Posts Tagged ‘potatoes’

Potatoes in Cold Storage

Saturday, January 28th, 2017

Cold Storage in the Barn

It’s the end of January. We still have a lot of potatoes stored in the barn. Barn temperatures are often well below freezing but the potatoes are in good shape. Last fall, before I put the potatoes in storage, I modified my straw bale walls and replaced the bales on top with insulating foam panels. It was a good move. It’s way easier sliding off panels than wrestling straw bales when you need some potatoes. The barn stays cleaner and the potatoes seem to be in better shape than the last year.

Mover’s Blankets

Below the foam I placed some mover’s blankets, which are good insulators, to take up a lot of the gaps.

Shipping Crate Set in Straw Bales

The bales surround a wood shipping crate that has been re-purposed as a storage bin.

Potatoes in the Crate

The potato varieties are separated in the crate by walls made of scrap press-board. I mixed some loose straw in with the potatoes and that seems to be a plus in potato longevity.

Potatoes Ready to Cook

We’re pacing ourselves on potato consumption, trying to get most of them eaten before serious sprouting and shriveling sets in. Our improved above ground cold storage system is helping us enjoy all those good potatoes we grew.

2015 Garden Review

Tuesday, December 15th, 2015
Potato Blossoms

Potato Blossoms

The 2015 CobraHead Home Garden was a great success. The garden is never the same from year to year. Weather, seed and plant inputs, labor, luck, and a lot of other variables make each garden season a new experience. That’s an advantage for home gardeners. They don’t need perfection to be successful, and last year’s errors are only lessons for the future. I like to tell beginning gardeners not to worry. Plant enough different stuff and some of it will turn out great in spite of your mistakes or misfortunes.  We had some pretty miserable failures this year, but overall most plants did fine and we harvested as much as we could hope for.

Potatoes in Open Raised Bed

Potatoes in Open Raised Bed

200 Pounds of Potatoes

200 Pounds of Potatoes

We had our largest potato harvest ever.  We’re storing them in a straw bale cold storage structure I set up in the barn.

One Potato - Over Four Pounds

One Potato – Over Four Pounds

Sweet Potato Starts in Flat

Sweet Potato Starts in Flat

Sweet potatoes are a crop we are famous for, and this year’s harvest was among our best ever.  I’m continuing to start my sweet potatoes from sprouted old roots.  It’s really easy.

Peas Interplanted with Greens in Open Raised Bed

Peas Interplanted with Greens in Open Raised Bed

T-Post and Bamboo Tomato Trellis.

T-Post and Bamboo Tomato Trellis.

Squash Trellises

Squash Trellises

We continue to use T-posts as our primary trellis structure supports.  I like them because they are cheap, nearly indestructible, and they can handle huge loads.

Low Hoop Tunnels

Low Hoop Tunnels

Cabbages

Cabbages

We’re getting better at transplanting seedlings directly from indoor spouting to a low tunnel hoop house.  This eliminates time consuming “hardening off”  and gives us some really vigorous starts.

Giant Swiss Snow Pea

Giant Swiss Snow Pea

Radishes and Peas in the Pan

Radishes and Peas in the Pan

We grew a new (for us) snow pea called Giant Swiss.  It was prolific and delicious.  Here’s a frying pan with peas and radishes, the first time we’ve ever cooked radishes, which is something we should have been doing  a long time ago.

Harvest of Smaller Squash

Harvest of Smaller Squash

Boston Marrow Squash

Boston Marrow Squash

Our trellised smaller winter squash and our larger trailing vine squash were both super productive.  We are trying to figure out what to do with it all.

Mustard in the Pea Patch

Mustard in the Pea Patch

We’re getting more and more vegetables and herbs to be perennials or volunteers.  It’s our sort of stab at permaculture.  Mustard is now a weed in the garden, along with cilantro and kale, and several types of onions and garlic.

Comfrey

Comfrey

Big Yields

Big Yields

An inedible weed, but one I’m encouraging for its properties as a compost plant is comfrey.  I just have to be careful it doesn’t take over everything.  It’s too easy to grow.

Celery

Celery

One of our miserable failures this year was celery.  It’s looking great here in the picture, but I didn’t pay attention to its watering needs and ended up with a mostly unusable batch of hollow stems.

Dwarf Gray Sugar Pea

Dwarf Gray Sugar Pea

Leatherwing beetles on tansy

Leatherwing beetles on tansy

We write about our garden and show pictures on our blog, so I thought I needed a macro lens to help give us some cool photos.  I’m not into insect sex life, but the macro really gives some nice detail.

