Sunday, May 07, 2006

What's Growin' On: 5/7/06

Potato Bed On 4/16/06

Potato Bed On 4-25-06

Potato Bed on 5/7/06

Realization Of The Day:
The potato plants really, really love all this rain we've had. I think they are getting bigger by the hour.

I planted this bed on March 19th with some little Yukon Gold and Norkotah Russet potatoes leftover from last year's harvest. Yes, I know you're not supposed to do that--you're supposed to buy certified or "foundation" seed potatoes each year--but for the past few years I haven't. No problems so far, though I do make sure to rotate my beds so that potatoes are never planted in the same bed that had potatoes, peppers, tomatoes, squash, or melons in it the year before. Crop rotation is a great way to reduce soil borne diseases and even pest problems. Rotating your tomato plants is essential. Once certain tomato diseases find their way into your garden, you can never get rid of them--and that means no more homegrown tomatoes. Ever. I know someone who had this happen to her. She has never been the same since. Rotate, rotate, rotate!

Did You Know. . .
One of the best places to "store" your potatoes is right where you grew them? Click here for dirt-covered proof.

Culinary Newsbites:
Don't forget the Asparagus Aspirations roundups every week through May at Seriously Good. And if you've posted one of your own asparagus recipes, be sure to leave the permalink with Kevin and join in the delicious fun.

The Eat Local Challenge is also going on this month. For more information, check out the neat new group blog, Need help finding locally produced bounty beyond your garden gate? You'll find tons of helpful info at Local Harvest.


  1. Isn't it amazing how fast potatoes take off? One day you're seeing a couple leaves peek out of the dirt and a couple weeks later you're scrambling to prop up this gigantic plant. I heartily agree with you on rotation, but there is a spot behind my shed that volunteers the most fantastic "Celebrity" tomatoes and I can't find it in my heart to interfere. I just cross my fingers and hope they don't pick up something. (bad gardener!)

  2. How long does it take for them to pop through the soil? I planted red pontiac and all blue on the 25th of april and nothing is up yet.

  3. Lovin' this part of your blog. Inspiring. You are far ahead of our veg. garden. just planted the seeds this week. And your blog made me remember to get some arugala seeds! HAve you grown cantalope? We're trying some this year.

  4. Hi Steven,
    It is amazing how fast potatoes take off. You prop up your plants? I've never done that. A few of them flop over sometimes, but I just left them and never had any problems. I do know some varieties are much taller than others. What varieties do you usually grow?

    Hi Angel,
    Okay, I just checked my notes (yes! the garden blog is working!) and it looks like it was 3 weeks before I saw the first potato plants poking up in this bed. And of course, potato variety, temperature, moisture, and even depth of planting can all affect growth. I have another plot planted (more on that soon) and it didn't take 3 weeks to see the first sprouted leaves, but of course the weather has been much warmer--and we've had over 6 inches of rain in less than two weeks. I definitely wouldn't give up on yours yet! : )

    Hi Shepherdgirl,
    Lovin' that you are lovin' this garden blog. So glad you are growing arugula. Mine's all about to bolt already.

    Yes, I've grown some fantastic cantaloupe before. Unfortunately I haven't been able to get any plants to survive for several years (though I keep trying). Ever since moving to Missouri I have been plagued by squash bugs that always kill my squash plants (all varieties). So far none of the organic/natural controls I have tried have worked. Once in a while I'll get a plant or two to survive long enough to give me a couple of squash, but then it dies. It's so embarrassing because the big joke among gardeners is always about having too much zucchini. I have to buy zucchini!

    I do have a point here. A few years ago the squash bugs decided to expand their menu and began attacking all of my melon plants, too. I tried growing fabulous sounding varieties--and even some tinier melons in the hopes that they would mature in time--but the squash bugs won.

    I do have a new plan this year, though. I was told by a local organic gardener (and my blueberry supplier) that what he does is spread out a large layer of sawdust over the soil and then poke holes in the sawdust and drop in the seeds. He says the bugs ignore his plants. I figure it's worth a try, and we have a huge sawdust pile as there used to be a sawmill down here many, many years ago.

    Of course I'll write about how things go. In the meantime, I wish you the best of luck with yours. Homegrown melons are so incredibly sweet and juicy. Some years I had so many cantaloupes I cut them into chunks and froze them in plastic zipper bags. They offer a delicious splash of sunshine in a winter smoothie.

