Friday, March 13, 2015

Hopefully, the Oats and Turnips Are Finally Starting To Grow

Turnips finally starting to germinate and if you look real close there might be some oats

About a month ago, I drilled a simple mixture of oats and turnips into about four acres of winter-grazed sorghum-sudangrass stubble as an experiment (or would that be called a trial?)  and it's finally starting to come up.  I plan to treat this part of the field as a cover crop and I'll probably graze it before planting the field to grain sorghum sometime in May, instead of trying to bale some hay or harvest any grain, although there's always the chance for either of those options (depending on the weather, etc.). 

A few days after I drilled this mixture of oats and turnips, we had a nice rain that should have provided enough moisture to get everything germinated but about a week after that rain it turned pretty cold with the temperature dropping into the teens and twenties with a combination of ice and snow.   Oats will usually winter-kill whenever the temperature drops into the low twenties, so I'm not sure yet how temperatures that low will affect a germinating seed. Due to how cold it was and how long it has been since I planted this field, I haven't been holding out too much hope for a real good stand of oats.  Of course, a "successful result" from this experiment might be learning that it isn't worth it to try to grow oats as a cover crop, hay crop, or grain crop. 

When I was walking across the field today, I did notice that some of the turnips are starting to come up, and if I looked hard enough I could find an occasional oat poking its head up out of the ground, so I might get something to grow in this field.

I never would have guessed that growing oats would be so difficult since almost everything I've read suggests that they are one of the easier small grains to grow.   The last time I tried growing them I waited to drill them until the first week of March to avoid the cold weather and it turned hot and dry much earlier than usual.  This year, I thought I'd plant them in mid-February and it turned extra cold.  Yesterday, I happened to see a neighbor drilling something (I don't know what) into one of his fields so I plan to pay attention to that field to see how his oats grow after being planted later than mine.  Of course that's assuming he's planting oats, although I don't know what else he would be planting this time of year. 

Walking across the field today, I can also see the thinking behind planting a cover crop mixture because it looks like I'll have enough turnips in this field to fill any of the gaps if the oats don't grow.  So even if the oats don't grow at all, at least I'll have enough turnips so that everyone I know can eat as many turnips as they want to eat.  Just remember that if you want some turnips you're going to have to pick them yourself.     
You can't see anything growing yet, but in a few weeks I'll compare this to an updated photo


  1. Why are the turnips mixed with the oats?

    1. Greatly simplified, this is a simple cover crop experiment (sometimes it's called a "green manure crop", a "biological primer", or "intercropping" depending on who you're talking to) that should help increase my soil organic matter, provide some grazing, and maybe help with weed control due to the allopathic nature of the oats (the oat residue keeps weeds from growing).

      By planting a mixture of more than one type of plant, you are supposed to get more of a beneficial effect from the cover crop planting and/or you can speed the whole process up a little bit. It's also possible to get a sort of synergistic result from a mixture where the oats would grow better due to the presence of the turnips (it's common to mix some tillage radish into winter wheat in areas where it gets cold enough to winter kill the radish to increase yields) .

      The oats in the mixture will provide a lot of organic material in both the top growth and the root growth while also providing some allopathic weed control.

      Turnips will also provide some organic material, but since turnips are brassicas they are able to extract nutrients from the soil that grasses can't extract since brassicas (brassicas exude a form of acid that makes nutrients available in a different way). When those turnips die the previously unavailable nutrients (NPK and some micronutrients) will be available to the following grass and broadleaf crops.

      Brassicas like turnips are also supposed to attract earthworms, which would be a good thing in cropland. Turnips can also provide some high quality grazing.

      In addition to all that, if my oats are a complete failure I should be able to at least get enough turnips growing in this field to get some benefit from this cover crop.

    2. Very interesting. Around here I've heard of mixed hay crops such as peas and alfalfa, but turnips is a new one.

    3. There isn't much alfalfa planted around here anymore, although there used to be more of it grown when I was a kid. I'm not sure if it isn't grown as much because nobody is willing to pay extra for alfalfa hay when grass hay is good enough for beef cattle, or if the waste is too high from storing round bales of alfalfa hay outside compared to the amount of waste from storing square bales in hay barns.

      I probably won't bale this mixture of oats and turnips since I'm trying to build the soil fertility and will probably just graze it real quick before planting my grain sorghum, but I'm not even sure that the turnips would dry down enough after cutting to be able to bale some oat and turnip hay.

      If I was determined to bale the oats for hay, I'm not sure what I would have added.

  2. You are going to be the Forest Gump of Turnips! Turnip soup, turnip puree, roast turnip, stewed turnip....

    1. I did a little research about how much seed you are supposed to plant in a garden for each person in the family, and after some careful calculations, I guesstimated that there might be enough turnips out there for a bunch of people (depending on how fond they are of turnips).

      There are about 167,000 turnip seeds per pound, and I planted about 4 lb. on 4 acres, so if less than half of them come up I should end up with around 300,000 turnips. If only ten percent of the turnips planted make it to a harvest-able size, that's still a bunch of turnips.

      I'm not making any promises about eating a bunch of turnips though, I still have a hard time eating them sometimes ever since I got sick soon after eating them years ago. But there should be plenty to go around to anyone that wants some turnips.

    2. I"m certain that I've only had turnips to eat just once, and I can't recall at all what they're like.

    3. After thinking about it a little, I'm not exactly sure how I'd describe what turnips taste like.

      The best I can come up with is that if you peel and boil them they sort of have a texture like watery potatoes (although that might not be the best description). They can have a slightly bitter taste, but not really that bitter.

      My best guess is that turnips are like most vegetables where a lot of the taste and texture depends on how they are cooked. I'm starting to look forward to trying my hand at cooking some turnips a few different ways to see what I can see about eating turnips.