Saturday, March 23, 2013

Even if you only have a patio, you can grow potatoes

Drawing of a potato grow bag
Saturday, March 23, 2013

If you love potatoes, try growing some of the exotic varieties that are out there, like fingerling or blue potatoes.  You can find all kinds of great varieties in todays seed catalogs.  Along with the surprising number of different kinds of seed potatoes available, there are also many different ways to grow them without actually planting in the garden!

The potato is a native of South America and can be found in the wild from North America to Chile.  There is an amazing variety of potatoes grown in South America, many color and sizes.  It originated from an area in southern Peru/northwest Bolivia.  It was cultivated 7000-10000 years ago.  It took until the 1700’s for the potato to arrive in the colonies by the way of Irish immigrants.

Tubers are good source of fiber, B vitamins (B6, thiamin, niacin, pantothenic acid, folates), vitamin C, and minerals iron, manganese, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, zinc, and copper.  Potato nutritional info  Most of the nutrition is in the skin.  If you want even more nutrition, try some of the wonderful colors available today.  Nutrition info for blue and yellow potatoes 

Potato plants produce tubers along the stem so the more you can build up soil around the stem, the more potatoes you will harvest.  Since most of the action of potatoes occur underground, a light, well drained soil will give the highest yield of potatoes.  Adding sand and compost can be very beneficial.   

If gardening in a small space, there are lots of options of potato growing bags on the market now.  It follows the same concept as trenching or mounding in a garden bed.  They also do well in repurposed whisky barrels.  A pot 30”deep and 20” across is best.  Fill a third with potting soil, then add soil as the vine grows.

To give your potatoes plenty of loose, rich soil in a garden bed, dig a trench down about a foot, mix in compost, put mixed soil and compost 4" in bottom of trench and place eyes up in the trench.   Plant seed potatoes 3” deep and 10-12” apart.   When the potatoes have leaves showing, add another 3-4" of soil.  Continue to add as potatoes grow until trench is filled.  If planting in hard soil, you can mound the earth, mulch or straw around the plant as it grows.
Seed potatoes should be planted 2-3 weeks before the last frost (when the early daffodils bloom).  You can plant successively to extend the harvest until the dogwoods bloom.  You can continue to plant until May, but may only get fingerling size potatoes before the vines die back in the summer.

Early potatoes can be harvested when the first flowers appear.  Dig the potatoes when the foliage has died back in the summer.  Do not allow the baby potatoes to be exposed to sunlight.  If your potatoes turn green, do not eat them as they are poisonous.

You can grow potatoes from the “eyes” of store bought potatoes.  The risk is putting any disease they may have into your soil.  Many recommend to always buy sterile seed potatoes.  To be safe, I am sticking with sterile seed potatoes for garden beds.  If you are growing in a pot or potato growing bag, you could try using store bought eyes.  Let your potatoes age and when they start sprouting, they are ready to cut and plant.  Be sure to cut out a sprout, or "eye", to plant.  A plant will emerge from each sprouted eye.

I have a perennial blue potato, Ecos, that has survived 3 winters now.  I also planted blue seed potatoes this spring.  The first leaves have emerged.  I'll continue to mound mulch around them through the season to maximize the harvest.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Time to add compost and fertilizer to your beds

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Mid-March is the time to get your beds ready for spring!  

Ideally, you would test your soil to determine what nutrients your bed needs.  If you take your soil samples to your local county Co-op Extension office, you can get your soil tested for free in many counties.  You can also buy a do it yourself kit at the big box stores or your local nursery.

This spring, we put down an organic fertilizer Re-Vita Pro 5-4-4.  Then, we added a layer of mushroom compost.  We will top with mulch soon.  

The local CSA gardener told me a couple of years ago that it is important to not let your fertilizer just lay on top of the ground as many of the nutrients will be lost.

We are ready to start planting!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

How to grow cucumbers-in pots or in the garden

Sunday, August 14,  2016

Cucumbers are a tropical plant and love heat.  They should be started indoors 4 weeks prior to the last frost (mid March in our Zone 6) and transplanted outside after all danger of frost has passed.  You can plant into July and have fruits from August to frost.

