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Archive for the ‘Potatoes’ 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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Scabiosa columbaria 6-5-10


Tom and I just got back from a weekend in Newport Beach. We went up for business and stayed for pleasure. What a wonderful couple of days it was too. All worries were left behind and we did our favorite things together…romantic walks, romantic lunches, romantic dinners….well you know. When I got back I spent two hours catching up with watering. Everything needed it and by the time I do the orchids and house plants and everything outside, I’m pooped. Tonight I’ll water the grass and be done with water till Tuesday. It’s hard for me to keep on the schedule that the “City of San Diego” wants me to keep with watering. But I do my best.

Anise - Pimpinella anisum


It was strange to come home after only a couple days gone and find the garden the same but very very different. All the plants are still there but the tomatoes went berserk and suddenly need help getting back up in their cages. The grapes have burst forth once again and my previous efforts to vine them up seem to have been futile.

Grapes June 2010


The potatoes are as tall as I am and I haven’t built the dirt up around them yet, I’m missing some tomato cages, the leeks need more soil…As I went around the yard, almost every plant told me it needed some attention and Cicero (my beta fish) needs a good bath since it’s the New Moon and there’s a fungus growing on his Greek temple columns. The list is growing faster than I can think the thought.

Baby Apples June 5 2010


I’ve been focusing on business lately but now my garden needs some love!

Squash Blossoms 2010


But none of it matters today! Sundays and New Moons don’t always fall together, but today they did and I’m taking advantage. No more lists or chores until tomorrow morning. For now, I’m off to watch “dude tv” with my husband and son and this evening I’m watching the first episode of the new season of True Blood: the only TV show I really really like any more and the one thing I’m doing tonight no matter what! I’ve been waiting forever for it to come back and I’m not missing a moment of it!

Swiss Chard, Hollyhocks, Nasturtiums, Tomatoes, Feverfew


So right at this moment, I’m about as happy as one can get. The birds are chirping, the sun is shining at last, I just spent a romantic weekend away with my man, the flowers are blooming and my garden looks better than ever, there are sparkly bubbles in my favorite Champagne flute, True Blood is on tonight, I’m feeling good and I’m in a good mood, the Moon is New…none of this is going to last, so I’m off to wallow in it. Happy Sunday everyone!

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“Money is the root of all evil, and yet it is such a useful root that we cannot get on without it any more than we can without potatoes.”
Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888), American novelist

As promised, an update from Kenny for the Potato Experiment!:

Arizona: BAKED Potatoes!!!


“They are growing quite well in my raised beds. As a matter of fact they are about 2 feet tall now. I’ve added more dirt to the bed twice, so it is full to the brim!

Build up the soil around the stems as they grow


I noticed today that they are also starting to get blooms which means that potatoes are forming underground. Once the flowers die off I’ll be tempted to dig up some fingerling potatoes just to see how they taste!

Potato Blooms


I also noticed today that I have some inch worms inching their way among the potato leaves so I picked off what I could find and then mixed up a batch of Castile soap bug spray to help get rid of any I missed. The Castile soap bug spray is really easy to make, here’s the ‘recipe’: in a clean two liter bottle add 1 Tbsp of vegetable oil, 2 Tbsps of Castile peppermint oil or Eucalyptus oil soap ( I use Dr. Bronner’s brand because it is certified organic and a USA owned company). Shake the bottle well then pour into a clean spray bottle. Spray tops and bottoms of leaves, making sure all surfaces are completely soaked. I’ll do that every couple of days for a week then check for critters. If I don’t find any then I’ll just spray once a week to help keep things at bay. If it rains, which is not a problem here in the Arizona desert, then you have to apply again.

Inch Worm: cute and hungry

Nothing like home made “camping potatoes” as I call them: potatoes fried up in a cast iron skillet with some butter, onions, garlic, salt & pepper with some Parmesan cheese cooked till everything is a golden brown! YUM!”

Thanks for the update Kenny! The plants look healthy and I can’t wait for you to dig them up! I’m not going to talk about my potatoes since they aren’t blooming yet and Kenny’s are the star of the show today! I am, however, in the mood to go camping now, as long as Kenny will get up early to fry the potatoes. 🙂

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A few months ago, my dear friend Lucie told me she had a friend I MUST meet. She said he was a gardening nerd like me and that we would get along famously. Thanks to the modern miracle that is Facebook, we have indeed become long distance gardening buddies, and we get along famously! Kenny inspired me to plant potatoes and when he was ready to plant his, I asked him if he would take some photos and make notes so he could be a guest star on my blog. So here goes: (and Kenny, thank you for being such a sweet muse – you rock!)

Kenny’s Potato Method:

This year, I chose 3 varieties to try. One called “All Blue” is exactly as named – the skin is blue and the flesh is blue! I’m looking forward to making a batch of blue mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving this year!

All Blue


The second variety is call “Superior”. It’s just your basic white potato. It is supposed to be heat and drought tolerant…those abilities will definitely be tested here in Arizona!

Superior


And lastly, just for good measure, I planted a good ole Idaho spud I got from my local supermarket. All 3 are supposed to be good all-purpose potatoes…baked, mashed, or fried.

Making my bed:
Hmmmm, where to start…I guess I’ll start with the place where I’m growing them. I have a nice sunny spot that doesn’t get any shade at all throughout the day. I live in Phoenix so no shade could end up being a problem in the heat that is quickly on the way…we’ve already hit 97 one day last week!!

I’ve decided to use the raised bed method. First, I built a basic raised bed which is approximately 9 square feet. The bed is about 12 to 14 inches deep and the bottom is rocks. My whole yard it rocks so that part was easy!

custom-built raised bed


Next, I put down a layer of newspaper to prevent any weeds from growing. I then dumped in a bag of quality garden soil mix from my local nursery to fill the bed about halfway, added some manure to the soil and mixed that all in well, then leveled the soil.

add newspaper and soil


To plant the taters I dug a hole about 3 inches deep, placed 3 potatoes in the hole and covered with soil. I spaced my tater groups about 8 inches apart so I have 9 group plantings.

nesting potatoes


I watered everything really well, then lastly I place some chicken wire over everything to keep the neighborhood feral cats from using it as a litterbox.

NOT a litter box!


Unlike Pam, I did not “chit” or pre-sprout my potatoes so I’m not really sure how long it will take for them to start. The instructions that came with my potatoes said it can take 2 to 3 weeks for them to sprout and push through the surface. Now the wait begins!

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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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