Tag Archives: Potatoes

Spring again… happy me!

3March 26, 2017 (26)

Tiny Pink and White French Breakfast Radishes

Every year about this time, the daffodils bloom, the birds sing during the day and the frogs party by the light of the moon. We survived another winter. It’s good to be alive.

2february-25-2017-1 I have a couple of garden projects I like to start in January and February, but those are mostly to scratch what starts to itch with the first seed catalog. My Gardening starts to get honest when the peas and first potatoes go into the cold, wet soil.

3March 26, 2017 (21) I planted a lot of pea seeds, Tall Alderman, a French Heirloom sno pea, Sugar Snaps and a row of Green Arrow peas. I could show you pictures of those but right now they look a whole lot like clean dirt, wood chips and a nice structure Ray made for them to climb. These peas (a big pot of Cascade Snap Peas and another of Maestro) I started on Presidents Day. They seem to like it outside.

3March 26, 2017 (27) Potatoes: These were started in February. I’ve planted Vikings (Purple, Gold, Fight Fight) Yellow Bananas, and some kind of yellow that I saved from last year. I still have some Russet Burbanks and another fingerling still to put out. We do not have a lot of room for lots of potatoes, but we do what we can. A man once said that if I haven’t had a fresh from the dirt potato then you really do not know what a potato tastes like. He was right.

There is more to spring then peas and potatoes. I had a walk-about  this morning to see whats happening. Here is a small selection.

3March 26, 2017 (20)

The Herb Garden …chives are looking good

3March 26, 2017 (17)

Comfrey coming up in the Raspberry bed. It won’t be long until I’m pulling up big bundles of this daily for the chickens and all my medicinal needs.

3March 26, 2017 (2)

Two years ago I planted some very expensive flowering broccoli (a kale-brussels sprout hybrid). It comes back, or maybe better, it doesn’t die. Every year it sends up a new stem and makes a new branch of kale flowers. I guess it was worth the price of the seed. My hens sure like it.

3March 26, 2017 (5)

There is still a lot of work to do but we are enjoying every moment.

3March 26, 2017 (18) That’s my Rudy Valentine standing in my new strawberry bed. It was supposed to be an asparagus bed but they didn’t take. So all of the strawberries that I pulled out of the herb bed went upstairs into my new strawberry bed. I think these are called Pacific Reliant. I bought two or three plants last spring and now they are everywhere… well they were everywhere, now they’ve moved to this bed. In front of Rudy is a stand of Fever Few, the tea from the flowers does everything an aspirin does without eating away your stomach. The echinacea (cone flower) is just coming up all burgundy and fresh. If I’m not careful where I step, the scent of peppermint fills the air. It’s nice. Welcome back Spring!

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A Garden Journal for March

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Perhaps the most anticipated month of the season, March is when things start getting real. The tomatoes that we all fuss over all year long are started. Actual outdoor gardening begins.

March the 17th, sleep the 18th has long been my personal motto. Not for the reason you may think. On St. Patrick’s day, after putting on a creamy green soup and popping soda bread on a cooling rack, I head outside to plant peas, potatoes and onions. Some years it is with a slicker and golishes (an old word for rubber boots), other years it is in shirt sleeves and tenny runners. Both give me joy under the Worm Moon.

Vivi at Vivie’s Kitchen Garden Adds a tray of celery to the list. That sounds good to me! On it.

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Potato Chitting Time

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I just love saying that. Are you chitting potatoes? (another jr high garden joke)  Chitting potatoes is putting them on end (thus the egg carton) Rose-end up (the end of the potato with the most eyes) and letting them sprout. Why? Potatoes are a cool weather crop, but not cold weather. In Everett, WA I put my first potato patch in on March 17th (or there about). Once in the ground, they take their sweet time sprouting unless they have been chitted (or Chit). If you plant a 2nd crop in May you will not need to chit those. They will come up a little faster.

january-24-2016-1-potato-journal Plant your favorite. I like to put in a Russet and a early yellow. Sentinel is my favorite early yellow. I’m told that a Russet, is a Russet, is a Russet. It is true that there is not a lot of difference in taste, texture or storage of popular Russets. There is no better french fry (in our lovely air-fryer… yum!) then a Russet fry. There is however, one important difference between varieties.