We’re still harvesting leeks, Brussels sprouts, and various greens as our unusually mild December draws to a close.  I would have to rate the 2015 garden one of the best ever.  Now we’ll see what the new year brings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Straw Bale Potato Storage

Thursday, November 19th, 2015
200 Pounds of Potatoes

200 Pounds of Potatoes

We had a huge potato harvest as the result of growing three beds rather than two and using seed potatoes from Wood Prairie Farm that gave us a much greater yield than previous seed sources. We ended up with over 300 pounds of potatoes from a 30 pound planting. I knew that if we didn’t find better storage than the basement, we would lose a lot of crop, so I made a quick cold storage set-up out of straw bales and an old wooden shipping crate.  Using a small stall in our little barn and about 20 small square straw bales, we put around 200 pounds into storage. The five varieties are in the picture above.

Shipping Crate in Straw

Shipping Crate in Straw

The wood box is nested inside straw bales stacked up in a barn stall.

Straw Bale Cold Storage

Straw Bale Cold Storage

The potatoes were harvested by early October and they are looking very good.  We’ve had a mild onset of winter so they haven’t been exposed to a hard freeze yet, but the barn gets pretty cold so I hope the straw does its job.  I’m sure we’ll get them well into next year. I’ve used this set-up for carrots and other root crops, previously, and I’m quite confident it will work well for the potatoes. This isn’t the slickest option for cold storage, but it is definitely very easy.

 

Hilling Potatoes in Open Raised Beds

Monday, June 22nd, 2015
King Harry Potato Blossoms

King Harry Potato Blossoms

Most years I grow 2 beds of potatoes.  This year, as part of my way bigger than needed garden, I’m growing three beds.  They’re planted more intensively than I’d like.  That’s because I got carried away with my seed potato purchase from Wood Prairie Farm, an organic supplier from Maine.  I’ve been meaning to buy from Wood Prairie for many years.  Jim Gerritsen, the owner, is an associate of mine in the Direct Gardening Association and I’ve always wanted to trial his potatoes.

Bed of King Harry Potatoes

Bed of King Harry Potatoes

When I placed the order, I bought more than I should have.  I was able to give some away, but I just didn’t want the seed to go to waste, so I planted more per bed, and three beds instead of two.

Bed of Dark Red Norland Potatoes

Bed of Dark Red Norland Potatoes

I have not checked underground yet, but the plants above are the most vigorous and healthy potatoes I’ve ever grown.  If the tuber yields match the plants, I’ll be very happy.

Bed of Cranberry Red, Onaway, and Caribe Potatoes

Bed of Cranberry Red, Onaway, and Caribe Potatoes

My intensive planting left no soil for hilling around the plants, and I know that without some good hilling, I could not expect a good yield.  I had no empty beds from which to steal some dirt, and my normal source of extra soil, the compost area, has been planted in squashes and melons.

The solution I used was to cut the paths around the beds deeper and use that dirt for hilling soil.  At first I thought it would be an impossible task to break up the hard packed clay in the paths, but I figured out a way to do it without killing myself with hard labor.

Using a Fork to Break Open the Clay Paths

Using a Fork to Break Open the Clay Paths

As with many problems, the right tools make the solution easy.  To initially break the clay I used a small fork made by Treadlite Broadforks.  Normally, I like to use this as a weeding tool for deep rooted large roots like burdock.  It proved perfect for this job, breaking the hard clay down about three inches.

Antique Five-Tine Cultivating Hoe in Clay Clods

Antique Five-Tine Cultivating Hoe in Clay Clods

To break up the clay clods, I used my old five tined cultivating hoe.   This is a magical tool.  Aside from its blades being the inspiration for our CobraHead tools, this tool rips hard soil and pulverizes clay clods.

This Tool is a Hand Powered Roto-tiller

This Tool is a Hand Powered Roto-tiller

It’s like a small powered roto-tiller, only better.  It is essential for my approach to raised beds and I would be lost without it.

Flat Bottomed Scoop or Grain Shovel

Flat Bottomed Scoop or Grain Shovel

A scoop (grain) shovel works better than smaller shovels for shoveling up dirt from the paths and smoothing the path at the same time.

Grain Scoop in Wheelbarrow

Grain Scoop in Wheelbarrow

I didn’t have enough dirt from the paths directly adjacent to the beds, so I cut soil out of paths elsewhere in the garden.  To move the soil I used a a single tire wheelbarrow.  Two wheeled carts will not work in my narrow paths.  I used a large grain scoop to dump the soil around the stems.  It worked very well, allowing me to make a nice deep cone of soil around each plant.

Hilled, Intensively Planted Potatoes in an Open Raised Bed

Hilled, Intensively Planted Potatoes in an Open Raised Bed

So now I have well hilled plants.  The harvest will tell if I got away with my intensive planting.

