New ideas: favas and parsnips

Adrian Higgins just gave me two great hints in his column in today’s Washington Post.  First, the idea of planting fava beans in the fall to overwinter.  I’ve tried favas a couple of times in the spring, only to give up because of the unpredictable weather reasons he mentions: slow germination in the cold, and early heat.  (This would have been a good year to avoid the second problem, but we can’t know that in advance.)  Also, aphids.  Fall sowing means a head start on growth (as long as the plants survive the winter, but row cover protection would help with that, and our winters are increasingly mild) and for whatever reason also limits aphid attacks.

I had never even thought of doing this.  But now I will.

Also, he’s planning to sow parsnips to replace the favas, which I will now do too (not to replace favas, I mean, since I don’t have them, but somewhere).  Since 2013 is the Year of the Root Crop here at GIEI, we dutifully sowed brand-new parsnip seed in the demo garden, covered the seedbed with row cover to keep the moisture in (not much of a problem considering all the rain we’ve had), and waited for the slow-germinating seeds to do something.  They didn’t, and the bed got filled up with the radish plants we’d put in to mark rows (note to self: really, fewer radishes next year.  I still have a bag of them in the fridge from my own garden, and I’ve already made radish soup of all things).

But after that failure, I assumed it was too late to sow parsnips; maybe it’s not.  I’m packing the parsnip seeds to come along with me to Derwood today.  Just in case.

It’s been an odd spring and many things have gotten off to a late start (I’m glad to still be harvesting lettuce in mid-June, though), but it is just about officially summer now, and the point at which gardens look magnificent and lush, before the bugs really hit.  (We found harlequin bugs in the demo garden this week, on uncovered brassicas.  I’ll be collecting all the bugs I can find for a demo at our GIEI event next Saturday; there should be quite a few by then.)

Just look at our lovely and almost potato beetle-free potatoes!  They look even fresher in the clear air of a cool morning after lots and lots of rain.  And speaking of root crops, we’ve had some great turnips, we remembered to thin the beets so we’ll have a great crop of those soon, and the carrots are coming along nicely.  (Also onions, sweet potatoes, and celeriac.)

Also we have lovely kohlrabi (if you can see it here behind the EnviroMesh), which is not a root crop but a… swollen stem crop of the cabbage family.

So far we’ve donated over a hundred pounds of produce to Manna Food, which puts us well on track to exceed last year’s donations by… quite a lot; I’m not going to jinx myself by guessing.  But root crops are heavy.

One Comment on “New ideas: favas and parsnips

  1. Picked my first fava beans yesterday. Looking forward to some bowtie pasta with favas.

    As for the parsnips, I planted a bunch several week ago and they are just starting to sprout. Parsnips are notoriously difficult to germinate. I soak my seeds for 24 hours prior to planting, sow them a half inch deep and cover then with compost. My mother would cover her seed bed with a board to retain moisture, checking it daily after the seeds were in the ground for three weeks.

    This is a great time to start parsnips. They mature in about four months and cold weather makes them sweeter.


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