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The Other Garden “Ato” – the Potato

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I seem to celebrate the tomato as if it the crown jewel of the backyard farmer as many gardeners do. Tomatoes do seem to be a central theme with many garden bloggers, “how to” sites, mail order companies and farmer’s markets. That said, I would like to share my growing fascination with potato growing. I have tried barrel or basket growing in the past. This year I have a mix of conventional trenched and hilled in ground method, a barrel and two tubs.

I planted some Yukon Gold taters in the ground and the barrel at the same time. They are doing very well. I had a few leftover and a couple of weeks later I planted them in the Rubbermaid tub I had been using to house my vermicomposting worms. I need to add lots of soil to it tomorrow!!!! I planted another tub a week ago and the shoots have yet to break the surface.

The barrel planted potato eyes were placed in the barrel with about six inches of soil. They took off. I think they benefitted from the warming effect of the barrel. The soil level is up to about 40 inches now and I won’t add any more. The in ground potatoes are also doing very well. The plants are 30+ inches above the hilled up mounds. I have high hopes for a good harvest.

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An old garbage barrel with  holes in the bottom. Potato eyes at the bottom, 30 + inches below support the lush green growth.

An old garbage barrel with holes in the bottom. Potato eyes at the bottom, 30 + inches below support the lush green growth.

The newest tub was planted with supermarket spuds that sprouted in the pantry. Supermarket spids are not the best choice as they are sometimes treated to inhibit sprouting. The Yukon Gold are actual seed potatoes purchased at Kingwood Garden Center. Helpful folks, lots of knowledge and support organic gardeners!

The tub as it appears when the potatoes are planted. About 6 inches in the bottom,

The tub as it appears when the potatoes are planted. About 6 inches in the bottom,

Soil in this one is up about 10 inches and needs quite a bit more this weekend.

Soil in this one is up about 10 inches and needs quite a bit more this weekend.

I am looking forward to filching a few “new” potatoes down a foot or so a little later in early summer. I will be watching closely….once they flower and the tops die back I will harvest. The nice thing about using the tubs and barrels is the no digging to harvest. Just dump the container and sort through bounty!

PS – lunch was tomatoes picked today used in a wilted spinach and fresh Chard salad with grilled chicken breast. Dressing was simply EVOO and a blackberry flavored aged Balsamic vinegar. A little fresh ground pepper and sea salt! Just perfect!

TTFN

Bishop

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The Harvest is Ramping Up!

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Well the harvest is ramping up and it appears I may have some competition. My wife snapped a picture of a night raider hanging out by our backdoor. We have seen him, or a relative, making regular treks out from the garden area near the midnight hour on several occasions. I see the tracks but no evidence of thievery yet.

I have had some brussel sprouts off the crowns and now the side shoots are plumping up, yummy  beets and beet greens, asparagus for the first time, the strawberries are really producing and vey sweet and my dwarf Meyer lemon is blossoming and producing.

The green beans are really starting to crawl up the poles and the bush beans are 4-6 inches tall. My swiss chard is a little slow this year but 2 or 3 plants will overwhelm us (really just me… Kathy won’t eat it) Cucumbers are really slow this year…. may have to replant the armenian variety as well as the pickling variety. It is still pretty early in the season so I am not worried. My tomatoes are in the ground –  the Brandywine tomatoes are absolutley the best tasting but they do not seem to be responding well. Fed them some fish emulsion today to help them along.  The Roma, Creole, Mortgage Lifter and Juliet are doing well as are the peppers and eggplants.

I made a cold pasta salad with roasted beets, beet greens and penne pasta last week and it was pretty good. It was my made up  recipe but lacked a little for seasoning/complimentary flavors so I will experiment again. Just picked some very nice beets this morning while bringing in the morning’s strawberries and asparagus harvest. I will try again over the weekend if I just don’t eat the roasted beets as they come out of the oven.

Kathy took excellent care of my green babies while I slaved away in Dallas this week. She won’t pull weeds but she does a nice job of watering and picking….. even froze a bunch of berries so I can make jam a little late this springr. My blackerries are beginning to leaf out so the May harvest may be a very good one.

