Monday, April 27, 2009

What's A Seed Potato?

The other day while reading a friend's Facebook posting, I ran across this question, "What's A Seed Potato?"

No potato's don't come from seeds, so please don't run to your local hardware or seed supply store looking for them, seed potatoes are simply regular potatoes that are "growing"... "So does that mean I can plant the potatoes I bought at the grocery store into the ground to grow MORE potatoes?"

The answer is really, yes AND no. Most store bought potatoes have growth inhibitors so they DON'T sprout as well - But you may be able to look for potatoes that are not treated - Think possibly organically grown potatoes or ones from your local farmers market! It's best though to get authentic seed potatoes from your garden center as potatoes found in other resources may not be disease resistant!

"How to I plant my seed potatoes?" It's a simple answer really, cut your seed potatoes (sprouting potatoes) into small chunks with each piece containing at least (1) eye - Or in layman's terms, one area where the potato is beginning to sprout. Aren't you glad you asked?

You CAN plant the potatoes into the ground, a raised bed or even a potato bag. I purchased my potato bags from the Gardeners Supply Company, but they are simply a bag that can hold soil and has great drainage. A friend even told me of planting them into an old trash can that had holes added into it, and I have even read about someone planting their potatoes INTO their purchased bag of compost (emptying it and filling it as I describe below.)!

I harvested (oh I don't know) 10+ pounds from 1 seed potato per bag - pretty good return in my opinion!

To start, cover the bottom of the bag with a thin layer of compost. Plant the seed potatoes in the bottom of the bag and lightly cover with loose soil, compost or straw. When the potatoes begin to sprout, add another thin layer of soil, comport or straw, then add another after more sprouting, and another after even more sprouting, until the bag is full. In the fall when the foliage begins to yellow and the flowers have faded, dump out your bag and harvest yummy home-grown new potatoes. (This should be a no-brainer, but don't forget to water your potato plants!)

This is a GREAT kids project in the garden too!!! My kids LOVE seeing how many potatoes they get each year...

Saturday, April 18, 2009

"When Can I Plant In My Garden?"

My one neighbor asks me every year, "do you think we can plant our gardens yet?"

I'll admit. I plant early most years, but it helps that my raised bed gardens are snuggled up to the house. Most people think "no big-deal" right? Wrong. Having the garden beds that close to the house means they get warmer much sooner and benefit from the heat radiating off the house. It's not unusual for me to have VERY early crops and a much longer growing season ~ My asparagus seems to come up earlier, my strawberries ripen sooner and my tomatoes will stick around sometimes well into October!

So my answer to my neigbor is often "I don't think so, you're a bit early."

She probably thinks I'm being crabby or not helpful, but the bottom line is her garden is at the back of the yard and does not benefit from some weather protection.

One thing you can consider when planting your garden is Mother Nature's cues. I use some of the spring signs to tell me that it's time to plant. I figure Mohter Nature knows what she is doing right? I also use my journal to tell me when I planted LAST year and the years before that. (I have a GREAT 10-year journal called Journal 10+ that allows me to write an abbreviated update of what I did that day the year before and it tracks 10 years of information!) It's a good way to have a successful veggie garden every year!

Farmers have use the signs of spring to indicate when it's time to plant the garden for eons - It's even mainstay of the annual Old Farmer’s Almanac. This type of planning is called phenological planning. Some think it's considered Old Wives Tales, but these natural signs may be a good indicator that the timing is right.

I noticed the other day that the forsythia blooms came out - What does that mean? Time to plant the peas!

Here are some interesting Farmer's Almanac planting tips:

  • Plant corn and beans when elm leaves are the size of a squirrel’s ear, when oak leaves are the size of a mouse’s ear, when apple blossoms begin to fall, or when dogwoods are in full bloom.
  • Plant lettuce, spinach, peas, broccoli and cabbage when the lilacs show their first leaves or when daffodils begin to bloom.
  • Plant tomatoes, early corn and peppers when dogwoods are in peak bloom or when daylilies start to bloom.
  • Plant cucumbers and squash when lilac flowers fade.
  • Plant potatoes when the first dandelion blooms.
  • Plant beets and carrots when dandelions are blooming.
  • Plant peas when the forsythia blooms.
So there you have it - Use some of these signs to plan your garden this year and see what happens!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Putting My Education to Good Use With Free Milk

Kroger had a great promotion running with General Mills products this week. If you bought two General Mills products, you were able to get up to $4 in free milk - At Kroger's current price that's 2 gallons! I was able to do even better, since I had coupons for the products I purchased, so I got a GREAT deal...

The kicker was, I already had a gallon that had hardly been touched by the family - sometimes we'll suck it all down in one day and other times it will last forever. My freezer was too full as well, so I thought "What should I do with all the milk?"

As it happened my neighbor mentioned wanting to make periogies with fresh farmers cheese while she lamented on how difficult it was to find and complained about the price. Since I had recently taken the cheese-making class however I put my learning to good use and made a basic Queso Balnco cheese.

For added flavor, I added a tiny nit of roasted garlic to the end and had FABULOUS results! I made a great frsh lasagna in addition to the periogies!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Signs of Spring...

For some the best signs of spring are having soil that's dry enough to rototill, others look for blooming flower bulbs and still others look for fuzzy pussy willows and lemon yellow forsythia blooms...

