Growing

Part 2: Feeling Irish with Potatoes

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Yep, you read that right. Today is the first day of spring, and it’s 81 degrees out. We’ve had an abnormally-toasty weekend, and the plants are loving it! The average temperatures in March are usually in the 50s and we tend to experience our last frost date in mid-April, but we might be lucky this year. We had a couple of bad cold snaps last week, but we’ve been unseasonably warm for a couple of weeks now, so we decided to jump in and plant our potatoes and onions this weekend. We’ve typically gone by the idea that we should start onions and potatoes as soon as the ground is warm enough to work, but I also love the fun saying that you should plant potatoes on St. Patrick’s Day.

 

 

Last week, I wrote about how we were gearing up for growing and waiting out those last few cold nights to venture out and plant potatoes for St. Patrick’s Day – and the warmth this weekend meant it was finally time!

We like to start with seed potatoes, and I like to let mine sit for a while to really encourage the eye growth and start the development process. When they look sprouted and begin to get a little shriveled and I go ahead and cut mine, usually in half, but enough so that each piece has its own growth.

 

In the past, I’ve had good luck with a modified-raised bed for potatoes where they can grow up rather than out, so we headed out to our city’s compost pile to collect supplies. We’re really lucky that our city not only collects compost but also provides the finished compost back to city residents at no cost – there’s a small fee if you want it by the truckload, but otherwise everyone is welcome to come load up pots and containers.

The finished compost is beautiful – warm, rich, light in your hands, and deeply nutritious. We filled 6-8 pots, which was more than enough for my potato pile.

Back at home, I took a small roll of 12″ tall chicken wire and used it to create a ring that would be the home for my potatoes for the next six months or so. To keep all the dirt from spilling out of the chicken wire, I lined it with some old newspaper from the garage.

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In addition to the compost, I used some old peat moss that we needed to get rid of, and I think it’ll help to have a little extra water retention in a raised and isolated “container.”

I put down a layer of 2-3 inches of dirt and then laid down my first layer of tubers, keeping 4-5 inches in between them for room to grow. I added another dirt layer of 4 inches or so and put down another layer of potato cuttings, trying to offset them as best as I could remember so they wouldn’t run into each other as they grow up through the soil. All in all, my 8 potatoes (16 cuttings) ended up in three growing layers.

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Up next, the onions! When we weren’t grilling and hanging out on our patio with Evan’s best friend, Cole, we were sowing rows of onions in the garden. We are planning on trying to grow the onions intermixed with tomatoes and peppers rather than give them their own dedicated patch – they can make great companion plants for peppers and tomatoes and help them fight off disease and pests. I am a little nervous about the tomatoes blocking their sunlight, but I’m excited to find a new way to use as much space of our tiny patch as we can. Intensive gardening methods can help you get so much more yield out of your square foot than traditional gardening methods (think rows and lots of empty soil between plants), and so far we’ve enjoyed reaping the benefits.

I picked up a big bag of baby onion bulbs a couple of weeks ago, though I’m kicking myself because I forgot to count how many we planted! I’m guessing that we put close to a hundred in the ground… (Thanks, Cole!)

This beautiful weather and the lack of freezing – or even frost – forecasted in the next week meant it was time for some of my indoor plants to soak up some sunshine. They rejoined the patio after a cold winter indoors and basked happily with us in the warm rays – a pixie grape vine we rescued from a garden center clearance sale (no longer the sad stick – now blossoming and growing strong!), cilantro seedlings, some rose of sharon seedlings I propagated last fall, St. John’s Wort, and a new growth of lilies of the valley (the bed & breakfast at which we were married let us take a few as a wedding keepsake).

 

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Spring has sprung, and it is a beautiful time of year to spend outside.

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