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The Potato Tower

Every spring, without fail, someone posts a wonderful new, space saving idea for growing potatoes in a tower. I hope you did not spend any money on this great idea! Potato towers forced me to learn that there are two kinds of potato vines. Like tomatoes they are determinant and indeterminant. Most potato varietys these days are determinant, meaning the vine stops growing at some point and concentrates on finishing potatoes. This is great for machine harvesting. Determinant potatoes will grow in a tower but will not make layers of potatoes. To date, every yellow, peanut (a.k.a banana or fingerling), red and Russet that I have grown in a tower will make a single layer of potatoes even though I carefully cover the leaves at just the right time… except for one type of potato.

potatoes-5-26-3 The first requirement of a potato tower is an indeterminent potato. It is only in the last three or so years that I have been able to find potatoes that are described as determinant or indeterminant. An indeterminant needs to be “hilled” meaning to have soil hoed over them (thus making a hill) The old fashioned Red LaSoda is an indeterminant potato but it made only a single layer of potatoes at the bottom of the tower. Ray and I had to buy potting soil to fill the towers, an added expense that was wasted on LaSoda. Of the different potatoes we have tried, only one (so far) has made more then a single layer of potatoes, the Russet Burbank. But even the Russet Burbank does not make multiple layers of potatoes every year. It seems like a hot summer might be a factor but I am not absolutely sure about that.

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Viking Potatoes, Purple (skin) and Gold (flesh) Ray went to Lake Stevens High School.

Potatoes love water. If you  happen to have a wetter place in the garden, plant your potatoes there. They are not a good choice for aquaponics as far as I know; they do not want to sit in water, they just want to be able to access to as much water as they can get. Young back to Eden gardens with their thick layer of wood chips holding in water are great. Barrels cut in half with just a few drain holes work well, just don’t forget to water them.

april-12-2015-13-potato I hope that is enough to get you started. Today (February 5, 2017, the rest of the world is watching the Super Bowl just to see what crazy thing Lady Gaga will do) there is time to look at catalogs, make your plans, build any structures you may want. My plan is to get out and get dirty with potatoes on St. Patrick’s Day, but for now, I’ll be happy Chitting.

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The First Half of April in the Garden

April 2, 2016 (2)
April at The Toy Box. I cannot say that I have been working hard to get where we are this month, I like to putter about for a couple of hours after school every day. Maybe it would be better to proclaim, I have been diligent. Yep, that’s it, I am going with diligent. We have been checking off the jobs that need to be done in the days working up to where we are. Getting trees planted or trimmed, adding wood chips, running flats of seedlings in and out of the weather, protecting them from frost and floods of rain. April is when the “diligence” comes together. We are already eating some of this years salad with the last of last years herbs, leeks and kale.

April 1, 2016 (7)

Morning Prayer

Just when it seems like Ray can sit back and enjoy the beauty of our Suburban Farm, I come up with another major, pain in his back, plan. This season it involves moving two established SFG’s (square foot gardens) to make room for more BTE (back to Eden) growing areas. As subsistence farmers we want to get as much food from our little bit of land as we are able. I (Debs) started out as a foodie/hobby farmer. Best use of space was not part of my plan.

April 1, 2016 (2)

Winter Sown Artichokes (up-potted)

Seedlings: We have soil blocks of tomatoes waiting to be potted up. I have been saving that job for a rainy day. As of today (April 2, 2016) I am on the last weekend of Spring Break from school. The weather has been beautiful so I keep putting that job off. I am reading that rain is coming. The job will get done. The salad greens (romain and mixed reds) have been planted in the front yard SFG, one of the pots of sweet-pea starts were planted in the front garden. Our broccoli and cauliflower are huge and ready for planting out. (suddenly I am feeling just a little bit overwhelmed).