Dark Red Norland Potato Blossoms

Dark Red Norland Potato Blossoms

Anticipating the Main Harvest

Tuesday, July 24th, 2012

Here Come the Tomatoes

With this year’s warm weather, we’ll be picking things from the garden a lot earlier than most years.  I’m often late getting things started, but I did a good job of getting the tomatoes, peppers, and cole crops into the ground before the end of May.  The early start coupled with the hot weather is giving us veggies in July that we normally don’t start harvesting until August.  All in all, it appears we will have a good harvest as we go into late summer and fall.

Hot Peppers

This small bed holds most of the hot peppers.  In the foreground are Serranos and behind them are cayennes and some various Asian hot peppers.  Judy likes to freeze Serrano peppers.  She should have plenty.  The cayennes are exceptionally large this year and the pepper plants, in general, are taller than what I usually get.

Sweet Peppers

In front of the asparagus is my second pepper bed.  The small plants in front are Poblanos.  They are loaded with fruit.  The rest of the bed contains various sweet peppers.  I have a lot of Nardellos, the American-Italian heirloom that we like a lot.  Those too are very heavy with peppers.  Behind and to the right of the peppers are two potato beds, one red and one yellow.  Both are doing well.  I’ve already snitched a few red ones.

Sweet Potatoes

The sweet potatoes are loving the heat.  I can’t see what’s going on down below the vines, but I’m hoping for the best.  I’ve been covering the vines with ag fabric to keep the deer from munching on them.  The deer love sweet potato leaves.

Sweet Corn

We ate our first sweet corn, yesterday,  I only have one bed this year.  Most years I get two beds planted.  I’m inter-planting the corn with two heirloom pole beans that have traditionally been grown using corn stalks for trellises.  One bean is called Turkey Craw, the other is Missouri Wonder.  The beans in the corn have a long way to go, but they look just fine.

Leeks, Pole Beans, Tomatoes, and Onions

Here is my main bean crop, with leeks in the bed to the left, tomatoes, tomatillos, and eggplants in the bed to the right of the beans, and onions to right of the tomatoes.  You can see another bed of tomatoes in the back right and in front of those are two blue barrel rings holding some fingerling potatoes which I just planted.  It’s my plan to keep adding soil to the rings as the potatoes grow to try to get a larger yield.  I haven’t done this before, so we’ll have to see if it works.

The pole beans in the front of the picture are trellised onto four tripods.  Behind them in the same bed are bush beans.  They are just flowering but I expect good production.  Last year we had a similar size set up that got somewhat eaten by deer and we still had a huge harvest.   I expect a lot more beans this year.  We are getting Japanese beetles in the beans, but I’m able to keep ahead of much damage by cleaning off the beetles using my funnel trap, which you can read about here.

Ripening Egg Plants

I went overboard with the eggplants, I just didn’t have the heart to cull out the nice seedling starts, so we have 16 eggplants.  I normally grow four to six.  They are looking great.  We’re trying to figure out the best way to freeze them – any suggestions?

Three Cabbages

Here are three good looking cabbages in one of two beds dedicated to cole crops.  The other bed is under ag fabric.  Most of this bed was used to grow kohlrabi and we’ve already harvested about half the planting.  Judy talks about using kohlrabi in her recipe post.  I’ve been spraying my coles with a neem oil, soap, and seaweed mixture and that seems to have really made a huge difference on damage from  cabbage moths.  The moth eggs hatch but the caterpillars die when they eat leaves  containing neem oil.  While the neem spray hasn’t done much for the squash it seems very effective in the coles.

Zucchini #2

Here is our second zucchini.  We picked the first, yesterday.  We’ll have lots, I’ve got five healthy plants.  The squash, melons, cukes, and zukes all got a late start.  While the zucchini are doing well I’m really having some major problems both with cucumber beetles and squash vine borers.  I’m definitely going to lose a few squash and melon plants.  I always tell people starting out in gardening to grow a lot of different stuff.  Some will always succeed and even if you lose an entire crop of one vegetable you’ll still have plenty of the others.

Mammoth Sunflowers

These Mammoth Sunflowers are already ten feet tall and they aren’t done growing.  Their stalks are like tree trunks.

Unfortunately, this could be a year without basic root crops.  No carrots or beets in the ground, yet.  It’s not too late for either for a fall crop if I can get to it, but in any case, we’ll get plenty from the garden, this year.

Getting Down in the Trenches for More Spuds

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

Potato Beds

I tried something new (for me) this year in planting my potatoes.  Geoff mentioned this method to me years ago and I never got around to trying it.  I kind of forgot that it was he who told me, but he was quick to remind me when I showed him what I did.   The logic is simple.  Plant your potatoes at the bottom of a trench, then hill up the dirt from the ridges of the troughs around the plants as they grow.

