27 February 2011


I had plans to write about growing plants on trellises last year, but I never got around to it.  We have some latticework hiding our garden storage area and I was thinking about growing vining vegetables on it this spring.  Those plans changed when we decided to expand the kitchen into the garden storage.  We haven't done that yet, but I'm giving up on using it as a trellis.  I've decided to add trellises to each of my  raised beds to increase the varieties of vegetables that I can grow.

During the past several summers, I had constructed some sort of trellis for supporting pole beans, but it was always temporary or very last minute - it never lasted longer than the season and I would do something different the next year.  This year I'd like to do something I can use every year, but also, so that I can put it away in the winter.  There's a section in the "Square Foot Gardening" book about building garden structures, but I think I donated my copy during a recent decluttering.

While I'm curious about growing interesting vegetables, I'm also practical.  Recently I started growing only vegetables that I knew we would eat and growing as much as possible.  Some of the plants I plan to trellis are either curiosities or untested as to whether we will eat them.  I saw a photo accompanying an article on trellising and they grew pumpkins - they used stockings to support the fruits as they grew larger.  I want to do that!

So, my trellising - I'm definitely going to plant pole beans and cukes in the spring.  As it get later into the summer, I'll be planting more experimental plants.  In my search for vining plants, I've decided to try winter squash.  It's just another variety of squash that takes longer to mature, but will keep for a lot longer - good for use as a winter storage vegetable.

I got a dried apple gourd from a recent plant swap and at some point I cracked it open and collected the seeds.  I planted some last year, but they never made it out of the seed flats.  This year I think I'll plant some on a trellis and hopefully get some apple gourds of my own.

09 February 2011

Planting Potatoes Again

It's that time of year again - potato planting time.  Everywhere in my list of feed and seed resources had potatoes this time.  Two of them had three kinds of potatoes - white, red and Yukon gold, and the other just had red and white.  I'm never sure how much space I want to dedicate to a single crop.  They might not be completely harvested until almost June, and I need room to plant warm season crops.

I planned to buy three kinds of potatoes, plus the purple ones from Walmart, but when I got to the feed store, they were sold out of the Yukon gold potatoes.  I bought five pounds each of the red and white, and a bag - maybe three pounds - of the purple ones.  In the past I have planted them whole, rather than cutting them into pieces, and possibly getting more from them.  Everything I read talked about fungi and treating them or letting them "heal" for a few days before planting them, so that's why I never did it before.  Since then I've talked to neighbors who do it and have no problems, so I decided to consider it this time.  As I was looking at the potatoes, I never saw one that was really fit for dividing.  Most of them had eyes on one end or the tubers were small to begin with.  The packaging for the purple ones instruct you to plant the whole spud.

I was doing some research on the purple potatoes and thought I would share what I learned about it and the other varieties.  Do you know which varieties are better baked, or mashed or made into fries or chips?  I don't, so I decided to find out.

Purple Majesty potatoes were created by crossing an All Blue with a white chipping variety.  They are high in Anthocyanin, which is an antioxidant found in blueberries.  They taste like white potatoes and are good for almost any kind of preparation, but apparently make great fries and chips - plus they retain their color after cooking.  Red potatoes have smooth, thin, red skins and white flesh.  It is usually firm and mainly used in casseroles, soups, salads or boiled, steamed and roasted.  White potatoes are good baked, boiled or roasted, and especially good for potato salad.

Broccoli Flowers

Once again I didn't harvest the broccoli soon enough.  We really must not want to eat it around our house.  This seems to happen every year.  I think I ought to just stop planting it and grow something we will eat.

I really just wanted a reason to post these photos today.

08 February 2011

Country Wisdom

I say "country wisdom" for lack of a better term - I know there is one, but I can't think of it.  I'm referring to that intangible knowledge that older people/country folk have that others don't - call it a "hunch".  My friend Darren, neither old nor country (but a master gardener), saw signs of a cold winter a couple of years ago.  Oaks were putting out massive quantities of acorns, squirrels were busy gathering them up.  From what I remember, he was right.

Our neighbor Mr. Hiers has a feeling that we haven't seen the last of the brutal cold this year.  I went by his house last week to see if he wanted me to by him any seed potatoes.  Over the last couple of years we have talked about gardening and he seems to get his plants in a haphazard way.  I thought I would offer to get him these same plants when I go get mine.  So, when I asked him if he wanted potatoes, he said no.  He thought we were going to get more cold weather and was going to hold off until March.  I tried to tell him there probably wouldn't be any potatoes available in March, but actually he was the one that had me second-guessing my decision to plant in mid-February.  I wasn't worried about it until I talked to him.  I'm still planning to plant potatoes this week - the weather looks fine for the next week, except for a couple of nights near freezing this weekend.  The average low for the rest of the month is 40 degrees.

I bought potatoes today - I got red and white from the feed store (they had sold out of Yukon gold) and I got some Purple Majesty potatoes from Walmart I want to try.  I'll probably be planting a bed of each potato and then growing lettuce and spinach on top of them until the weather warms up.

06 February 2011

Spring Landscaping

Besides October, I'm told that February is the time to plant shrubs and other landscaping.   Going along with that timetable, I've been slowly preparing our yard for new plants.

Last fall, I chopped down a large azalea hedge and planned to dig up the stumps and put in new landscaping, but have been procrastinating - I knew I had until February to get it done.  It's February now and I'm trying to finish up.  I'm planning for President's Day weekend - I will have two days off and I was going to put in the new plants then.  All I have to do is figure out what plants I'm going to use and dig up the rest of the stumps.

It's backbreaking work so I've been trying to get a little done every day.  Each day I spend a little longer working on it, but it hasn't been very consistent.  Depending on how much time I have, I may not even get out there some days.  Today I have all afternoon, so I plan to get a lot done - taking breaks to rest my back.

As far as the actual landscaping goes, I'm still working on that.  I'm leaning toward native plants fro the obvious reasons, but also to limit my choices - deciding what to plant can be daunting.  I'm looking for about three different types of plants, maybe a tall grass in the back and a shrub in the middle and a groundcover or low-profile plant for down front.  I'm trying to think of it along the lines of container planting - a thriller(back), a filler(middle) and a spiller(front).

This would be my foundation planting and I would fill in the empty spaces between the shrubs with flowering perennials like coneflowers or daisies.  I'm still mulling this over, but I don't have much more time.  I have to get to work.

PS - If anyone has a good idea, please let me know!