April 2, 2016 (8)

Swiss Chard makes a comeback

Everett, Washington had a very mild winter. We are not quite safe from a “last frost date” yet so I am still holding my breath. We garden just north of “don’t worry about killing frosts in spring” land. I stand amazed watching winter food become beautiful plants. The Swiss Chard in this picture is one example. Light frosts and heavy rain reduced is to an unappetizing mess that I was sure I would be digging out; but look at it. Instead of digging it out I need to dig out my recipes! We have grown the white stem type of chard ever since we have grown it. I have not learned to enjoy it raw yet so the beautiful colors available have not found a place in my chard patch… until this year. I am looking forward to a new variety labeled “Peppermint Chard”. It looks like it has a red-pink base and white upper stem and veins. Am I the only goofy ol’ woman who gets excited about a different color of chard?

April 2, 2016 (5)

Spring Artichoke

One Artichoke survived winter 2015-16 in our Everett, WA garden. In truth we have had roots survive to send up fresh growth but we have never had a whole plant survive the winter. One hard frost could bring it down so I am trying to not get too attached. But I cannot help thinking how totally kewl to have 2nd season artichokes this summer! I also have a beautiful, thick stand of delicious red celery growing in the same garden. It smells awesome! I have not read any good reviews about red celery yet…. here is mine. YUM.

April 2, 2016 (10)

Leeks and (umm) chicken food

The last of our leeks and celeriac have been lovely! This year the guys did not get out to gather fallen leaves so I never did get leaf mulch piled around my root crops, they were fine. There was only one day that I went out to harvest for a winter dinner that turned into a fail because of frozen ground. The last few leeks I have harvested have had woody centers, a sigh that they are getting ready to bolt so I need to use them as quickly as possible. The garlic I planted last October is beautiful. I made such a dumb mistake.

April 2, 2016 (9)

Green Roman and Valentine Mix Lettuce

I remember Paul Gautschi of the BTE film saying that I should put my very best potatoes right back into the ground for the next harvest; which I did. What I missed is that they will come up the following March, which they have. Mean while I thought the replant of potatoes was a total fail and planted my garlic over the former potato bed. While the potato sprouts are still fairly small, both are doing fine. Last year all of my garlic was volunteer. The garlic I planted was from the best of those cloves. This season I found dozens of new garlic volunteers while cleaning up a bed for early pea plants. I should have plenty of garlic this season (assuming everything goes well in my garden world). We have made so many soups and put up so much stock that we are plum outta garlic already! Lately we have been clipping green garlic with our parsley (another winter survivor) when we make a dish that needs a spicy boost.

April 2, 2016 (11)

Climbing pea and bean frame

For the first time since moving to Everett, I will not be planting my main crop of peas in a SFG. We have a whole system of support to attach to the SFG beds. Back when I planted tall peas in Robe Valley (east of Granite Falls, WA) I quit planting tall peas because they were too difficult to keep upright when the vines were heavy with our famous rain combined with the occasional wind storm. Ray has built a frame for the BTE garden that we have high hopes for. The legs of the frame go a little more then a foot into the ground. I have planted peas on the port side of the frame and plan to plant green beans on the starboard side in late May. There will be a short season when both are growing on the frame, but the peas should be done by mid July when the beans are just taking off. We are hoping for a fantastic harvest (knees bent, fingers laced!)

April 2, 2016 (12)

Fava Bean sprouts

Strawberries are coming up through the wood chips, raspberries are making buds, the logan and marian berry vines are already looking lush. Still no sigh of Asparagus, but I guess it is a little early. I have spotted early leaves of Rhubarb and it is beautiful. The comfrey is fixen to take over the berry beds. I’ve also seen early signs of deer damage. Gurrrr! The fava beans (also known as broad beans) we planted in February are looking great, except for one little problem. The garden looks so empty in February that I tend to plant far too many of , well, everything that gets planted early. Good thing we love Fava beans! (they are not really a reason to drink Italian wine… or so the  theory goes).