I on the other hand watch for the first asparagus to poke up through the ground - For me that means I can begin reaping the rewards of my labor. And guess what... As I surveyed my garden late this beautiful Easter Day, I noticed the first asparagus reaching towards the fading sunlight greeting me! Yes indeed it's a sure sign spring, and more importantly a sign that the planting season is just around the corner!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Product Review: Topsy Turvy Grower

I really like to try anything that simplifies my life - My husband will accuse me of being a gadget-guru! And even though I love gardening, who can say "no" to a product that says it will simplify your gardening... So a few years ago I bought the Topsy Turvy Tomato grower on eBay.

It promised high yield, disease free tomato crop and alleviated the back-breaking work of getting on your knees to harvest the fruit, plus my best friend Lynn raved about growing tomato's upside down. I thought what the heck...

In my two summers of experience though, I can't say anything I was promised came true. The planters, while in theory, should grow better were difficult to keep moist and I certainly didn't get a LOT of tomatoes growing. That first summer they hung alongside the southern side of the house and every time we had a strong wind blowing, we'd hear "thump, thump, thump" and thought a small plane was crashing into the house. Last year they were along the deck since I THOUGHT I could keep a better eye on them for watering. I even added the moisture crystals to the soil to help with the moisture levels, with no luck!

I did see a new and improved version at the Gardeners Supply Company that fixed the issue of keeping the plants moist - I won't be trying the new and improved product anytime soon, but thought to throw out my ten cents on the Topsy Turvy grower. Who knows maybe the third time's the charm, and possibly I can adapt mine further to keep the planters from drying out.

I did purchased mine VERY inexpensively on ebay, and they were a fun experiment. My rating on a scale of ten though, is a 4 1/2 to maybe 5! If anyone has had better successes with them, please let me know I'd be happy for better advise!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Freeze-Dried Herbs - Oh MY!

Ah, there is nothing like FRESH spring freeze-dried herbs and in this case freeze-dried chives!

I must be crazy to even think that, but after the very wet 2-inch April snowfall we had today I FEEL a little C-R-A-Z-Y!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Something Is or WAS Living In My Firepot

What could it be? I don't know, but not sure I want to find out...

As I was cleaning up in the backyard today I just happened to glance at the backside of my firepot cover - It was ripped to shreds! SOMETHING apparently clawed and chewed it's way through the cover sometime this past winter. A skunk? A squirrel (doubtful)? Or perhaps a groundhog? I was thinking it MIGHT have been a bunny, but that would be a really big, bad bunny with large sharp teeth!

I'll keep my eyes open though...

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Spring Is Popping Up All Over!

I'm trying to forget that the weather report I heard today is calling for some sleet and snow the next few days, so instead I ventured out into the yard and began poking around in my gardens.

In my herb garden I noticed the chives have really begun growing, chamomile looks to be awakening, and Lady's Mantle is also slowly rising to the occasion. Also my gooseberry bush is sprouting tiny leaves. In my other beds I have several good looking perennials that are poking through - I even saw the tips of my peonies beginning to grow and the ends of my hydrangea bush starting to leaf out.

I am of the mind that I leave (no pun intended) my garden growth in the fall to clip it back in the spring - It provides a nice natural winter landscape and the birds eat any seeds I haven't harvested. But alas, by walking in the gardens I am also reminded it's time to begin my spring (garden) cleaning.

The first thing I do is to wander my gardens looking for return friends. I look for dead, dry stems that I clip back with a pair of clean, sharp garden scissors! I also gently shape up any shrubbery (except the lilac bushes, don't prune them until AFTER they have bloomed - I learned that the hard way with my first lilac bush. Hmmm where are the blooms???) and I trim up any vines.

For my raised bed veggie gardens I pull stray weeds and grass, and pull the old plants - I also allow the roots of last years plants to rot naturally in the garden then I pull them out in the spring... I personally don't use any of my spring garden clippings in my compost pile since they could be diseased, but some do add their clippings to their compost piles!

The next thing I do is add compost! In our township we can get up to 3 yards of compost per season - For FREE. My hubby is really "thrilled" to be going to get that for me this year. Getting some of this from the township is great especially since my compost pile doesn't come near feeding my entire garden. I simply work in a thin layer of compost around my plants and wa-lah!

And finally I clean up my stone garden edge - Most of my gardens have medium sized river rocks edging the garden. During the winter they sometimes settle into the ground and often have last year's grasses growing between the rocks and creeping into my beds, so I pull up all the rocks and add a little lift under them (as needed) while pulling out any grasses - Which is terribly therapeutic when I'm in a nasty mood! (Darn you stupid weeds/grass, take THAT!)

What can I say, I lead an exciting life!

Friday, April 3, 2009

They Have Names!

... It's official our chicks have names. Drum roll please:

and Peeps!

Whew, THAT was an exercise in creative thinking on my part and the kids!

I read through the entire subdivision rules and ordinances in the township and it appears that backyard birds are NOT prohibited SOoooo that means we need to get on building a type of chicken coop and run...

I've decided I really like the A-frame style coop, although I also found this Hen House Coop from a Green Chicken Coop in Bay City that I thought was SUPER cute as well. We'll go for the least expensive though, and build one ourselves.

Stay tuned!