Potatoes only grow up, that is, their tubers won’t go down deeper than the mother spud used as a seed start, so hilling is a common practice to give the potatoes deeper soil to grow in and all kinds of methods are used to create the hills.  In years past I’ve never bothered to hill my potatoes.  I just planted them deep in my soft raised beds and hoped for the best, which was usually okay.  We’ll see if we get more production this year.

To create the troughs I first thoroughly broke up the beds with my broadfork.  I did two passes with the fork, first going from the center to the edge on each side of the bed, then moving along the length of the bed.  Breaking the soil in both directions made it easy to rake up the beds into troughs with a steel rake.  I put the finishing touches on the troughs to get them mounded as high as possible using a concrete workers draw hoe that I found at a garage sale years ago.  It comes in handy for exactly this purpose.

Tools for Troughs

Then it was down on my hands and knees, using my small planting board so I didn’t destroy the edges of the bed, to get the potatoes into the bottoms of the trenches.  I used a bulb planter to put holes as deep as possible and planted the potato seeds, which I had earlier cut in half and allowed to dry, spaced roughly a foot apart.  This is all new for me, we’ll see what happens.

When the potatoes send up their sprouts from the bottom of the trench and and get about six inches high, I’ll pull  soil from the middle ridge and mound up soil around the individual plants.  As the plants  get taller,  I’ll use the soil from the outer ridges to get as much soil surrounding the individual plants as possible.  I may even use some mulch, I’m thinking of straw mixed with soil, to get the mounded plants as tall as possible.  The plants should be setting more tubers as they grow upwards and the harvest should increase significantly depending on how good a job I do of building the mounds.

One of the two beds is planted with Adirondack Blue, a blue fleshed potato that we’ve grown before and like a lot.  The other is Carola, a yellow potato that I have not grown previously.  I still have to get in a bed of Rose Finn Fingerlings that I have seed for and I’ll probably plant a red skinned potato of some type, as well.

It’s not at all late to still plant potatoes, in fact you have a very wide window of opportunity with this crop.  The grower I bought my seed from actually plants his crop in June.  He says that gives him two advantages – a later harvest means a longer period for storage, important as he’s selling seed, and he says he has much less problem with potato beetles.  I’ve planted potatoes very late several times, too.  Only because I was behind in my garden tasks, not for any scientific reason, but I’ve still had good crops.  I’ll let you know how this method turns out for me.

Planting Boards for Raised Beds

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011

I planted a bed of potatoes Sunday, using two new planting boards that I made from a 4′ x 4′ sheet of 1/2″ plywood.  I had been using some old scrap plywood for planting boards, but I decided I would be happier and more efficient with two boards exactly the size I wanted.

I cut a 12″ strip off the 4′ x 4′ sheet so I have a 3′ x 4′ board for using when I’m on top of a bed and I have a 1′ x 4′ sheet to use to kneel against when I’m working along side the beds. I don’t kneel directly on the boards, but I use the Garden Padd kneeler to protect my old knees.  It has become my favorite kneeler.

Using planting boards allows one to sit or kneel atop a raised bed for seeding.  The board spreads the weight out fairly evenly across the bed and keeps one from compacting the soil or gouging it up.  In many cases it’s easier to plant from above than to try to reach in from the sides.  When working from the sides,  the smaller planting board prevents one’s knees from depressing and wrecking the bed edges.

The potato planting worked out most perfectly.  My beds, across the top, are almost exactly 20 feet long and 3 feet wide, so I set up a block grid pattern of 60 – one foot squares, and centered one seed potato in each of the 60 holes that I made.

I used BioMarker plant markers as surveying stakes for laying out the planting pattern, using 21 markers one foot apart along one edge of the bed and four markers at the top end, again, one foot apart.  Then, using a couple yardsticks to add a little precision to the process, I eyeballed the imaginary center of the first three holes, and put a stake into the center to mark them.

I used my CobraHead Weeder and Cultivator to make the holes.  It was easy to dig a 7″ to 9″ hole, much easier than with a trowel or a shovel.  I dug a hole, placed a seed at the bottom and pushed the soil back over the hole.

I alternated rows of seeds cut from some very large russets and red potatoes, which I had bought as organic food potatoes at our food coop in Madison.  I’ve had very good luck for the last several years buying just organic food potatoes, not certified seed potatoes.  As I’m not re-selling these, I can take the chance I won’t have any virus or disease problems and save a lot of money.  Going on four years doing this, I have had no problems, so far.

The process required me to dig three holes, plant three seeds, get off the board and slide it back a foot, plant three more and repeat until I was down to the last two rows.  There, I worked in from the sides of the beds to plant the last six spuds.  The whole planting process took about 45 minutes.  The potatoes are centered perfectly and I plan to mound up the stems as they surface to get a little extra tuber production.  We’ll see how everything turns out, but as far as the planting boards go, I’m totally happy with them.