I hope you are doing well and enjoying success in your endeavors.
This week’s topic is gardening. It’s a very broad subject to be sure and there have been many books written about every aspect of it. This was the first year that I tried an actual garden. By actual I mean more than one sickly tomato plant in a pot. (That is what I did last year). Even a garden in which all the plants are potted is still a garden.
I dug up a section of my front yard where the grass was already thin. I planted many things, some of which grew, some of which didn’t and some of which still are (once again, the tomatoes, not so sickly now). I just recently harvested my potato crop which is what I wanted to tell you about.
I planted red potatoes. Leftovers from some we had bought at the store. 16, all in a nice row. I got 51 potatoes, when I dug them up, which might sound like a lot, except for the fact that most of them where the size of small marbles. I learned quite a bit about growing potatoes this summer.
Potatoes are actually ridiculously easy to grow. You can grow them in a large pot (Or bucket, 5 gallons at least), if you don’t have ground space. When a potato gets old, it will sprout eyes. If you are using large potatoes like russets, you should cut them into one inch cubes, making sure that each chunk has at least one eye. Be careful not to break off the sprouts. Since I used smaller potatoes, I didn’t even bother to cut them. These sprouts will become the stalks of the plant. If an eye has more than one, you can (only if you want to) remove the smaller one, so the larger will have a better chance of growing.
I dug a trench about a foot deep and lined the bottom with fertilized soil. This particular stuff was formulated especially to amend depleted soils. I put the potatoes in the bottom of the trench, with the sprouts facing up. I added more soil to the trench until I had filled it in. I watered it well. Within about 10 days, the sprouts had breached the surface of the soil and were stretching toward the sun. Yay!
Here is where I made a mistake… Potatoes are tall plants but not very sturdy. Because of this, the plants have to be hilled (Not sure if that is the correct term). It means that as the plant gets taller, you add more soil around the base to prop it up. This soil forms a hill, which is probably why I think of it as hilling. I did not do this properly and the potato stalks soon fell over, looking more like vines on the ground. Since it was too late to get them to stand on their own, I had to devise another option.
I pushed a stake into the ground at the head of the row, (which was eight feet in length), and another at the foot. These stakes were about 2 feet tall. I tied twine between them and allowed the stalks to lean on the line. It kept them mostly upright and off the ground. This is good because having the leaving laying on the ground can help the development of disease in the plant. I didn’t have too much trouble with this, though one plant died prematurely.
Potatoes are ready to harvest when the stalks turn brown and die. According to my research, it is best to dig for potatoes on a dry sunny day. So I did. I used a shovel since I didn’t at the time, have a potato rake. (I have since purchased one, since I can also use it to turn the compost pile) Be careful not to scrape or cut the potatoes when digging them up, this can encourage the vegetable to mold or rot, apparently.
I didn’t have any trouble throughout the summer, aside from what I mentioned above. I have no insects attacking my plants and very few weeds to contend with. The potatoes were delicious the next morning for breakfast.
Now, I should point out that most of the potatoes were much smaller than is typical for a red potato. They were small because:
- They came from small potatoes
- They didn’t get enough sun and
- They weren’t propped up correctly
I wish I had thought to take some photos of the plants as they were growing but I did not. I started this blog after the potatoes had been harvested.
Whew! That was a lot of reading! Well I hope you learned something from it. Please come back for more of my garden related experiences. Coming next time, Crochet! Yay!