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carrots & beets in Oklahoma

Posted by macmex 6b (My Page) on
Sat, Jan 12, 08 at 7:23

Hey folks,

Since moving to OK I have yet to have success with carrots or beets. I think it's probably because I need to get them planted earlier. When do you plant yours? I'm guessing that they should go in around the first of March.

George
Tahlequah, OK


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: carrots & beets in Oklahoma

George,

For your part of the state, I would think that the first of March ought to be fine. Is the problem that they don't sprout? Do they sprout and die? If they die, is it that they freeze to death in a really severe cold spell? Or, do they damp off? Of, does the combination of wet soil and cold temps 'cause them to rot before they sprout?

I like to plant carrots early....about Feb. 7th to the 15th, BUT I am way down south near the Red River, so naturally can plant a little earlier here than y'all can there.

I haven't grown beets here in Oklahoma, but they should do fine if planted any time in March. In Texas, we planted in February, but that was in zone 8.

CARROTS:

Carrots have always sprouted pretty well for me, IF I can get them in the ground and get them to sprout before a rain shower washes the seed away. To get around that, I prepare my seed bed, water it and sow the seed 1/4" to 1/2" deep. Then I lay a sheet of plywood, cardboard or plastic sheeting over the seedbed. This keeps wind and rain from interfering with seed germination. As a benefit, it keeps the ground a little warmer and that helps some, since seed sprouts more slowly in colder soil. I check every day, and remove the sheet of plywood, the cardboard or the sheet of plastic as soon as I see sprouts.

Every now and then, we have a very severe cold spell after the carrots have sprouted. Depending on their size at that point in time, they may freeze (if temps go into the low 20s for a significant period of time) OR they may vernalize (if exposed to temps in the 40s pretty much continuously for several weeks). I have never had wide-spread vernalization problems, but I have had 10 to 20 percent of my carrots vernalize and flower after a severe cold spell.

My carrots are in a raised bed to which I have added tons and tons of compost so it is a fluffy, light soil that is just perfect for carrots. If you soil is heavier or if it forms a crusty surface after you plant seed, it might be that the seeds are not strong enough to break through the crusty or hard seed surface. There are a couple of ways to overcome that, if it is your problem. You can interplant radishes....about 1 radish per inch....with your carrot seed. The larger radishes sprout and break through the soil and that helps loosen the soil for the carrot seed. Or, you can make a little (1/4" to 1/2" deep) furrow where you want to plant the carrots, fill that furrow with compost or a compost/soil blend or even a sterile seed-starting blend like Pro-Mix, and plant the seeds only in that furrow. This makes it easier for them to sprout.

BEETS: Everything I said about carrots pretty much holds true for beets. I have never had beets vernalize and flower, though, so maybe they are a little more cold-tolerant. I sow beet seed about 1" beneath the soil surface. If your soil is hard or crusty, the beets also benefit from interplanting with radishes, although I don't think they "need" it as much as carrots do.

In the case of both carrots and radishes, be sure your soil temp is at least 45 degrees for several days before you plant.

I hope this info helps.

Dawn


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RE: carrots & beets in Oklahoma

I am glad someone asked about beets. I bought a jar of pickled beets last week and really enjoyed them. Sure got me thinking about growing some this year to try our hand at pickling. We grew beets in our farm garden when I was a kid in Mississippi in the 40's.

Bob (Goldsby)


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RE: carrots & beets in Oklahoma

Bob,

I'm not a big beet lover, although my grandparents always grew and pickled them. My dad and mom didn't have room to grow them....so they just ate my grandparents' beets.

The varieties recommended for Oklahoma are Early Wonder (an heirloom dated back to at least 1811), Detroit Dark Red (an heirloom introduced in 1892), Ruby Queen and Sangria.

There are also some other lovely heirloom varieties as well, including Golden Beet, Chioggia, Lutz and Flat of Egypt. If you want to grow baby beets, plant Kestrel Baby Beet and harvest them when the beets are 1" in diameter. If you are into Square Foot Gardening, then Carillon is one that can be planted more closely together than most, thus yielding more beets per square foot.

