Friday, March 11, 2011

Garden Week: GOT DIRT?!

Another of summer's delights:  
a satisfying lunch from the garden with a
warm from-the-sun-juicy-drip-to-your-elbow tomato, 
on wheat toast with a little mayo, 
and cucumber spears sprinkled liberally with coarse pepper and  little bit of salt!
I feel so rich when I eat it, rich in the way that counts.

From "Farmer Boy" 
by Laura Ingalls Wilder

"There was no time to lose, no time to waste in rest or play.  The life of the earth comes up with a rush in the springtime.  All the wild seeds of weed and thistle, the sprouts of vine and bush and tree, are trying to take the fields.  Farmers must fight them with harrow and plow and hoe; they must plant the good seeds and quickly.

Almonzo was a little soldier in this great battle.  From dawn to dark he worked, from dark to dawn he slept, then he was up again and working.

He harrowed the potato field till the soil was smooth and mellow and every little sprouting weed was killed.  Then helped Royal take the seed potatoes from the bin in the cellar and cut them into pieces, leaving two or three eyes on each piece.

Potato plants have blossoms and seeds, but no one knows what kind of potato will grow from a potato seed. All the potatoes of one kind that have ever been grown have come from one potato.  A potato is not a seed, it is a part of a potato plant's root.  Cut it up and plant it, and it will always make more potatoes just like itself.

Every potato has several little dents in it, that look like eyes.  From those eyes the little roots grow down into the soil, and little leaves push up toward the sun.  They eat of the piece of potato while they are still small, before they are strong enough to take their food from the earth and the air."

Freshly dug and washed up onions.  Do you see that good black dirt?  
That's our dirt that we have put to work for us.

Do you want to put that dirt to work for YOU?

It can feed your family, if you help it out.

Let's do it!


Start with something that normally you buy a lot of!

Let me start by saying we are practical gardeners...we don't garden to have the most beautiful one on the block, nothing is beautiful about it except for the growing things...unless you want to count my chippy old picket fence, which I guess is beautiful in its own way.  

The most frivolity we experience is choosing some flowers like a new variety of  zinnias for a border or separating the peonies to expand the row.

The dirt grows the beautiful, as well as the useful and the utilitarian, like the lowly potato.

Every now and then we'll try something new; perhaps one new thing per year.

We grow what we eat, don't play around much with anything we wouldn't use.  We don't have that much spare time!  We started growing root vegetables a couple years ago.  I enjoyed it, and I'll tell you why.

The onions lasted into spring being kept in a cold, dark place!  YAHOO!  They weren't hard to grow and they tasted so much better than the store bought ones, which I question their age on store shelves now, because I saw how long it took to get brown skins on my beautiful big onions.  We planted good big onions that would store well.

The potatoes...OH MY.  The potatoes!  SO GOOD!  The fresh ones are unbelievable!

My husband and his hard-workin' hands, ready to dig in:  
hobo pies made with our own onions, squash, and red potatoes, 
with sides of our own sweet corn, and our own juicy red tomatoes.

We grew red potatoes, that are so tender and ever so good to cook in with the green beans or throw on the grill in foil packets, some Yukon gold (so very SWEET!!!) and some utility ones and we did great with them the first year and the second not so great, it might have been the weather.  

But even so, we're going to do it again, because once more, like the onions, our potatoes lasted our family well into spring.  They make a decent border plant, we put them right inside the garden fence around the edge.  

Do you know how wonderful I felt every time I walked past bags of potatoes and onions in the grocery store?  Think about how many times you buy potatoes and onions all year!  To only have to buy them for a few months as opposed to a whole year, well, I was thrilled!

The worst thing about growing potatoes is that you have to mound the dirt up around them and it takes.  a.  lot.  of.  dirt.  

But other than that, it's amazing what you dig up out of ONE PLANT.  This year, we might start an early crop to get more than one good crop in.  They like cooler wet weather--and can be planted almost a month ahead of our other garden plants, so we might try planting a second crop in the mid-to-late summer for an early fall harvest.  If we have enough room, enough dirt and we wanted to, we could stagger three plantings.

This year, we will expand to carrots as our new root vegetable.  They can be kept in cold storage, even better brought in to sleep the winter away in some dirt-- and I chose a variety known for keeping its quality in storage.

Fresh new potatoes....ready to dry out for storage.

We are fairly new to growing potatoes and onions, and have never grown carrots.
I WOULD LOVE to have your input on both, if you have any tips to share.

TRY a root vegetable, if you haven't!  It's fun!

Potato basics from
1001 HINTS & TRICKS For your Garden
A Reader's Digest Book :

Plant certified cuttings, don't use potatoes out of your kitchen bin to plant
Plant 4 weeks before last frost in 40 degree or warmer soil
Count on about 4 lb. of yield PER plant:  a fifteen foot row would yield 50 pounds!
A bulb planter makes the perfect planting tool for potatoes
Plant in mounds
Keep out light
Keep them cool and mulch with compost or straw
Keep disease free by pulling off diseased leaves and destroying those
Prevent a common scab by keeping the soil well-watered
Harvest them  with a grub hoe on a cloudy day when the foliage has withered and is dead
Do not expose the new potatoes to sunlight when harvested or stored
Cure potatoes for a week, let the soil on them dry and then brush off but don't wash to store
Lay them out in a single layer to start storage at about 60 and then for long-term storage at 40
Check frequently for rotting spuds and toss them
If the potatoes grow to sweet, this is because they temp they were stored at is too low.


Rosemary said...

Carrots are easy peasy...plant them from seed according to the package directions and make sure you thin them. You will be tempted to try and keep all the little plants, but trust me you will have better looking carrots if you do it.

Susan said...

I really want to try my luck at potatoes and onions. We do use alot of these. Thanks for all the tips.

Rosemary said...

One more thing I just thought of Grandma stored her carrots for the winter in sand and in a cool place. I have no idea why, but we had home grown carrots all winter long.

Brenda Evans said...

This reminds me of my grandmother. We lived with her when we were very young. She always had a garden full of veggies. Every spring the wagon plower would come and plow her garden and she would plant and we ate from that garden all summer. We had collard greens, green beans, corn, tomatoes, okra and strawberries. Even peas and turnips. That was the very best food in the world. And she always had a flower garden which is probably where I get my craving for gardening. I sure miss all those home-grown veggies - there is nothing on earthy like it.

Laura said...

Yes, I do agree carrots are easy. And I'm not a very good gardener. Don't know if we'll be that ambitious this year, but you have certainly inspired me with your gardening stories!
And the tomato sandwich? My favorite thing to eat in the summer. I've always had a tomato plant. I love to throw a piece of swiss cheese on mine.

Mrs. Cherry Heart said...

My mouth is watering!
I wait patiently all summer for that first tomato to ripen so we can pick it and enjoy the first warm from-the-sun-juicy-drip-to-your-elbow tomato,
on wheat toast with a little mayo!!!

Love growing anything I know we will eat and anything we can can!

Hurry up spring!

Smiles, Dolly