I hope that our raised beds are finished in time for spring planting. I need to have them done before I can really get into full swing, because they are the only way I really have to protect my crops from the copious amounts of deer and other critters who would be very pleased to undo all my hard work in one single midnight snack attack.
But we have a LOT of other 'musts' to sort out before we get there, including clearing another acre or so for fire break safety, so I may have to think creatively again this year. I HOPE to have full, large beds, but I may not get that luxury until next year. So, I need a plan 'B.'
|Our Last Tiny Tomato!|
This year, I am going to replace our normal hanging baskets of cascading flowers with hanging baskets of tomatoes. We'll see if that helps.
I've already purchased some planter boxes that fit on the railings of decks to house my herb garden (rosemary can be left out front. . .it never gets bothered). I will put them on the edges of the second story deck in a corner that gets a little sun and see how they do.
I am also going to do some make-shift gro-bag gardens, protected by temporary chicken wire, if the permanent protective structures aren't up. I used gro-bags a lot in England when I had no real place to garden. Essentially, they are just bags of growing medium that you make two little cross cuts in at either end and a couple of drainage holes in the bottom. You can plant whatever you like in them, though I have found things like cucumbers and zucchini and other kinds of squash work best.
But I am most excited about doing some serious vertical potato growing!
|Growing Potatoes in a Bag!|
The basic idea is to plant your seed potatoes (leaving at least 2-3 eyes in each piece) in a well-drained soil low in nitrogen (great foliage, but notsomuch on the tubers!) and high in phosphorus and potassium. Working in a little compost and/or peat moss helps things along nicely. If your soil has a lot of clay, or is very 'heavy,' speak to your local nursery about how to best address it. Potatoes like soil they can easily expand into! Don't use manure, though. . .it causes scab.
If you want to be very kind, you can add fertilizer: 5-10-10 or 10-20-20. Make sure your container or bed gets lots of sun, too.
Make sure your bed is free of rocks and roots and other debris. . .the fluffier and 'clearer' the soil, the more room you potato plants have to grow large, luscious tubers!
Lay a layer of soil on the bottom of your chosen container about 12 inches thick. Place your seed potatoes on this layer and cover with an additional 8 inches of soil. Water and wait for your potato plants to sprout.
When the plant top reaches 12 inches high, carefully add 4 more inches of soil (never covering up more than 1/3 of the plant), making sure any surface tubers are completely covered. Repeat every time the plant reaches 12 inches and you will encourage more and more tubers to form.
You can dig new potatoes 7-8 weeks after planting, being very careful as you scrabble the hills so as to leave most of the roots undisturbed. Harvest your main crop about 2 weeks after the tops have died back.
Note: I never wanted to grow potatoes before about 8 years ago. . .I thought that they were cheap, space intensive (I had better things to plant!), low yielding for the effort and tasted the same as store bought. One year, each of our children were given their own patch in our garden to manage and two chose to grow potatoes. I could NOT believe the flavor difference! A-MA-ZING! Plus, now that I know how easy it is to make one plant grow 'up' and produce a LOT, it is well, well worth it!