To ensure you get the best quality beets, you want the plants to mature while daytime temps are in the 60 to 65 degree range. You can plant 4 to 6 weeks before your area's last average freeze.

Because beets are biennials, they can be tricky to grow. IF your early planting is followed by prolonged moderate temperatures that are THEN followed by a prolonged cold spell with temps below 45 degrees for 10 days or longer AND the plants are already somewhat mature (4"-6" tall), they will cease growing during that cold spell because they temps have caused them to go dormant. Then, once it warms up again, the beets "think" it is their second season, bolt and go to seed. If that happens, you can pull them up immediately and try to eat them, but the odds are that the roots will be poor eating quality and the greens will be bitter. Because our springtime weather is wildly erratic, this type of thing happens occasionally with beets. I suspect it is the main reason more people don't grow them.

Dawn


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RE: carrots & beets in Oklahoma

My problem has been that, because of our fluctuating temps, I have waited until too late to plant both beets and carrots. Then the seeds tend to dry out before they can get going. Or, the little plants get baked. I tried planting beets last June 22nd, indoors, in flats, and transplanted them out on July 20. But try as I might (watering, etc.) they just shriveled and died over a period of a couple of weeks.

Coming at the question of vernalization of beets from a seed saver's perspective, I can tell you that if you WANT them to flower, they generlly need six weeks of temps below 45 degrees F. Once I get things ironed out for actually growing them here, I will most definitely plan on storing some in one of our outbuildings, in a container of soil (to avoid rodents) and planting them back out in the spring, for seed production. Each plant will then grow QUITE LARGE and produce about a quart of seed! But beets are one of those wonderful root crops which produces so very well for the space. And... I have a daughter who eats pickled beets like candy!

Today, Lord willing, I will plant parsnips!

George


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RE: carrots & beets in Oklahoma

George,

Have fun planting. The weather here is gorgeous today and I hope it is beautiful in your part of the state as well.

Dawn


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RE: carrots & beets in Oklahoma

George, I am near you--midway between Stilwell and Tahlequah and have been planting beets for years, and yes the trick is to get them in to the ground in early March. I soak the seeds overnight to give them a head start. Last year that awful freeze in April killed most of my first planting and I replanted. The survivors of the first planting went on to produce nice sized beets. The second planting just little egg sized things. One of the main things for this part of the state is that the soil can be quite acid and beets like to be more alkaline. We heat with wood, so we till a thin layer of woodashes into the row a month ahead of planting if possible. I tried Chioggia once because I liked the pretty stripes, but didn't think they had much flavor. I just plant Detroit Dark Red. I pull beets in June when the weather gets hot and pickle some, juice some--with apples and carrots--and freeze the juice, and keep some in the refrigerator until fall when I make beet-carrot-raisin salad with a lovely sweet-sour dressing. Good luck


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RE: carrots & beets in Oklahoma

Thank you very much for that information. Our main garden is not very acid, but I can work in some wood ash just to be safe.

My all time favorite was Lutz. But this year I'm going to try Crosby's Egyptian.

I did get about 8' X 2.5' of parsnips. Can't wait to see how they do. The first time I planted parsnips in Oklahoma it was quite late and they barely germinated. So, I left them for seed and last summer, I got quite a good crop of seed. This year, I'm planting early and thickly.

I double dug the parsnip bed, which was A LOT of work! I took out hundreds of pounds of rock! That's the only reason I didn't put out twice as many parsnips.

George


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RE: carrots & beets in Oklahoma

George,

Double-digging is a lot of work, but (as I am sure you know) it is SO worth it!

Having said that, I double-dug a 60' x 60' garden at our old home in Fort Worth in the early-to-mid 90s, and it was a long and exhausting process. I added a dump-truck load of compost as well as other amendments. We had a fantastic garden after that.