April 2, 2016 (13)

A living grid in the SFG

A living grid of carrots, radishes, spinach, mixed greens, fennel, scallions, bok choi, and I forget what else; was the plan for one of the tomato beds. Somewhere in the planting, I forgot that I was making a grid and started squeezing in as much as I could. Looking at the bed now, if everything grows, it will be a tight fit but I am sure I can still get those tomato plants growing and keep them happy. Some mistakes are happy accidents. That is what I am hoping for this one.

April 1, 2016 (5)

First, a cuppa jo, then we work

We have entered a time of year when there is a new check list every two weeks instead of every month. We are still looking for a multi-espaliered sweet cherry tree. Does anyone even make those? Beds need to be moved, seedlings planted out, framework put up for the tomatoes, maybe a new tomato tent if we have a sudden cold snap. The pepper bed needs more soil mix and the kitty kover should go over that bed. I really need to get busy on the new herb garden since Ray has terraced the hill side with the stones his mother chose for her porch so many years ago. It just needs a good weeding and the plants I’ve been growing for it. Beet seeds need to go in…. somewhere. So many happy puzzles to figure out.

April 1, 2016 (1) For as long as this post is, this is the short version of how my garden grows. How about you? Be sure to include where you garden and let me know how you are feeding your self (or making the world a beautiful place with your flowers!) where you live. I hear that the strawberry harvest is already over in Texas.

Debs… who only has time to sit because it is Sabbath. Tomorrow we will be getting out and getting dirty, with joy!

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Progress 3-23-14 Pea Planting Time.

Season 5 Peas, Maestro and Green Arrow

Season 5 Peas, Maestro and Green Arrow

Spring is like magic. One day the skies clear, the sun warms the soil and the birds call my name. You know the lawn needs cutting but it will happily wait for you. There are peas that need planting.

I think this tool is meant to be used for pulling weeds but I use it to plant onions and for working with soil blocks. It moves gently between blocks and scoots them to an easy-to-pick-up spot.

I think this tool is meant to be used for pulling weeds but I use it to plant onions and for working with soil blocks. It moves gently between blocks and scoots them to an easy-to-pick-up spot.

Season 5 (2014) seems wetter then other seasons in Everett, Washington. I put most of my peas into soil blocks this year. They sprouted in the greenhouse and have patiently waited for me to take them to their garden home. Even though pea greens do not look very large, the roots surprise me with their length. I started out making holes in the patch just large enough for the soil block, my normal soil block planting method, but worried about what was happening to those wild roots. The better method was to dig a shallow trench, lay the roots I the direction they grew in the tray, then back-fill the trench. Much quicker, less stress.

Garlic, planting it on Halloween is as close as I get to celebrating. Boo!

Garlic, planting it on Halloween is as close as I get to celebrating. Boo!

The shallots and garlic are not nearly as thick looking as I anticipated. I expect to harvest shallots for a short season but I want the garlic to get me through to next spring. Normally I plant my garlic under a thick layer of maple leaves for insulation through winter. This year I just put the kitty cover on the bed (a cold frame that fits my 4×4 SFG’s–square foot gardens). This may have been a mistake. For the last week the cover has been off of the garlic-shallot bed, it is time to move it to the broccoli bed.

