Crazy Ways with Potatoes

    • Last chance to plant asparagus roots this year. This delicious vegetable will keep producing for up to 20 years.
    • Plant summer-flowering bulbs now. Glads, dahlias, callas, cannas and lilies will bloom this summer if planted soon.
    • Fertilize established roses now and begin spraying them for insect and disease problems. Neem oil is a very effective, less toxic spray that works against both insects and diseases.
    • Plant artichokes now. Fill a hole with one part humus and two parts soil and set out plants in full or part sun.
    • Petunias can be planted now. Their bright flowers will bloom all summer in hot, sunny locations and they will take a light frost.

Crazy Ways with Potatoes

Potatoes are a staple both in the kitchen and in the garden. And winter without home-grown potatoes is just not the same. Spring is potato-planting time and gardeners are anxious to get their spuds in the ground, but with the continuing rains, that has become a difficult job.

Fortunately, potatoes can be grown in a number of different ways that don’t involve digging in the wet soil. They can be grown in cages, in bags, old tires or even in a bag of potting soil.

Potatoes grow differently from most “root” vegetables. They grow from the stems of the plant rather than from the roots. This means that they will develop above the seed potato that you plant. So if you keep adding soil around the stems of the plants as they push upward, more and more potatoes will grow.

This makes potatoes uniquely adapted to growing in cages. And by growing them vertically, you get a nice crop in less space, and they are easy to harvest.

To make a cage for potatoes, take a length of 3-foot wire fencing, and form it into a cylinder, 2–3 feet in diameter. Secure the cage in the soil and line it with straw, cardboard, or even newspaper.

Put 6 inches of soil in the bottom and place the sprouted potatoes on the soil, 6–8 inches apart. Cover them with 4 inches of potting soil, compost or straw. After the potato sprouts poke through the soil’s surface, allow them to grow about 6–8 inches tall and develop a few leaves, before gently filling around them with more of the potting soil, and water well. Continue layering with more potting soil for about a month as the plants get taller. Then neglect them for a while.

When you see blooms on the plants, that means new potatoes are forming. The potatoes are ready to harvest when the plants begin to yellow and die back. Remove the cage, and unearth your crop of potatoes.

Keep an eye on the moisture content of the soil throughout the season, because caged potatoes dry out more quickly than those planted in the ground.

An alternate method is to use old tires. Fill one tire with a soil mixture and poke 4 or 5 potatoes into the soil. Water them and wait for them to grow. When they reach 6 inches high, add a second tire and start adding potting soil around the sprouts. Continue mounding up the potting soil around the growing plants until your stack is 3 tires high. Young potatoes will form all the way up the stack of tires.

For an even simpler container, use a trash bag. Cut several drainage holes in the bottom of a 30-gallon black plastic trash bag. Roll down the sides of the bag and fill about one-third of the way up with potting soil. Plant the potatoes and continue mounding up the soil as the potatoes grow. To harvest, slit open the side of the bag to release the potatoes.

And here’s the lazy gardener method: take a bag of potting soil and empty 2/3 of the soil into a storage bin. Poke a few holes in the bottom of the bag, plant the potatoes into the soil in the bag, water and proceed as for the other methods.

Don’t let the weather stop you from growing your own potatoes this year.

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