Onion Planting

It is too rainy out today to be gardening, but during the break last weekend, I finally got my onions planted.  This year we added Vidalias to the experiment in addition to White and Red onions.  The Vidalias come as sprouted plants, so there is instant satisfaction in planting rows of them.

We also raised the beds a bit this year, as lsat year saw us battling a bit of rot. With all the rain, I figured a higher bed could not hurt. I spaced the beds very wide, so we can grow some quick crops like radishes and lettuce in between.

 The White and Red onions come as small bulbs, and they get planted about 2 inches down in the middle of the beds. While I hand spade planted each of the baby Vidalia plants ( which are spaced about twice as far apart as the bulbs), it is easier to hoe out a small trench, lay in the onions at 2-3 inches apart and then cover them up. 
At the end of the day, I ended up with 10 beautiful rows  of onions. Now to watch them grown…

Asparagus:Preparing for years of harvest

I finally got around to adding Asparagus to our perennial collection. Since all of our kids love asparagus, this will become a spring and early summer staple. We eat enough of it that I invested in 2 year old plants, so that we can do a light harvest this year and get a full harvest next year, rather than waiting two or three years. The savings at the Farmer’s Market/grocery will more than offset the extra cost.

Asparagus comes as rhizomes with a crown..  we got three varieties, Jersey Knight, Supreme Jersey Knight ( for large stalks for grilling) and a Purple Asparagus ( supposed to be sweet enough to eat raw..)  The hardest part of planting asparagus is digging the trench.  It needs to  be 12-18 inches deep.  I put one variety here, close to the house, so it is easy for dinner harvest. The other two varieties got planted yesterday in a 30′ trench at the edge of the far east vegetable garden. We just agreed to  turn this into a permanent bed and lose 2 feet of garden. It was  much easier to dig than this trench, which was in un-tilled clay ground. This will also save us from augmenting the soil with lots of organic matter as we will have to do with this bed.

The rhizomes are planted crown up, and rhizomes spread in the bottom of the trench and covered with 2 inches of soil. As it sprouts, we will fill in the trench until there is a slightly hilled asparagus bed.

Plants are spaced between 8-18 inches apart, according to variety instructions.

Fingers crossed and a little sun mixed in with this rain, and soon enough we will have green sprouts shooting up through the ground.

The potato saga cotinues

Here in Indiana, it is Potato Planting time. This is our third year of a growing potato addiction. The first year it started with a walk through Rural King , and we happened to pass by the bins of seed potatoes.

“We should grow some potatoes this year…” , was quickly followed by picking through seed potatoes and filling a  sack or two with small seed potatoes that could easily be put into the ground.  We broke new ground for that garden, made some mounds, planted the potatoes and let them grow.
 Our yield was relatively low that year, but honestly not bad for someone who had never grown potatoes ( how is it I grew even peanuts as a child, but not potatoes??). We hand pulled small ones during the late summer and our harvest took us until Dec 1. It was satisfying, the potatoes were delicious and we were hooked.  Over the winter, I read more on raising potatoes and was more prepared the next spring.   

When the gardening catalogs started coming in, I poured over all the potential types of potatoes.  I was excited to try something other than the red, yellow and russet that were available in the grocery stores and locally.  I had learned that we needed to grow the potato mounds as the plants grew to increase yield.  We dug, planted and watched them sprout and grow.  We fell in love with Kennebecs, before I found out they were the new darling potato in upscale restaurants. ( no surprise why, the flavor is gorgeous, they cook well and have a beautiful  creamy color). We love the taste of the Purple Blush, the lightly purple skin always revealing amazingly sweet pure white potato flesh. Unfortunately, their yield is lower, so they were a cherished treat.  Last year we learned lessons about overcrowding plants and flooding. However, we started eating potatoes hand picked from the garden in June and did not buy another potato until March. We had improved.

This year, I am starting to feel like an expert. I had set aside a few of our favorite potatoes (Kennebec, Red, Purple Blush, Yukon Gold and a handful of russets I got from my father in law) , so there is no expense of seed potatoes.    Last year, I learned how to cut and ash the sprouting potatoes so we were not dependent on many small seed potatoes and a few potatoes yields many new potato plants. Rolling the freshly cut potatoes in ash ( I clean out the fireplace- you can also clean out a grill) helps to protect the potatoes from insects and infection both as they sit and scab over and after you plant them in the ground. 

After cutting, you let the potatoes sit for at least 2 days, allowing the cut edges to “scab over” and making them less vulnerable to infection.  I plant in cycles. By planting new potatoes every few weeks ( and then again some at the end of June), I stagger the harvest and protect against a random weather event that trashes a crop ( lesson learned from massive flooding of huge first crop last year).  Since I am going to plant multiple times, when it is time to plant, I choose the potato starts that are most sprouted and have the smallest remaining old potato to continue nourishing them.  Potatoes that have accidentally been let to oversprout have to be planted ASAP and handled very carefully.

First, we dig trenches about a shovel head deep. Yesterday I did six 10 foot rows. The rows are put in about 2 feet apart. Potato plants grow pretty big and bushy and this year I am being careful not to overcrowd.  I then use a hand trowel to dig down  a few inches in the bottom of the trench and place a potato start in the hole.  How deep I make it and how much dirt I put over it depends on the impending weather. When we are due for several days of rain ( like now) right after planting- a good healthy time to plant, btw- I plant a little shallower, because the rain is going to erode some of the dirt off  of the hills and down into the trenches, burying the potato deeper.  When I plant in a dry spell, I make sure the potato has about 6 inches of dirt over it.
As the potato plants sprout up, we will gradually continue filling in the trenches and burying more and more stem of the plant. It is from these buried stems that the potatoes will sprout and grow. When the ground is level again, we start digging in between the rows, piling the dirt up around the potato in mounds, until the potatoes are eventually growing on mounds with trenches in between.  This helps to increase the potential yield from each crop.

I have what look to be many extra small yellow and russet potato sprouts, and perhaps even some reds. If you are local and want one or two to experiment with growing potatoes in your garden, give me a holler and we will addict you too.