Monday, August 15, 2011

It's my birthday!

Yup, August has always been my favorite month. Enough sunshine that I'm finally warm. Tan lines, and tomatoes. Parties for my favorite people. (August babies are the best, and not just because I'm an August baby.) The days are still long, the nights are clear, and everything is growing. This post is a bit of an amalgamation, as things are busy, and I have stuff to share, but not enough time to flesh them all out into their own posts.

Rowen and I invited a co-worker and his daughter over for the potato harvest. We all dug in the dirt and came up with a big pot full of potatoes and a wide array of bugs, spiders, rocks and weeds. I swear the kids were just as excited over the bugs. :-D The potatoes yielded a good amount of well formed tubers. They didn't have the scab problem that I noticed last year. I was hoping for that, because I had read that a first-year-from-sod garden would grow out of that problem the second year. I know others nearby that don't seem to have my success with potatoes. I would swear I'm not doing anything special. But, I'll write down some of my practices, in the chance that something will work for those attempting to grow potatoes.

First, I put them in the ground early. Here in zone 4, that means a week or two before the last frost date. I'll protect them with a quilt or something if there's going to be a hard freeze, but they are otherwise able to handle the cold temps and frosty mornings. I dig a trench, and put the potatoes in there, mounding up the dirt to one side. I cover with part of the dirt, and a small layer of straw. As the vines grow, every 6 or 8 inches, I put more of the dirt on top, and more straw. New potatoes will be formed above the seed potato that you planted, so you have to give them room to do that. Loose soil, with the straw to keep things airy, but at the same time, light is no good, and will turn them poisonous, so the layers have to be as sunlight blocking as possible.

I don't do anything to the seed potatoes. I'll let them get some good budding on the eyes, and then I just plant them. I don't cut them, I don't dust them with anything... I'm very laissez-faire about it. I have had good luck buying seed potatoes from an Iowa source, Seed Savers, and I've had good luck buying seed potatoes from the bins at the farm store in town.

That all I do. :-D I watered them a couple of times, during really dry weeks, but not very much. For those struggling with golf ball sized potatoes, maybe some of this could help. You could try asking your local ag people too. Here in Iowa the people to ask are the ISU extension offices, they have all sorts of good info on local growing environments and what grows well and how to do that.

My coworker's daughter had a great time, and hopefully enjoyed the potatoes I gave them. Rowen loved having a little friend to play with. Total win-win.

In other news, the plum tree and the apple tree that I gleaned from last year, are both a bust this year. The plum tree has no fruit set, and my neighbors report that the apple tree is sparse and wormy. I'll do my own recon of the apple tree, perhaps some higher branches have something worth picking. This compounds the problem of the raspberry canes not producing much this spring. So, it's looking like this weekend I'll have to do a serious search for some local fruit and spend some money to get my fruit preserving done. I hear there's an apple orchard on the south side of town. This is ok. We're much better off financially than we were last year at this time, and if I have to spend money on something, at least it can be local fruit. It's too bad about the plums though, those spiced plums were freaking delicious.

I'm doing some canning outreach. As a twenty-something I'm well aware of the skills my generation is missing. One of these is How To Can. So, when a local gal mentioned she'd love to learn, I took note. I have 20 pounds of tomatoes to process this week and I've invited her over to help and learn the basics. She's a great bow hunter, so I'm hoping she'll return the favor and teach me a bit about turkey and deer hunting, since all I have experience with is birds.

So, summer wanes, the toddler grows, and I'm trying to get my community more prepared for the unraveling. I love it, but there's always work to do. :-) That's about as profound as I can be today. As always, I love hearing from y'all, so chime in if there's something you're dying to talk about.


Chile said...

Happy Birthday!

I've not had much luck with getting a big potato yield in containers, probably because I'm too impatient and don't give them long enough to grow. My first attempt at in-ground potato growing resulted in the spuds all rotting before they even sent up stems. The second attempt, more recently and very laissez-faire, seems to be a total bust, too, despite avoiding the over-watering problem. Oh well. Try, try again.

Canning is always more fun with someone else to share the work!

Jon Lorisen said...

Happy birthday!

Jennie said...

Thanks y'all!

Mama Bean said...

Happy birthday! I am married to an August baby - they really are the best :) What a newsy informative post, thanks!