Friday, May 10, 2013

Summer on the Horizon!

Welcome back to another fine episode of Lost in the farmer’s market where today we will be presenting the farmer’s market plant list early, and talking about how to grow a specific vegetable that seems to be on a lot of our fellow gardeners minds that’s right for today’s episode we will be talking about growing potatoes. But before we get in to the fine art of growing your own vodka plants, I’d like to take a moment to show you some shots from the garden to show you gardeners out there some plants worth considering for your own back yards.

What is spring without an obligatory rhododendron? This one is part of the shady rock garden and has not bloomed once since I moved to North Carolina.  Rhododendrons do work in North Carolina but require special placement and soil considerations.
Bloody Dock is a perennial member of the Rumex family its better known relative is the Sorrel you see in the gourmet greens at the supermarket. Typically this plant is grown as an ornamental however the young leaves are plenty edible but do require either to be sliced fine in salads or cooked a bit extra in stews.

Pesto Purpetuo Basil is one of those basil varieties that has sweet basil flavor but produces no flowers so all leaf all day all night. You can get these plants out at Eastover Garden Center.

This is Red Rubin basil one of my old time favorite red-purple basils because of it’s true to form mutations. In any given batch of seed most will come out the color above but a few might have reverted to green or have freckles. In the kitchen it is used the same as sweet basil and makes for a wicked looking but good pesto.

Penstemon or Beardtongue is a tough perennial that blooms in dramatic reds, pinks and associated shades like you see above. There are dozens of varieties on the market and this is just one of many but all are worth every penny in the garden.
Many people think of sage as the kitchen herb and forget the ornamental sages are quite expressive in the garden. This variety is called ‘May night’ and is heat, drought, neglect and resistant to deer grazing damage. Additionally they happen to be readily available and are rather inexpensive.

Now on to the topic at hand; for today’s main topic I will be discussing how to grow your own potatoes in your back yard. It is a common misnomer that potatoes take up large amounts of space and are hard to grow. The truth is that they are relatively easy but require special care and considerations as well as for your own sake special placement so you can get at your harvest bounty.  The first thing to know is that potatoes are not grown from planting tubers that have significant amounts of growths emerging from the eyes. In fact those eyes and a little slice of potato are what you want. Generally a potato left in a sunny window long enough will sprout in a few weeks and that is how the home owner can get a seedling potato. Now keep in mind some companies irradiate their tubers so they cannot grow so you want to try and get a seed tuber from an organic source or a farmer’s market.

This is representative of a white potato 'Slip' after some exposure to moisture and sunlight, note the eye growing roots.

In comparison, a Sweet Potato, which is in a different family then white potatoes grows it's starting stems as seen.

With a bit more exposure to moisture and soil medium a slip looks like this in about  ten days.

At fourteen days a potato slip's roots elongate greatly and the stems turn to find light.

At 20 days the potato slip has a working root system and pretty much with care can produce other potatoes with time.

A potato slip planted in a 1 quart pot at 28 days looks something like the plants above. When you hear of heirloom tomatoes with a "potato leaf" this is sort of what they mean, both plants are in the nightshade family and in theory it is possible to graft one onto the other.

At the test gardens this is how we grow our white potatoes. The tubers are planted in a 30 gallon nursery pot, and the top covered over with chicken wire as you can see. More soil will be added as the potato stalks grow to encourage side-shoots and further tuber development. The screen discourages squirrels from digging while the black pot keeps the soil just a bit to warm for most pests.

The three potato pots at the test gardens are raised on two pieces of paving stone so they can drain better, and arranged to catch the most sunlight possible. I might add they are very close to a source of water to facilitate watering if they go dry.
 Growing potatoes for your self is relatively easy, all you need to is provide plenty of room for the tubers, ample water and fertilizer. Protecting your crop from critters and pests is reasonably easy as most problems are very visible and can be remedied by any number of non-chemical means. Other possible methods to grow potatoes includes whiskey barrel planters, raised beds and this method as seen on the Urban farm tour some years ago.

 the brick structure in the middle is a Potato chimney, it uses the same principle as the  yam beds in the test gardens. A raised structure filled with the best soil possible that acts as a controlled environment to maximize production with minimized space. As a side note, that guy on the left doing all the pointing and talking, ignore him he's a total goofball.

This weekend you can come and speak to me in person at the Fayetteville Farmer’s Market. The market is located on 325 Franklin Street and operates between the hours of 9am and 1pm, though if last weekend was any indicator we were there until almost 2pm. Barring significant rain I will be there and will have cool and unusual stuff. In fact to that point in two weeks or so I will be bringing Mountain Mint as one of the sale items. In case your not familiar, Mountain Mint is a well-behaved mint relative with all the same uses as normal mint except it grows rigidly upright.
Also I’ll be teamed up with the Sustainable neighbors, so you can come on by the sustainability booth and get some good information about sustainability, local foods, organics and heck even stuff about why GMO is so bad. As promised here is the plant list of what will be available for sale at the booth this week

Cucumbers & Melons: Kiwano (1x), Armenian Cucumber (2x), Poona Kheera Cucumber (2x).
Leaf Greens: Red-Leaf Amaranth (3x), Turkish Rocket (3x), Red Malabar Spinach (4x)
Herbs: Sweet Basil (6x).
Ornamentals: Castor Bean “Red Weed” (3x)
Fruit: Ground Cherry “Cossack Pineapple” (1x).
Tomatoes: San Marzano (4x), Mexican Midget (1x), Solar Fire (1x), Underground Rail Road (1x).
Eggplant: Nyakati (3x), Early Black Egg (1x), Turkish Italian Orange (2x), Louisiana Long Green (1x), Striped Togo (1x)
Potatoes: Dark Caribe (1x), Carola (5x)

Also I will have copies of Southward Skies Second Edition available for purchase at the market. The book is 120 pages of gardening tips tricks and information that is useful for gardeners of all skill levels. Each book is $25.00 and of course at request you can get it signed and pose any questions about it you’d like.

That said this wraps up another episode of lost in the farmer’s market, we’ll continue to post cool stuff up here as it happens so feel free to check back as the season progresses. Remember folks, all these spring rains are nice but it also means the weeds and the lawn grow faster so if your mower isn’t ready get set to kick some grass that aside as always keep ‘em growin!

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