Broccoli started under the Snow Moon (February)

Broccoli started under the Snow Moon (February)

The SFG the spring broccoli will go into has been worked with home-grown compost, a small layer of that awesome horse manure compost from the neighbors boarding stable, alfalfa meal (worm candy) and a bit of lime. The best broccoli I ever grew was in season 3. The largest head was nine and a half inches across (Thompsons OP)!  That broccoli bed was strictly MM (mel’s mix, the “soil” in SFG) made with Toy Box compost (dominated by our chicken bedding). I tried to duplicate that in season 4 with the horse compost and got lush growth but really small heads. So for Season 5 I just lightly amended my compost with a bit of horse compost. You know that if I have something to brag about I sure will! The kitty cover will have the poly rain-coat repaired (winter winds) and be moved to the broccoli bed in time for the pink moon when I plant it out (about a week from today) However, if the evenings after school are too beautiful to ignore, I’ll be out early to plant.

Season 5 Broccoli, in the green house and about ready to plant out (all are OP open pollinated)

  • Thompsons (longer season, produced the 9.5 inch broccoli)
  • Solstice
  • Nutri-bud (early with summer long production of side shoots)
  • Umpqua (the only heirloom, mixed feelings about the low production I’ve had in the past)
Tarragon makes a come-back

Tarragon makes a come-back

Meanwhile…… Both of the parsleys and spinach have been planted out. In fact my parsley has taken off. After not planting parsley last season, I am very tempted to start harvesting the immature sprigs. Green omelets are sounding good. I am forcing myself to wait. The lettuce under the cold frame in the front garden is growing slowly. No salads yet. I look with envy at “First salad” posts on facebook. None of those posts are from the PNW but it doesn’t change my longing. Still no sign of the new rhubarb. I thought there was, but it turned out to be a leaf that fell off of the root at planting time. No sign of fava bean sprouts either. The first potatoes should have been planted. Saint Patrick’s day came and went and I still do not have my early yellow seed potatoes. Ray has promised me a ride to Mount Vernon for my birthday (last week in case you wonder, it was happy) to find a new source of organic yellow seed potatoes. I guess it is time for two things. 1. Time to start saving yellow seed potatoes. Currently I only save fingerlings and buy the reds, yellows and russets I want every spring. 2. Time for a Sunday drive. Finally, Those tomatoes I was impatient for are up and growing and will soon need to be up-potted. Most are getting their true leaves already.

Pots of old lavender set out, testing the sun from this spot.

Pots of old lavender set out, testing the sun from this spot.

In the Back To Eden – food forest, Ray has planted our blueberries. After five years of not being certain we could afford to stay in Everett, we have finally moved those berries from big pots to the ground. We are still amazed that the bills get paid month after month. YHVH is kind. Next in is our old lavender plants. It might be better to just buy new lavender starts (or try making my own… humm) and I saw that Lavender Wind Farm on Whidbey Island is selling lavender at their Coupeville market. But I think we will take a chance with these old faithful plants. The BTE bed is narrow, I am trying to leave room for my artichokes which are doing well, thank you very much!

Rudy Valentine

Rudy Valentine trying to stay warm by the chicken tractor while I plant pea blocks. It must be getting warmer for Rudy to stay out with me.

Faithful Rudy The Underground predicts sun today. They are telling me that a light NW breeze will bring in afternoon clouds but boldly promise 0% chance of rain! 52/39 Sunup at 7:05 AM and apparently shining until 7:26 PM for 12 hours and 21 minutes of daylight. Now that is a sure sign of spring!

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Spring Planting: Potatoes and Leeks

After days of chunky rain the sun finally came out. Ray and I made batch after batch of Mel’s Mix to fill new boxes. All that fresh soil and Territorial Seed delivered onion and leek plants to my house. I got this idea for potato barrels from my e-friend Constance of Angel Acres in Texas. The tool for leeks was just dumb-luck. My arm sort of covers the action in the video. I think you can get the idea.

Ray at my birthday lunch.

Finally! We have spring ….for a day or two. By the time church is out there could be rain that will last until the nearly the end of the week. The good news? 59/43 which is almost tropical for us in the PNW. The bad news? Depends on how you look at the news. All my new Mel’s mix needs to get wet to use. Sunrise at 7 AM, sunset at 7:29 PM for 12  hours and 29 minutes of daylight.

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