Our 2022 garden: potatoes, strawberries and sunchokes

We had a lovely, warm and sunny day.

That meant, time to catch up as much as possible in the garden!

My main goal was to get the potatoes in, since the beds for these were all prepped and ready.

The first ones were from the 1kg package; Caribe.

There just happened to be exactly 20 potatoes in the 1kg package, so this bed got 2 rows of 10 potatoes. For each one, I dug into the mulch to the cardboard below – which was very wet, from all the rain we’ve had since this bed was prepped! – cut an X into it and pulled it back, added a potato so that it was in contact with the ground below, then covered it with a couple of scoops of garden soil.

For this bed, I followed up with a watering, to settle in the soil, then covered each spot very lightly with some straw.

Then it was time to do the 5kg potatoes.

The first ones I did were the Bridget. They were planted the same way as the Caribe, though it wasn’t as easy, while having to walk on top of the straw mulch! I also didn’t bother covering them with straw after the soil was added. The hardest part was cutting through the cardboard. Some of those boxed were made of a very heady duty cardboard, and even while soaking wet, it was hard to get through. Which will be excellent for weed suppression, so it’s worth the extra effort.

It’s a lot longer doing it this way, then the first time we grew potatoes the Ruth Stout way. We didn’t have any cardboard, so the potatoes were laid out on the ground, then simply covered with straw. They did okay, but weeds got through the straw mulch as well as the potatoes. This time, we have a thick layer of cardboard, so that should take care of that problem, but it does make it more tedious! It would have been easier if I could kneel down. A lot of head rushes from being bent down so much!

This morning, I checked the tracking for our shrubs and trees, and they were ready for pick up, two days early! By the time I finished planting the Bridget potatoes, it was past 2pm, which is when the post office reopens after lunch break, so I headed out.

Wow.

All that rain we’ve been having, and the road is washed out right at the patch from before – and this is after the water has gone down quite a bit. There’s actually 2 washed out areas. Not as bad as before, though, and I’ll be able to get through with my mother’s car tomorrow, when I had to take her to her doctor’s appointment.

What I forgot, however, was that today was Wednesday.

The store the post office is in, closes at noon on Wednesdays.

Hopefully, the order hasn’t thawed out yet, and they’ll be fine. With tomorrow’s appointment, I am hoping to be able to pick them up after I’m done with my mother’s medical appointment, but it’s hard to say right now.

Not getting to the post office wasn’t a wasted trip, since I did at least confirm the roads are passable.

Once at home, it was back to work.

The next potatoes to do where the All Blue.

This time, I had a daughter able to come out and help. With the Bridget potatoes, with the larger potatoes being cut into smaller pieces, there was a total of 67 to plant, so I had 6 rows of 10 and 1 row of seven.

Having the potatoes chitting in egg trays makes it easy to count them. The flats hold 30, and the carton holds 18, plus extras in the lid. There were 81 in total, so I made 8 rows of 10, with two little ones planted together.

Here are both beds of potatoes done. I have bamboo stakes marking where the potato rows end. These beds are the size of the traps that we lay on the ground to start killing off the grass and weeds. The Bridget potatoes took up half the bed, while the All Blue took up just over half of the second bed. That means we have space to transplant into, in the rest.

While my older daughter and I were working on that, my other daughter worked on the strawberries.

This area is where we had potatoes in grow bags, last year. The soil they grew in was used to create this new bed. I was thinking of planting some of the sweet potato slips here, but we’ll put all of them in grow bags now, so this one can be for the white strawberries.

It needed a bit of weeding, then my daughter planted the white strawberries, which had 10 root stocks in the package. They are lightly mulched for now, and will get more mulch after they have grown fairly large.

She also planted the red strawberries.

I’ve read the strawberries and asparagus grow well together, so they went into the purple asparagus bed. This had a heavy straw mulch which got pulled off completely. After finding where the asparagus were (you can see some of them in the photo; the heavy mulch blanched them somewhat), my daugher weeded around them as best she could, then transplanted the strawberries where she could be sure that no asparagus would be growing through them.