The worms were fed today and they said hi to all y’all!  ; )

TTFN

Bishop

After the Winter Hiatus

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Not today’s image!!!!

This is in my dreams for later on this spring and summer. Reality is much more grim!!

 
The garden is pretty bare right now – a few Brussel sprout plants made it through the freeze along with some of the sugar snap peas and an abundance of the beet varieties planted this past fall.
 
I have pretty well filled the compost bins with leaves and shredded leaves to be used for mulch in the near future.
 
I did transplant some lettuce plants yesterday but the labels have faded and I have no clue which variety will grace my table. The small half long carrot seeds planted last week have yet to show their tops. I will plant another round of carrots this week and continue some staggered plantings into early spring.
 
My friend John is allowing me to continue working the 4X4 plot I placed in his yard last year. He loved the abundant returns from the Juliet tomato plant. He had a good number of cucumbers as well as a handful of Texas A&M sungold tomatoes. We may even add another 4X4 adjacent to the first one. Making backyard gardening converts one by one. He has some beets poking up and I planted some chard for him last week.
Checking on my worms – the bottom bin looks done. Almost all of the little guys have moved up to the penthouse for the fresh food. Will probably sort the bottom bin this coming weekend and feed the plants. Speaking of plants – the strwberry plants are full of blossoms and I noticed a few berries that are a week or so away from taste testing. Can’t wait-  but I must!!!!!!
TTFN
Bishop

Companion Planting vs. The Smörgåsbord Approach

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I have been out pulling weeds, removing early berries on the strawberry plants, checking on the blackberries and I just loving seeing it all grow!!!!!
Here is a picture of a mixed bed. I have heard that there are some real benefits to utilizing the companion planting techniques. Problem with that is-  there has to be a plan….. I sometimes just group stuff by height and width…. makes sense to me. So… if you look closely I have;
Swiss Chard, Romaine lettuce, garlic, carrots, asparagus ferns, beets,a few small weeds, potatoes way out in back and empty plastic jugs waiting to be put in service…. they will be mini greenhouses. I call it Smörgåsbord grouping. I can pick a salad without taking a step.
I was down at the farmers market this morning and saw Romaine lettuce going for $2-$3 per head and they didn't look nearly as good as mine. Swiss Chard-  bunches of 5 leaves for $3 to $4 an bunch. People were carting out bags of the stuff. Makes me wonder if maybe I can have a fourth or fifth career selling organically grown veggies….. Hmmm. Maybe I should pull out the business plan forms I picked up a couple of years ago and give it a try. The booths selling eggs ran out by 9:30 AM except for one and the line was 10 back…. $3/dz. for white eggs and $4/dz for brown. Same feed, same pasture, same bugs to eat….. there is not an advantage to buy brown eggs, they taste the same …….. the farmer likes the perceived differences!!!  
Check out my new photos from today's garden visit, Oh, by the way, my latest batch of beer is ready to drink – Farmhouse Ale…. go figure. Even my wife liked the finish, not too hoppy- just right.

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Redfish and Salad

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Ben's Redfish March 13, 2010
Fresh from the Garden Salad

Ben, my oldest son, went off fishing on Saturday the 13th and landed this very nice Redfish. He is using the fisherman's trick of extending his arms to highlight the size ( I coached him on that). It was right at the upper slot limit of 28". Very nice fish. He also brought home a nice speckled trout so we will have several fish meals this week. Cooked up one of the fillets last night along with garden fresh steamed Swiss Chard and Snap Peas. What a real treat.

Today I built a very nice salad featuring 4 varieties of lettuce and some fresh snap peas  from the garden. Bell peppers are store bought….. I am 5-6 weeks away from harvesting my own and by then the lettuce will have bolted. The freshness just can't be beat.

A little rain today for the garden but not so much that it turns to a quagmire. The hanging tomato plants seem to be looking good so my experiment for a cheaper "topsy turvy" planter may be successful.

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