manure

Time to Break Some Ground!

Put your “fun cap” on because it’s time to get your hands dirty!  It’s time to break ground for your new spring garden!  Already have a garden?  Perfect, but you can still get in on the action as it’s a good idea to work your soil for a fresh start.

Now, while I’d like to say this is the easy part—that would be a lie.  This is the part where you get your exercise.  Stretch those cold stiff muscles and get limber again.  Remember, we reap what we sow and we can’t sow if we don’t dig.

Are you smiling yet?  Good.  Now, one of the secrets to great plants is loose soil.  Loose soil promotes strong, deep roots and encourages a healthy plant which means a productive plant.  I learned this the hard way with carrots.  Have you ever seen an “L” shaped carrot?  I have.  As a general rule, carrots will grow down as far as they can easily manage, until the going gets too tough, and then they grow sideways.  Literally.  Packed soil is not their friend.  It’s not friendly to any plant, really, because it doesn’t promote good aeration which helps the plant take in the nutrients it needs. More

Potatoes for St. Patty’s Day

I don’t know about you, but when I think about potatoes, I think Irish.  Not because the potato is from Ireland, it’s not.  It’s origin is South America.  Wasn’t until the 1780’s the Irish even accepted the crop for widespread consumption. Most believed the ugly tubers to be poisonous, or evil.  Suspicious in the least. 

But once they had a belly full, the Irish knew a good thing when they tasted it!  Made it a downright major staple in their diet.  And that’s when the trouble hit. 

About a 100 years later, a blanket of blight killed off fields of potatoes during the great Irish Potato Famine.  But the Irish are a hearty breed (knew there was something about those Irish I liked!–besides their merry outlook, that is) and they survived, proving stronger and better than ever.  And they still love their potatoes.

As do I.  Potatoes are easy grow.  If you don’t believe me, just take a look at this fellow bursting free from the compost pile.  A real beauty and I had nothing to do with bringing him into this world.  Gotta love an easygoing plant.

Kids love potatoes, too.  They like to plant them, harvest them and they love to eat them–so long as they’re dished out in the proper form.  At our house, we make healthy potato chips and fries which seems to satisfy most days, though mashed and boiled work, too.  My son helped me plant this row.  (Don’t ask me how those two “rogue” plants ended up outside the perimeter of my organized potato row–that’s one of the mysteries when planting with kids.)  Plants end up in the strangest of places, don’t they?

Those wires you see are my protection plan in the case of frost.  Planting potatoes in January is tricky business and can place your babies in jeopardy.  This way, if the temperature dips, I can easily place a lightweight blanket over top of these wire “frames” (9 gauge wire from hardware store) and prevent the frost from killing them off.   Works like a charm

If you have limited outdoor space, you’re in luck (luck of the Irish!).  This garden center has designed the most ingenious method for growing potatoes–perfect for you city bound folk.  Meet the potato box!  Potatoes have an upward growth habit and if you continually mound them with dirt, you’ll increase your bounty, tenfold.

Me, I’ll stick with my in ground garden.  I like to meander through the rows and admire Mother Nature in action.  Besides, I don’t think my husband would look to kindly upon enormous amounts of black dirt anywhere near the patio.  Sure he likes his pressure washer, he just doesn’t enjoy “avoidable” mess.  Hmph.  Does he not see the joy in crafting another super-duper garden project? 

Note on planting:  be sure to “stagger” your planting dates, planting a batch today, next batch in 10 days, next batch a week or so later…   In the foreground of this picture is my latest section which has yet to sprout.  The ones in mid-field are mid-size and those in the back are a foot high and have already been “mounded” with more dirt.  The stakes provide a “visual” marker for me to distinguish the sections by “date planted.”   I’m a visual kind of gal, and besides, it does wonders to help coordinate with my Excel program.  (My version of a garden journal.)

Remember, planting ALL your potatoes at the same time will practically guarantee the dreaded whine, “Potatoes for dinner?  Again?”

As Master Chef in our household, I’ve banned the response.  In fact, there will be no complaints about dinner–until you’ve tasted it.  Then maybe, just maybe, we’ll discuss withdrawing it from the menu.