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Archive for the ‘Re-Purposed’ Category

Well, It seems like forever ago since I started the posts about the potato experiment that my friend Kenny and I were going to do over the summer. Things got busy and complicated and we have all been taking care of business. I have a few minutes before I close up the office for the day, so here goes the update. You can click on the vegetables/potatoes category to your right if you want to see the previous posts.

From Kenny:

“Much to my disappointment my potato harvest has been rather pathetic. I found one white potato and zero blue potatoes.

The White Knight


The one Idaho spud I tossed into a pot and pretty much ignored, did provide several little fingerling potatoes…those were tasty!!

Idaho spud-in-a-pot


French Fries, we need French Fries!


I think the problems were the high heat we had in Arizona this summer. Many days were over 110F! The potatoes in the raised beds just couldn’t handle all the heat all the time The beds didn’t even get a chance to cool down at night since even our nighttime temps often stayed in the upper 80’s to low 90’s.”

Thank you, Kenny! I’m sorry you didn’t have better luck with your spuds, but I remember trying to garden in Arizona and every time you plant something you just have to hope for the best against the weather goddess. Here in San Diego, we had one of the coldest summers on record and my potatoes did really well, for which I can thank Mother Earth since I was busy at school while she took care of everything…

Let me just say I was assuming the absolute worst outcome with this experiment! After planting mine, I got busy with school and work and didn’t check on the garden for long stretches at a time. One day Tom said he saw potatoes under the apple tree and suggested we dig em out. Part of me didn’t want to see that I had a bunch of raisin-looking spuds that died in the shadow of my abandonment. Bad Mommy! Anyways, here’s what we found under the apple tree:

August 2010 - French Fingerlings


Pink Potato Happiness


…and there was an honorable harvest out of my plastic buckets:

Buckett Potatoes


my fabulous assistant!


My thoughts:

* the potatoes under the apple tree were the best and I didn’t even plan those – it’s where I tossed the leftover pieces! I will assume that direct contact with Earth had something to do with that.

* the buckets were great but they took up a lot of patio/sidewalk space and were not pretty to look at – not a big deal though

* the plants never actually bloomed, which was odd and the reason I had no hopes of finding spuds…seems a miracle to me

* the small fingerlings did well and were tender and delicious, buttery too…I wonder if the type of potatoes that we each planted had something to do with the success rate? perhaps I’ll try bigger ones next year, although Tom says he really liked the little pink ones.

Next year, I will definitely be planting more potatoes since these were gone in a couple days, and next year I won’t harvest until I’m ready to eat. We dug these up all at once because I couldn’t stand the suspense, but they will last a little longer under ground than in a basket on my table.

French Fingerling harvest - August 2010

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One of my new garden friends, Diana from Porterville, Western Cape, South Africa, has asked me to blog post about my header. I though it would be the perfect post for one of those nights when I’m pooped and headed for bed early or unable to focus on more. Tonight is definitely that night. So:

A couple years ago, I was hanging out with my friend Andrea. Andrea is a kindred garden spirit, so we were probably wandering aimlessly around a nursery and we were talking about all the stuff she had accumulated in her garage. There’s an annual yard sale in her neighborhood and she mentioned something about pulling some old sash windows from the back of her garage to sell. My ears perked up and I laid claim on three of them right then and there. There was no plan for what to do with them, but the juices were flowing and, well, I just had to have them.

I ended up painting them with glass paint and hanging them on the back fence, gallery style. Not a perfect job, but my favorite of the three are the mermaids. Since I’m a Pisces, I figured I would go with whatever lore was there as inspiration. Two fish, swimming in opposite directions, finally at peace in the garden – it became a self portrait of sorts. They also have red hair and are more than mildly top heavy and have big rear ends. I suppose I took creative license with the long tail fins but hey, whatcha gonna do!?

she sells seashells by the seashore


I glued shells and “jewels” on the bottom of the sill and hung them on the fence with a planter underneath.

dill and feverfew seaweed


Eventually the plants filled in and the mermaids appeared to be swimming through seaweed.