  5. I usually grow Yukon Golds and since my beds are set into the lawn I have to prop them up so I don't run them over with the mower. I have been told, (but have been to skeered to try) that if you cut the taters tops back ata certain point it will make for a bigger yield. Anyone have anything to back that up?

  6. have you tried diatomaceous earth to get rid of the bugs?

  7. Hey girl - Just a note - I grew my pumpkins in our over huge compost bed that comes from the barn - the barn supplies us with the ABM pellets that are used in the horse stalls - instant gratification for compost. I didn't even water them all summer and they were huge - now this year I am trying the cantalope [I've heard they are trickier to grow] and butternut squash there...I'll have to water a little bit . I'll let you know how it goes. So I think the shavings is a thought - or , do you have access to the 35# bags of ABM {i think it's a canadian product] from your feed store. You can donkey dan to squash them and poop on them in the stall and then throw them in with a teeny bit of dirt. Black gold.

  8. Hi Steven,
    Oh Yukon Golds are definitely my favorite potato. I think they taste like they have butter on them. And they are fairly tall plants.

    As for propping them up, I was realizing after reading your comment the other day that what I usually do when I originally plant the potatoes is only cover them with a few inches of soi. Then I mound up more soil over the potato plants two or three times after they start sprouting. Totally bury them with dirt. Then they just keep popping back up again. So this would obviously make them shorter in the long run.

    I don't do it as much now that I have raised beds because there really isn't anywhere to "store" the excess soil you are eventually going to mound back over the plants. Plus I was (before this year) down to only planting one bed of potatoes. Quite a change from when Joe would use the tractor to plant and harvest about 1,000 pounds of potatoes a year. But that was when he ate them literally every day. Now he's addicted to my homemade breads, and they've pretty much replaced potatoes at the dinner table for most of the year.

    This year I did cover up the plants after about half of them first sprouted because they froze one cold night. I used dry manure/hay mix from the barn, and it worked great. But there was just enough height left in the bed for that layer to fit without spilling over the sides.

    As far as cutting back the tops of the potato plants, I've never heard of that (which doesn't mean anything). On the one hand it makes sense--you clip the bulbils off the garlic so that the plant puts all its energy into producing a bigger head underground, and the same with onion flowers. I wonder if you're supposed to do this after the potatoes flower, because it seems like they need to flower to produce potatoes. Or maybe I have no clue what I'm talking about. I'll be the first to admit I had NO idea what a potato plant even looked like (or how potatoes grew) before I moved to the country.

    We'll have to see if we can find out anything more about this. Anybody out there holding back information on us? : )

    Re diatomaceous earth. It is great stuff. I buy it in 50-pound bags (for about $25.00) because we feed it to the sheep, llamas, and donkey as a natural wormer (mixed in with their minerals and salt). I know in the garden it works against soft-bodied pests (like worms) because it is actually made up of microscopic shards that cut like glass. But I haven't seen it do anything to deter the squash bugs. Has anybody else?

    In my ongoing battle against the squash bugs, other things I've tried include rotenone (which is an organic gardener's last resort, and even then it supposedly only kills the young bugs--technical term for them totally escaping me at the moment), garlic/pepper/onion spray, and Pyola, which is the TM name for a pyrethrin/canola oil spray sold by Gardens Alive!, plus some other stuff I'm probably forgetting. Oh, and I've done tons of hand picking and squishing (ick--those bugs have the oddest smell).

    I'm really hoping the sawdust thing will work this year. Which reminds me, I'm supposed to be out planting squash today!

    Hi Shepherdgirl,
    Hmmm. What are ABM pellets?


March 2013 update: My apologies for the inconvenience - I know word verification is a pain - but I've had to turn it on to help stop the ridiculous number of anonymous spam comments I've been getting every day. Thanks for your understanding.

Welcome to! Thanks so much for taking the time to write. While I'm not always able to reply to every comment, I receive and enjoy reading them all.

Your feedback is greatly appreciated, and I especially love to hear about what's going on in your own garden. I know, too, that other readers also delight in reading about your garden successes, failures, helpful tips, and lessons learned. Feel free to leave comments on older posts!

I try my best to answer all questions, but sometimes it takes me a few days to get to them. And sometimes, I'm sorry to say, they fall through the cracks, and for that I sincerely apologize.

I look forward to hearing from you and hope you enjoy your visits to my kitchen garden!