One of the strawberries has already started blooming!

The bed got mulched with wood shavings, then some of the old straw mulch got places around it, partly to keep the weeds down, partly to hold the soil in place, and partly because the soil around the bed is so buddy. It will get more mulch later on.

After all the potato planting, I was tired, but I couldn’t help myself. I had to do one more.

The bed next to the asparagus was planted with strawberry spinach last year, but all we got was weeds. I pulled as many of those as I could, then grabbed the package of sunchokes.

It was a package of 10, with some of them quite large, and others being just little nubbings!

Some were starting to sprout already.

These got planted at a depth of 3-4 inches.

They also got a layer of wood shavings for mulch, and the rest of the old straw mulch from the asparagus and strawberry bed got placed around the sunchoke bed. For this spot, not only was the surrounding soil muddy, there was standing water in places!

These beds are planted with things that can be largely ignored. The sunchokes can be treated as a perennial, depending on how we harvest them, and need little care and maintenance. We hope to propagate the strawberries over time but, for now, we can allow their runners to spread a bit, around the asparagus. We’ve got two more years before we can harvest any asparagus, so the whole bed is pretty low maintenance right now.

It’s supposed to start raining lightly tonight, then all through tomorrow. If I’m able to pick up the trees on the way home from my mother’s, we might get them in right away, even in the rain. It depends on whether they’re still frozen or not. We also need to get the grow bags ready for the sweet potato slips, which really need to be planted soon. We might be getting a rained on a bit, tomorrow!

Over the next few days, we are expected to warm up, but the overnight lows are still expected to be just above freezing. That will give us time to prep a few more beds, though we could start transplanting some things, as long as we include something to protect them from the chill nights. The heavy mulch in the beds the potatoes are in will also help protect anything we transplant into them.

There is still so much to do! But I’m glad that we at least had today to catch up a bit.

The Re-Farmer

Our 2021 garden: potatoes are in!

Wow, what a windy day we’ve got right now!! I headed out early to do my rounds, so I could finish with the potatoes before it got too hot. It was a lovely 14C/57F when I started.

After all the watering was done and it was time to start with the potatoes, I brought over some extra bags, just in case. I’m glad I did.

I ended up adding one more bag for each type of potato. These didn’t have their bases sewn to make them flat, and you can really tell. They’re more floppy looking than the other ones. Two rows is as deep as we can go to reach the bags along the fence, but I can straddle the extras that got added and reach as far as I need to.

Planting the little fingerling potatoes was a bit weird. There were so many really tiny ones! Where the Yukon Gem and Norland got 3 larger potatoes per bag, or 4 little ones, the fingerlings would have 6 or 7 bitty potatoes.

It took a few more trips with the wheelbarrow for soil to get the new bags started, and all the potatoes topped up. Each bag got a handful of mulch on top, followed by a thorough watering. I’m happy to say that drainage will not be an issue with these bags. I could see the excess moisture soaking through – and it was NOT taking any of the soil with it. It was quite clear.

Thinking ahead to when we will be harvesting from these bags, I figure we’ll probably end up dumping the soil right where the bags are now, and turning the area into another garden bed. There are maples growing on the other side of this fence – they used to be part of the inner yard, when I was a kid – but the area does still get an adequate amount of sunlight. It’ll get more as we finally start cleaning up around those maples, cut away the dead stuff, and prune things back.

By the time I was done, the temperatures had crossed the 20C/68F mark, and the winds were even higher. I took all the transplants we’re hardening off back inside, so they wouldn’t blow away! We’ve got a predicted high of 31C/88F, with a “real feel” of 32C/90F, along with the same heat and air quality warnings we got yesterday. We may get thunderstorms by tomorrow morning. That would be nice!! After today, the temperatures will finally start dropping to a more comfortable range, which should last into June. That will make finishing the last of the garden beds much easier! The next couple of weeks are going to be very busy. 🙂

With the potatoes now planted, that’s one more thing to check off the list!