However, I didn't double-dig much of the garden we have here in southern Oklahoma. Having already gone through double-digging with Fort Worth's black clay soil, and a second time with rocky, caliche soil, I thought doing it with the Oklahoma red clay would be a cinch. You know....how bad could it be? Bad enough that only one bed was double-dug! Of course, I'm a bit older now.

So, instead of double digging, I now single dig and then build a 6" to 8" raised bed above that using lasagna-gardening to layer the raised bed portion.

Do you leave your parsnips in the ground until after the first fall frost?

And, I assume you have heard that Kent Whealy is "out" at SSE. ??????

Dawn


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RE: carrots & beets in Oklahoma

Yes, I have heard, and I am very cautious about drawing conclusions about it.

Yes, I do leave them in the ground. When I was a kid, growing up in NJ, my dad would leave them in and mulch them. We could go out anytime during the winter and push aside the mulch to harvest them. At the time they seemed alright. But after being without them for many years (living out of the country) we tried some upon return. They were WONDERFUL! Our children, who had never heard of parsnips all decided that they were simply delicious! This is one crop I wouldn't mind planting in great quantity as we would use it. However, there are two reasons not to go overboard.

1) I really need to get the "rhythm" of growing such things in this climate.

2) I truly believe they would be greatly benefited by working the soil deeper, and I have so much to do that I don't want to neglect other necessary things.

I know what you mean about getting older. I counted (on my fingers) the other day and I'm 48. I don't consider that to be old at all. But there are changes in my flexibility and ability to do really heavy things. I just keep plugging along.

Someone gave me a rototiller and I hardly use it. For some reason I've always had an aversion to the things. They have pulled me out of tight spots before. But I do so much more enjoy using a mattock, spading fork and hoe. Plus, when first working up a spot in this garden, I often encounter really large rocks and a rototiller would just bounce over them.

Just in the last month (and I dig in the garden a couple times a week throughout the year) Ive accidentally dug up two hibernating toads. I LOVE toads and shudder to think of rototilling a toad. I look forward to the day that the garden is in such condition that little tilling is necessary.

My onions are sprouting! They grow quickly and should be just right for transplanting out in February. I got these at Baker Creek Heirlooms. The packet cost $2.00. I can't recall the postage and handling, which was probably more than that. But the packet had so many seeds that I planted half and got two generous flats with enough left over to freeze for next year. If the variety is a winner for us, I'll set about a dozen aside for seed and we'll be producing seed in 2009.

We used to raise potato onions and really loved them. But in the rush to move from NJ we left them behind. Perhaps in the fall I'll find a start. They're the absolute easiest onion to grow. And, they can be left in the ground without losing them.

Also, since coming to Oklahoma, my wife has been asking that we grow Irish potatoes. We planted some last year and they did very well. So in the fall I looked up a source for Green Mountain potatoes. This is the potato which used to cover many acres of my home town in NJ. I have fond memories of gleaning (with permission) the fields after they did mechanical harvest. The variety produces many baby sized tubers as well as some HUGE ones. The machines would miss both extremes and my family would easily put away a dozen bushels in a day of gleaning. Plus, Green Mountain is a really high quality potato. So, if I can, were going to start growing them and saving seed potatoes. Potato beetles were truly a plague for us in 2007.

George


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RE: carrots & beets in Oklahoma

Hi George,

Yes, I also want to be very cautious about drawing conclusions. I greatly admire SSE's mission and work and will continue to support them.

I have never tried growing parsnips, but they are on my list of things to grow "one of these days, when I get around to it".

I am 48 years old too and I do notice some aches and creaks in joints that used not to give me any trouble. It makes me long for the good old days when I could work outside all day and not have even feel it the next day.

I agree with you on the rototiller usage. We do use our rear-time tiller the first time we are breaking up the clay soil because it is too dense for toads to burrow into. I don't like using it in established and improved beds because I am afraid we'll chop up our earthworms, so I tend to use hand tools there. I also mow 4 acres by hand using a push mower, even though we have a perfectly wonderful riding mower, because I like getting the exercise.