Cucumbers have been around for thousands of years and originally from India.  The cucumber arrived in Europe at least 2000 years ago.  The Romans loved them.  Christopher Columbus brought the cucumber with him to Haiti in the 1400‘s and was likely aboard the first ships in Virginia in the 1600’s.

Cucumbers are a good source of potassium, antioxidants like beta carotene, lutein, vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin K.  It also has a diuretic properties.  Cucumber nutritional info  Cucumbers have a sweet, refreshing taste.

Cucumbers should be planted in full sun, rich soil, and consistent moisture.  Cucumbers can be grown in pots, on the ground or on a trellis.  If growing in soil, plant 4 seeds in hills 3-4‘ apart and thin to the strongest two.  

Harvest before the fruits turn yellow.  Early fruits have less seeds.  Frequent harvesting also encourages the vine to grow more fruits.

If growing in pots, look for patio, dwarf, bush, or compact in the description.  Some small varieties include Lemon, Suyo, Salad Bush, Fanfare, Sweet Success.  One vine was all we needed to have enough cucumbers to make pickles for the year for my husband and for salads for me.  I also love adding cukes to my smoothies.  
Grow your own smoothie and juice garden
Decorative container gardening for edibles
Make your own pickles without a store bought seasoning mix

This year my first seedlings planted in May didn't make it.  I think there was just too much rain and not enough sun.  I replanted in July three varieties.   I planted seeds for a yellow that can weigh up to 5 pounds (Jaune Dickfleishige), a red (Hmong Red), and 2 white cucumbers (massive producer Dragon's White Egg and Miniature White that is a good container variety) directly into the garden on a trellis.  The whites are both small fruits.  It will be nice to have smaller ones so I can pick one for a single salad or smoothie.   I got my first cucumber this week from the July planting.

Fertilize weekly and keep evenly moist.  Do not let soil completely dry out.  This will result in bitter or hollow fruits.  Each plant produces both male and female flowers.  The first flowers will likely be males.  Don’t be surprised or worried when the first flowers fall off without fruiting.  When the female flowers appear, you will get baby fruits.
Summer garden tips

Don't forget to save seeds from your best producer for next year's garden!
Seed saving-fun, easy and a cost saver

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

What I planted this week end

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

It finally felt like spring this week end!  The 7” of snow we got earlier in the week finally melted off and the temps got into the mid 60’s.  The sun even made an appearance for a good part of the day!

To enjoy the weather, my husband cleaned out the garden beds and I planted some seeds in the patio pots.  All were planted about 1/2” deep.  This is what I planted:
Green Oakleaf Lettuce-ready to harvest in 45 days
Wild Garden Kales-ready to harvest in 30 days
Mesclun Valentine Lettuce mix (red tinted lettuce and greens)
Marvel of Four Seasons Butterhead Lettuce (I love the sweet taste of butterheads)-ready to harvest in 55 days
Short Top Icicle Radish (a white, mild radish that looks like a white carrot)-ready to harvest in 28 days
Space Hybrid Spinach-ready to harvest in 38 days
Gourmet Blend Lettuce (Prizeleaf, Royal Oak Leaf, Salad Bowl, Ashley)-ready to harvest in 45 days

These can be companion planted with cabbage, beets, carrots, chives, garlic, and onions.  Do not plant near broccoli.  Since they are shallow rooted, they grow well with root crops.

Leafy greens like nitrogen.  Root crops like potassium.  You can get nitrogen from compost, alfalfa, soybean meal or fish emulsion.  Potassium can be gotten from green sand via its potash content.  Fish emulsion actually gives not only nitrogen, but also potassium and phosphorous.

After planting, I watered in the pots with fish emulsion.  Germination should take anywhere from 4-15 days.  I am sure I will be out there looking for little green shoots daily.

Monday, March 4, 2013

What’s growing in the garden in early March

Monday, March 4, 2013


It has been unusually cold through the end of February through March this year in our Zone 6 garden.  Things are not popping out of the ground like they were last year.

So, what is popping up?  Overwintered lettuce, spinach, parsley, garlic, salad burnet, French sorrel, kale, oregano, rosemary, dandelions, strawberries, cilantro, onions, wild leeks, and thyme.

In the greenhouse, lettuce, spinach, celery, blood veined sorrel are still alive and well.