Happy Cats


The other two are a kitty with Moon painting on black background so it has a mirror effect and one with an Aristotle quote: “In all of nature there is something of the marvelous”

the backyard gallery


They’re great because they keep the eye from wandering over the back fence into the neighbor’s back yard which is full of some very strange ugliness indeed. An old RV that doesn’t run, a blue water tank wrapped in insulation that blows in the wind, some lean-to’s that are more “lean” than “to”, and they spruce up the huge expanse of plain brown fence too. They’re easily changed when I get bored – just scrape with razor blade and wait for ideas. (I’ve never been happy with the Aristotle one so I’ll re-do it soon) Plus, they make me think of Andrea and all the fun we have combing through nurseries in the spring. Thanks, Andrea – and thank you, Diana from South Africa!

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Last weekend was spent pulling grass and weeds, trimming and pruning, staking/trellising and tidying up the garden. Reward for my efforts came in the form of a wheelbarrow full of trimmings and some aches and scrapes – my garden doesn’t even look any thinner or sparser. It’s getting crowded and LUSH, but I want it in good shape before I go back to class and everything needs a little room to ripen as well. The garden needs to be ready to survive without so much love for a few months after school starts on the 22nd, when I’ll only have time to water and eat tomatoes!

Wheelbarrows rock! 5-30-10


This was my harvest last Sunday: artichokes, lemons, sage, mint, lavender, yellow squash, green zucchini, yellow pencil pod beans…

Harvest Time 5-30-10


On the subject of re-purposing, I have been using empty wine bottles to keep the water hose from crushing the plants at the edges of the garden. It works really well and stays in place much better than the spikes they sell. It does look like a wino’s garden, but then I guess it is 🙂 There’s one in the front too, right by the sidewalk. It amuses me to watch people walking by stop and stare at the bottle with funny looks on their faces. Some will reach down and touch the bottle or spin it around in the dirt. One person even pulled it out, set it upright and left it in my driveway. They’ll either figure it out or assume somebody got piss-drunk and planted the empty.

hose guides for winos


A rare photo of Tom, getting ready to make Lemon Semifreddo with our fresh picked lemons. Our lemons are so sweet that he usually cuts out at least half the sugar.

Fabulous Tom


The Moon is on the wane for another week so I’ll be busy with catching up, clearing out, cleaning, getting rid of, tying up loose ends….in the office, home and garden. Next Saturday night when the Moon is dark and my load is lighter, I can think about starting something new.

Tendrils


Please tune in tomorrow when I update Kenny’s and my Potato experiments.

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Papa, potatoes, poultry, prunes and prism, are all very good words for the lips. ~ Charles Dickens

My almanac tells me that the best time to plant potatoes is when the moon is waning in Pisces. Well, that’s today! Thankfully, the seed potatoes I ordered from Seed Savers Exchange had already sprouted and were quite ready to go. I just love it when things fall into place at the right time. They seem to do so when I pace myself with the moon, much like ovaries or oceans and such.

Never having grown potatoes before, I have been sifting through my books and internet websites for hints and tips. What I took for myself: 1) they like lots of sun and room 2) you don’t have to grow them in the dirt, you can use a trash can or bucket filled with dirt, straw or shredded paper 3) never let them dry out. 4) keep covering the tops and stem with dirt as they grow 5) when the plant dies off they are ready to harvest. There’s a lot more info but, since I decided to go the bucket method, I didn’t need a lot of the other tips. This method seemed best since I won’t have to struggle to find adequate dirt space and dig a new bed, I can move them around to get enough sun and when I dig them up they’ll be cleaner.

Since Ms. Peanut uses cat litter in the plastic buckets and I never throw them out, I had enough buckets to use. First, I drilled drainage holes in the bottom:

Shredded office paper went into the bottom of the bucket to absorb water and keep the dirt from falling out of the drainage holes:

Whenever I use my paper shredder, I think of Watergate and Monica Lewinski-type intrigue and I hear the theme song to Mission Impossible in my head.

Straw went on top of the paper – I buy mine at the pet store in the hamster section and it comes in handy in the garden quite often:

On top of that went some potting soil and worm castings. According to some websites, I didn’t need any dirt, but the thought of eating a root that had not come into contact with any earth kinda creeps me out. Enough room was left to be able to build the soil up around the plant as it grows:

I stirred the straw and dirt together a bit and went to chop up my seed potatoes. You want about 3 “eyes” or sprouts for each piece you plant. Cut the rest of the potato away, leaving an inch or so of potato around the eyes to nourish the plant:

I got quite a few nice pieces to plant:

These went into the straw/dirt mix and they were buried with potting soil about 3 inches deep. If you plant them too shallow, you won’t get many potatoes:

Then, I watered them all very well and put them in the sun. The remaining bits of potato got buried under the apple tree.