One of the many things I like about Baker Creek is how generous they are with their seed counts. Almost everything I have ever purchased from them had at least twice as many seeds in the packet as the listed "minimum" number.

Did you find a source for Green Mountain potato?

I HATE potato bugs so I only grow potatoes about every third year. I have had some luck in keeping their numbers down by interplanting with some companion plants that potato bugs don't like. Also, I check the potato foliage daily and knock the bugs off and squash them the instant I see them. Luckily for me they are very slow-moving and easy to find and kill. If I am not hyper-vigilant about it, though, the potato bugs can multiply rapidly, and....even worse for a tomato maniac like me....move from the potatoes to the tomatoes!

My biggest challenge, and this year it was huge, is stink bugs and leaf-footed bugs on the tomatoes beginning in late July to early August. I will have to work harder to catch them early in their population cycle this year. They have been a problem in our garden only the last two years, so I hope I can reverse that trend.

Hey, I just looked outside and it is snowing tiny fine grainy snow here but it is 36 degrees on the front porch so I don't think it will amount to much.

We've only had 1/100th of an inch of rain this year, so we desperately need some. Our autumn was dry also.

More heirloom tomato seeds just arrived in the mail. It is an addiction!

Happy Growing,

Dawn


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RE: carrots & beets in Oklahoma

George, if by potato onions you mean the perrenial onions that you leave in the ground over winter and pick for green onions in late Feb early Mar and which set small onions instead of seed on the reproductive stalk in late summer, we can get you a start next fall. We also have elephant garlic which we also leave in the ground over winter and use garlic scallions in early spring and large bulbs in mid summer. Let me know if you would like a few of those too. ANd by all means grow potatoes. I have just this week used the last of the potatoes that we dug last June and put in storage. If you have children send them into the garden every day to pick potato beetle larvae.(I have to do this myself now, except when the grandchildren come.)IT takes vigilance, but since my potato vines host almost as many ladybug larvae as potato bugs, I won't use pesticides. And you and Dawn are just kids compared to my husband and me in our early 60's and still raising a large garden. Gardening keeps you young even when you have to make concessions and use tillers and riding mowers as we do now. But we only till once at the beginning of the season. After that we hand hoe and mulch. Dorothy


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RE: carrots & beets in Oklahoma

Here's link for where I ordered my Green Mountain Potatoes. Another nice thing about this variety is that it is rather "indeterminate," in that it keeps growing and producing until you dig it up.

Dorothy, the onions you mention are what I've heard called "Egyptian" or "Walking Onions." I should have those, unless my runner ducks got them all. (I believe I have proven that ducks cannot be allowed to roam in a garden.) Potato onions are like large shallots. If you plant a large one (usually in the fall) you get a cluster of many smaller ones, underground, the following July. If you plant a small onion, then you should get, at least, a nice large one; probably several. These were popular with homesteaders, since they are so hardy and easy to grow. There's no messing with delicate seedlings or sensitive timing for planting. But for commercial purposes they don't multiply as rapidly as a seed producing onion, and they are smaller. Thank you so much for the offer!

I mentioned Runner ducks. Perhaps I should explain. I heard of letting some run in the garden, to eat things like squash bugs and grasshoppers. So we put up a pen in one corner of the garden, purchased some ducklings, and when the ducks were large enough, we let them out. Turns out they really like certain vegetables. They decimated our cantaloupe, both plants and fruit! In November I let them out of the pen again, figuring that there was little they could harm. But they found my Egyptian onions, and pulled many of them up, swallowing them like noodles! So now, they are back in their pen to stay. Ill keepm even if they are not "garden friendly." They produce prodigious numbers of nice large, tasty eggs. Theyre entertainment. And, I moved their pen, after they fertilized the spot for about 9 months. Their old spot will now be great for heavy feeders like squash or corn.

