Sunday, January 27, 2013

Ninjas, Potato Sacks and Garden Stalkers

So what’s going on? I have been pretty wrapped up in helping the middle and youngest children figure out their talent show skit. The event is over, the skit complete, success achieved. Besides a small prop placement issue, it went well. I was sweating it, due to the fact that the music had never worked prior to the actual show night. The kids and their friend did a skit/song/dance to the Barenaked Ladies kids’ song “The Ninjas” from the cd Snacktime. It was very cute.

Well, while focusing on the budding talents I was not paying attention to my garden. So it was with great consternation, while driving home from gymnastics Thursday night, that I saw them. The perfectly symmetrical and, more to the point, in the ground onion sets in HIS garden.

Side note here: My name is Emily and I have a problem. I stalk another gardener’s garden. I’m not proud of it but I don’t deny it. Plus, he leaves his garden lying around without a fence where anyone can see it. At any rate, I have known this guy since he was a teacher at my middle school and he has been gardening since I was knee-high to a pig's eye. This qualifies him to be a “master gardener” in my book (that and his dominating rows of tomatoes every year).

I tend to spy on the garden often as I drive behind his house to see what’s new in his world. What was new in his world on Thursday was hundreds of tiny onion seedlings. Ack! I had not even gotten mine yet! I was on the phone to Calloways as soon as I saw them.

“Yes, we have onion sets,” the lady assured me. “We have potatoes too.”

This was great news. I had a new method for growing potatoes that I was dying to try.

“Oh, yes! Potatoes are in,” I inadvertently blurted out.

“Yeeeees,” she replied cautiously. I doubt she gets that reaction to potatoes very often.

Off I sprinted on Friday morning as soon as the kids were at school. I was rewarded with three types of potatoes: Kennebec White, La Soda Red and Yukon Gold. I also got super-sweet Texas onions, white onions and red onions. There were a few chard plants and plenty of herbs. I bought those too.

My next stop was the Argyle Feed store for a bale of straw and, joy! They had more veggie transplants! Hooray for me! I picked up broccoli, collards and a few lettuces. Add those to the broccoli plants already growing in the garden (that actually survived the three hail storms we’ve had since Christmas) and a few sweet pea vines and we would have a solid winter garden.

For the total cost of $50 I had veggies and straw for both gardens-ours and the elementary school Garden Club garden. Excellent. I needed only to get things in the ground.

Fast forward to today. I decided to wait until a little warm-up to get everything done. I have mentioned before that I am a baby when it comes to cold weather. Yes, 48 degrees is cold. Yes it is. So, since today was warm, it was time to put my new potato plan in place.

Red, Yellow and white potatoes
I got out nine of the burlap coffee sacks I ordered a few months back. The bags were originally used to haul green coffee beans. I have used them to line the area around the school garden and top with mulch for weed control. I plan to fill a few with soil to make raised tomato planters. Right now though, I was going to use them for potatoes.

Here was the plan: A few years back I made a wire circular bin. I added a few inches of straw and buried seed potatoes. As the potatoes sprouted and grew plants, I added straw every week or so. After about ten weeks, I could pull new potatoes out of the bin. This year, I wanted to make potato planters out of the coffee sacks. I figured it should work the same way and be slightly portable if I needed to move the potatoes to a different location for sun or shade.

First I cut the seed potatoes into chunks, making sure a sprouted “eye” was in each piece.
I then rolled the sides down on the coffee sacks to make shallow sack-trays. I added about four inches of straw to the bags then tucked several potato pieces in each sack, eye-side up. I covered each piece with about four more inches of straw. As the plants grow and I add straw, I can roll the sides of the bags higher and higher.

Roll down sides
Fill with 4" of straw
Add seed potatoes
Cover with more straw
Planted bags
Once I carried the bags to the garden, I arranged them near the fence. I plan to plant the sugar snap peas alongside the bags, growing up a trellis. Our new fence is taller than the old one and now blocks some of the sun. I have to grow the onions in as much sun as possible so the potatoes can go here with no problem.

In their new garden home
I watered the sacks well and crossed my fingers. Experiment underway.

The whole garden has wintered under a thick layer of alfalfa hay and oak leaves and is so perfect for veggies. With the rows of onions, collards, broccoli and lettuce going in tomorrow, I can’t wait to see how much better our diets will get in a few weeks!

Check back to see how the planters work out and my new sugar snap pea trellis ideas!

I love being back in the garden in my boots!

******Update 4/17/13*******

After a very sad dog-got-in-garden-and-dumped-every-potato-sack-upside-down-and-ate-some incident, I had to get some new potatoes and replant the ones I could salvage. to try to speed things up, I added a small bit of organic compost and potting mix to the hay to help the potatoes germinate quicker and catch up. We are still a bit behind the control potato I put in the ground, but I don't know if it is due to the extra cold we had late here, the burlap sacks or the great canine injustice of 2013.

Here are some new pics. You can see the first leaves poking out of the bag on the lower left. So they are all growing. Will keep you posted!


Angie Niezgocki said...

How are the potatoes going? I was wondering if you liked the bags.

Emily said...

Hi Angie! They are going great considering our 1 year-old puppy got into the garden and flipped all the bags around and I had to replant them all about two weeks later!. They have sprouted tiny sprouts but are not as far along as the two potatoes I put in the ground as a control. It gets so dry here and the sacks are just burlap so they can get dry so I decided to add a tiny bit of potting mix and compost to the bag on top of the hay to hold in some moisture. I added a garden section and moved them there. Will
do a follow-up post soon!

Emily said...

Hi Angie! I updated the post if you would like to follow the progress! Wish we had more growth but it has been weird weather here, and the, ahem, dog incident! Hope your garden is faring better!

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