, and if they don’t have to struggle to grow, they are tender and not pithy at all. When I made this cake last winter, I got a chuckle out of the 1 ¾ cup of grated parsnip (about 4 medium roots) since it was about half of one of our garden parsnips.
My chickens have been making better use of my mangels this year. I am not liking what they do to Jane’s digestive system… . But I have some really nice roots that are well acclimated to my growing conditions so while I don’t need that many for my hens, I am certainly going to grow these on for seed. Beets are wind-pollinated so I usually do a seed saving rotation of beets, chard and mangels since they freely cross. This year is the year of the mangel.
To plant my beet stecklings and parsnip roots I just raked aside the mulch on the designated seed row and dug a deep trench, planted on one foot centers. It doesn’t get much simpler than that. Now all we have to do is wait. Come on Spring!