George

Here is a link that might be useful: Pinetree Garden Seeds/ Green Mtn. Potatoes


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RE: carrots & beets in Oklahoma

Hi Dorothy!

I don't FEEL like a spring chicken after a full day in the garden.....LOL....not like I did, say, ten years ago. : )

I intend to garden for as long as I am able. I have a couple of neighbors who have been gardening for their whole lives.....one is in his late 80s and the other is in his mid-80s and NOTHING (including diminished hearing/vision and knee replacement surgery) keeps them out of their gardens! I hope to be as active as they are when I hit my 80s! I just wish I would have appreciated being young and ache & pain-free when I was younger....who knew it wouldn't last forever! (grinning as I say that. I do think gardening keeps me young. Recently a friend of our son's said he thought DH and I were in our mid-30s, which I found to be enormously good for my ego.)

George, Thanks for the link to Pinetree. I haven't bought anything from them yet this year, which is rare for me.

Ducks! I have ALWAYS wanted ducks, and precisely because I thought they'd be great garden weeders. I like geese, too, but they tend to be MEAN, so we don't have them here. All of our neighbors who have tried to have free-ranging ducks have lost them all to predators rather quickly, so I guess we'll probably never have domestic ducks. We DO have wild ducks overwinter on the ponds, at least in the years when the ponds have water.

I let chickens roam the garden most of the time, although less in July-August than the rest of the year. They are great at eating bugs of all kinds, but will peck at the tomatoes sometimes, hence their banishment from the garden in the hottest months of the year. I know they are mostly just after the water in the tomatoes, but putting a poultry waterer in the garden with them doesn't seem to stop them from randomly pecking the tomatoes.

The chickens and guineas provide lots of manure and used bedding materials for the compost pile and, eventually, the garden. They also keep us supplied with hen eggs almost year-round, and guinea eggs from early April to about mid to late-November. They are great at keeping the insect supply manageable. The guineas keep us almost completely grasshopper-free. The chickens and I fight over the lily pond's frogs all spring and summer. The chickens want to eat the frogs and I don't want for them to eat the frogs. It is a constant struggle!

Dawn


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RE: carrots & beets in Oklahoma

I got a "great deal" on three Chinese geese once. A few weeks later I asked my wife what she'd like for a special meal on her birthday. Well... she wanted three geese! I do suspect that geese can be great. But we're probably not going to try them again. There are so many other things to do rather than stress out the Missus!

But ducks! They're great. And now, though I won't let them roam in the garden, I have worked them into a composting scheme. When our chickens are on strike (broodiness) we actually tend to get all the eggs we could want from just a few Runner ducks.

For chickens We have mainly Kraienkoppes. They are like little rototillers, and they can fly over fences. I'd NEVER invite one into the main garden! A nice thing about the Kraienkoppe is that it seems to be in their genes that they don't eat small animals, only insects (no frogs).

Guineas are good. But again, the wife isn't crazy about them, and I've had problems with "gang warfare" between them and the chickens. Unfortunately, the guineas are much better at "ganging up" on other birds.


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RE: carrots & beets in Oklahoma

Just thought I'd mention, we harvested our first parsnips last week. They came out GREAT! We will plant more in 2009!

Green Mountain potatoes flopped. But I suspect that, for whatever the reason, any potato would have flopped this year.

George


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RE: carrots & beets in Oklahoma

George,

What did your potatoes do, or not do? Mine did fine, but then you and I had totally different growing conditions this year, and I think the excessive moisure couldn't have been good for your taters. This was probably my most disease-free ever crop of potatoes because, of course, it wasn't raining here, and the potato diseases thrive on moisture.

I'm glad your parsnips did well. I would have expected parsnips and potatoes to perform in a similar manner, and I would have been wrong.

Dawn


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RE: carrots & beets in Oklahoma

I don't seem to have much luck with root crops. I get great looking tops, but the carrots and beets just never seem to grow.

