Friday, April 24, 2009

Potato experiment

The garden is slowly returning to life - no leaves on any trees or shrubs yet, but the perennials are coming back, and we even have a few flowers on the grape hyacinths. The indestructible rhubarb was the first to appear: this was taken a few weeks ago, but you can see that it was poking above the ground even while the snow was still surrounding it!
I think I'm going to divide it this year, and move it to a spot at the back of the Old Garden. Then I'll move 4 forlorn blueberry plants up to the front, and see if they can do any better there, away from the strangling presence of the raspberries. If this doesn't work, then off with their heads. Five years is a long enough chance, and if they can't produce, then maybe the garden just isn't suited to growing blueberries.

I'm trying something new this year: I'm going to try growing potatoes in containers. I've read that it's not that hard to do, provided you have a big enough container. I bought 3 big round tubs, the sort you use for carrying laundry, and drilled drainage holes at the bottom. What one does is put a layer of 4" soil or compost on the bottom, then lay down 5 little potatoes or potato sections. They are supposed to be "chitted", which means they've started growing, putting out those prickly little knobs. We had a lot of teeny potatoes left from last year, and Dean couldn't bring himself to throw them away, so he stored them in the basement. It was cool, but not cold enough to retard growth, so a few weeks ago when I pulled them out, I was astounded to see that some had grown 6" to 8" long! I couldn't use those, so I picked out 15 that were just starting out, and planted them in the tubs. Since it's been cold so far, I stacked the tubs in the garage.

Today it's going to be sunny, and getting up to 20C - the next three days will be even better, going up to 28C! So I pulled the tubs out into the sun, and am happy to see that 14 out of my 15 plantings are nicely above the soil.

Now, the process is to wait until the plants are about 6" high, then cover them with another layer of soil and compost leaving just the tip visible. The plant grows higher, and then you repeat the process, until you're within 2" or so of the top of the container. Then the plant can be allowed to grow out and put forth leaves. The potatoes will form underground, along the length of the stem that's been buried by the soil. We'll see how it goes as the summer progresses. I've planted 5 Chaleurs, 5 Blue Russians, and 5 All Reds.


Blogger Priscilla said...

I've heard of growing potatoes in sawdust in tubs. I've never tried it, but it is supposed to work. I had just written about my planting before I read your blog. We had so much "algoreglobalwarming" this winter that I lost almost everything. Oh, well, I'll try again. I have rather brownish green fingers. Good luck with your garden, this year.

11:03 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had good luck planting potatoes on top of leaf layer over soil and then covering with 12" of straw. They grow up thru the straw and the spuds are on surface of soil so are clean and thin skinned.

12:53 pm  
Blogger Dr. Alice said...

I have read that another way to grow potatoes is to get a bunch of old tires, start out stacking two or three and plant the potatoes in there. As the potato vines grow, you gradually add more soil and stack more tires. When you are ready to harvest you remove the tires and sift through the soil. This is supposed to increase the crop and minimize the space needed to grow them. (Caveat: I have never tried this.)

3:14 pm  

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