And now, to dream and wait. Tom has a knack of cooking potatoes to perfection, so I am going to have trouble with the waiting part!

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Last week, I finally took some time to get my wooden wine boxes ready for planting in, as well as the old chest of drawers that had finally seen the last days of its ability to hold clothing.
For the dresser, I took all the drawers out and planned to use the main part as a planter as well. After I got it apart, I changed my mind. There was no bottom and it was just too big. I would have to rebuild part of it and buy a ton of dirt to fill it and at that point it becomes an expensive project and not a simple “re-purpose old stuff” project. Instead, I turned it over on it’s belly and it is now an outdoor work bench – just the right height for me to sit at and work in the fresh air.


For this project, I used a drill with a 3/4″ bit to drill drainage holes in the bottoms of the drawers and wine boxes. I have my own drill, but Tom let me use his new Makita since it has more power. (insert apelike noises here) Make sure you have enough holes: four or five per drawer/box.

I used a discarded vegetable brush to get the dust and dirt off, and a can of compressed air in the cracks and corners.

Then, I used a paintbrush to apply boiled linseed oil to every surface of the drawer/box. Be generous and thorough: any crack will allow water in and your wood will rot and warp the first season. The cheap dry wood took several coats so I just kept feeding the wood until it look satisfied. Funny thing – the wine boxes were made with better wood than the dresser!

It looks really nice when you’re finished and the wood kind of comes alive again.

I loved this wine box from Chile, which promised that they plant a new tree for every one harvested. Fabulous!

Then, I took everything back in the garage and stacked it up so it could finish absorbing oil and dry. My garage now smells like a furniture factory.

I used the drawers yesterday since they seemed dry enough (I gave them five days), but I will wait a couple more days to use the wine boxes. I lined the drawers with newspaper first, figuring an extra layer between dirt and wood would be best. Here’s a drawer full of lettuce seedlings under the apple tree.

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Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant~Robert Louis Stevenson

My almanac said these last few days were the days to plant leafy vegetables. Since I’m starting from seeds to save money this year, I thought following the almanac would not only be fun, it would provide a workable rhythm to keep me organized.

I used old six-packs I saved from nursery plants – I keep and reuse them, if I don’t return them to the nursery. What got planted yesterday; Swiss Chard, Broccoli Raab, Catnip (just for Miss Peanut):

2-16-10


and today:
Parris Island Romaine Lettuce
Spinach
Endive
Italian Basil
Sweet Basil
Mesclun
Arugula

I picked and ate a bunch of Swiss Chard.

Rainbow Chard


It was tasty, but next time I’ll cook it longer and use more garlic.

Bright Lights


There are a lot of reasons why growing Swiss Chard is great. It requires little maintenance, seem pretty pest and disease resistant, and you can keep cutting leaves off the same plant and it will make more. I usually take from the outside in, but you can also chop them straight across. Just leave a couple inches growth and they’ll rebound. Use it like spinach, just cut off the ribs and cook it a bit longer.

Over the weekend, we used a store-bought head of iceberg lettuce in a salad. As I was washing it, I was appalled at the anemic color of it and Tom said it was the most tasteless lettuce he’d ever eaten: it had no soul. It was so sad, I didn’t even want to sully my compost pile with it. Tom said “I am not eating this” and I agreed. We had already made that agreement with store-bought tomatoes and apples. Determination to grow more of my own vegetables has set in more firmly. No more soulless lettuce. Sheesh! Tonight, I scoured the property and we had a baby lettuce salad with olive oil and lemon juice, and used a bunch of fresh herbs. I was really glad I had tossed a bunch of old lettuce seed down the side of the driveway earlier this winter, or we wouldn’t have had anything.

Also arriving just in time for inspiration was my son’s old chest of drawers. It’s pretty shot and I’ll use the removed drawers and the shell for raised beds. First, I need to figure out when painting that and my wine boxes with linseed oil is the one thing I want to do more than anything else. Well, don’t hold your breath!

I see a planter, don't you?

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