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A Tale of Two Turnips

Let me share with you a dumb-ass rookie gardening mistake I made this past fall. This is something that I should know better by now…but for some reason it just didn’t click in my brain.

Take a look at the two turnips above.

One has an awesome, plump root and the other has a small, skinny root .

One was sown in a bed that had peas and fava beans grown in it earlier in the season. One was (accidentally sown) outside of the bed in the walkway.

Care to take a guess as to which turnip was grown where? I’ll tell you: The awesome root turnip landed OUTSIDE the garden bed when I planted these seeds, and as a result, the root bulbed out because the soil IN the garden bed had WAAAAAYYYY too much nitrogen.

Why? Because legumes, like the the peas and fav beans are nitrogen fixers. This means they bring in a lot of nitrogen from the air and store it in their roots. This is perfect for plants that are heavy feeders like corn and tomatoes, or for plants that are leafy, like lettuce. Too much nitrogen in your soil is not awesome for fruiting. You will get great greens, but your beets, radishes, turnips…whatever will suck.

This is especially relevant for those who have soil trucked in for raised beds, which I did.  In my case, when I built my garden, I had used a combination of topsoil and mushroom compost. This combo was super high in nitrogen thanks to the compost.

Last year I added bone meal and wood ash before I planted anything to add potassium and phosphorous to help balance things out, and it helped. I actually got some radishes. However, I didn’t even THINK about the fact that I had a high-nitrogen bed when I chose to plant the turnips.

I came across a little mantra a few years ago that I filed away in the “I’ll check that out later” folder in my brain: “beans, fruits, green, roots”. This is a simple little crop rotation reminder. The crops are basically planted in order of their nitrogen use.

So…I’m going to rip out the turnips and use the greens for something, then plant potatoes in this bed, since they are a member of the nightshade family (like tomatoes) they are technically a fruit

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Gardening is a lot harder than I ever thought it would be…but I still love it.

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