One day we were eating out and the youngest of my grown sons said, "Mom, did you see that they had beets?" I said, "Yes, but I usually like them best if they are pickled, and I don't think those were." He took one bite, and said, "Well, I guess I only like them pickled also."

Hey, when you the cook, you can serve them anyway you want, right? I guess that was all I had ever put on the table. LOL

Now, for the easy way out...........When you want pickled beets and you didn't can any, just buy two cans of sliced beets and drain the liquid. Now mix one cup vinegar with one cup sugar in a quart jar and shake or stir until sugar disolves. Add the drained beets to the vinegar mixture. Put in the refregerator and wait 24 hours. You can add other spices if you like, but they aren't necessary. They will keep a long time in the refrigerator and you can save the juice and use it one more time. It's one of those things that I usually make ahead when I am going to have a relish dish (like holiday meals) because it adds color and is an easy "make-ahead".


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2nd try

I don't seem to have much luck with root crops. I get great looking tops, but the carrots and beets just never seem to grow.

One day we were eating out and the youngest of my grown sons said, "Mom, did you see that they had beets?" I said, "Yes, but I usually like them best if they are pickled, and I don't think those were." He took one bite, and said, "Well, I guess I only like them pickled also."

Hey, when you the cook, you can serve them anyway you want, right? I guess that was all I had ever put on the table. LOL

Now, for the easy way out...........When you want pickled beets and you didn't can any, just buy two cans of sliced beets and drain the liquid. Now mix one cup vinegar with one cup sugar in a quart jar and shake or stir until sugar disolves. Add the drained beets to the vinegar mixture. Put in the refregerator and wait 24 hours. You can add other spices if you like, but they aren't necessary. They will keep a long time in the refrigerator and you can save the juice and use it one more time. It's one of those things that I usually make ahead when I am going to have a relish dish (like holiday meals) because it adds color and is an easy "make-ahead".


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RE: carrots & beets in Oklahoma

Sorry for the dupes. It tells me the message is rejected, but if I post again I get it twice.


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RE: carrots & beets in Oklahoma

Carol,

The dupes do not bother me....I do it myself sometimes, and for the same reasons.

Do you know what the pH of your soil is there? I think maybe it might be too acidic for beets. Beets do best in soil with a pH above 6.5, and many parts of Oklahoma, especially eastern and northeastern Oklahoma, have a pH that is more acidic than 6.5.

Also, once your seeds sprout, are you thinning them pretty quickly? I thin root crops once they have a leaf or two and certainly before they are an inch-and-a-half or two inches tall. If you don't thin early enough, the roots stay thin and narrow and don't fill out. The same is true not only of beets but radishes and carrots as well.

That's a great quick recipe--thanks for sharing it with us.

Dawn


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RE: carrots & beets in Oklahoma

Our potatoes had good tops (albeit plagued by potato beetles). I didn't get 'round to digging them until the end of the summer. When I did, there were simply almost no potatoes underground!

George


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RE: carrots & beets in Oklahoma

How odd. There aren't many things that cause that....late planting, maybe, because potatoes won't set tubers once soil temperature is above 85 degrees. I'm not sure when your soil goes above 85, but I don't think our soil does that until late July here in southern OK. Sometimes, if frost damages plants in spring, they'll continue to grow but won't set tubers, although I am not sure why that occurs. The only other thing I can think of is the variety. Some varieties don't like our heat and just won't form tubers if they prefer drastically cooler weather than we have here. Have you grown Green Mountain in a warm/hot climate before? I love trying to solve a good mystery.

Dawn


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RE: carrots & beets in Oklahoma

No, I haven't grown them before. They were THE POTATO in my home town, in NJ, when I was growing up. There was a significant acreage planted in them which supplied most of the store bought potatoes in the area. My family, for a while, until someone abused the privilege, had permission to glean the fields after harvest. We'd gather all we could use by gleaning. Anyway, I just wanted to try growing them here. If I have any seed by spring, I'll try again. But I will also plant something locally available.

I did get them in a little late. But they had plenty of time to develop before the soil heated up.

George


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