The Re-Farmer

Potato beds, and new garden area status

Yes! Finally! The weather is cooperating, and I was able to get our potatoes in!

From a previous post, this is what I was starting with.

The frames are just there to mark out where the beds will be. As you can see, there’s a fair bit of grass and weeds. It has been a while since this area had any sort of gardening done in it.

While the no-till, no-dig method we’re using is something that can be done directly on the grass, I wanted to add at least some amendments, first.

I used a wheelbarrow to mix 1 bag of manure with a slightly larger volume of peat.

After spreading it out on one of the beds with a rake, I used another bag of manure mixed with peat on the second bed. I then topped them with a thin layer of straw, making sure to use the damp straw from the bottom of the bale, where it was starting to decompose already.

I had hoped to use some material from our own compost pile, but as I dug around, I did not find any usable material. I had tried to clean out some of the older compost, from before we moved here, but as I dug around, I found more stuff I missed. Twigs and branches are one thing. It looks like people had stared to use it for garbage, and I found pieces of wood that were probably used as support stakes, plastic trays from transplants, and even a piece of fabric. There was some well composted material, but it was so full of sticks, it was unusable.

I’m thinking we will need to start a completely new compost pile somewhere else. This one is looking like a write off. 😦

So, no compost of our own for the potato beds.

Once both beds were spread with the manure and peat mixture, I gave them a very thorough watering. Even though we’ve had rain for the past couple of days, the soil was still pretty dry.

After soaking the beds, I added the potatoes. Each box was 3 pounds of seed potatoes. That worked out to 3 rows of 6 potatoes (plus 1 extra, so I put 2 small ones together) in one bed, and 3 rows of 5 potatoes in the other.

After spreading the potatoes out, I went back to evenly space them and push them gently down to have contact with the ground. With one potato, I went to pick it up, but it wouldn’t move.

???

I tried again, but it was stuck to the ground.

Amazingly, in the space of a couple of minutes, this one potato that had direct contact with the ground and shot out a 3 or 4 inch root, with capillaries! I wish I’d made the effort to take off my muddy gloves to take a photo, but instead, I dug a quick hole in the ground where I wanted it to be and “transplanted” it. I still can’t believe a potato could grow a root so deep, so fast, even after seeing it with my own eyes!

The next step was to cover the potatoes with a deep layer of straw. Again, I used straw from the bottom of the bale, where more of it was already damp and some was starting to decompose already. I made a layer roughly a foot deep.

I then scattered more peat across the top, then tamped it all down with the back of the spade. This peat is as much to add some weight to prevent flyaway straw as it is to amend the soil.

After the above photo was taken, I spent the next while thoroughly soaking the straw.

With this method, I saw recommendations of putting a layer of hay (which I don’t have, so I’m using straw) 2 feet deep. This is definitely not 2 feet deep. Over the next day or two, I plan to soak the straw some more, add another layer, then soak it again. After that, I should not need to water it much, if at all, for the rest of the growing season. I’ve heard people using this method say that no watering is needed at all, because the mulch maintains moisture as it breaks down, but I expect to need to water it at some point. It all depends on whether we have another drought this summer.

After the straw has started to settle and pack itself down, I will remove the frames to be used elsewhere.

Once this was done, I checked out the area we are planning to transplant our squash seedlings. We had covered this area last year with straw, then covered with tarps, to amend the soil and try to kill off the grass and weeds. We still ended up having to use Round Up. Even covered with tarps, weeds where pushing their way through the straw and lifting the pegged down tarps off the ground!

This is how the area looks now.

The black tarps in the back are there to warm up the mulched soil on that side a bit faster.

I could not do this here, last year. In fact, the soil was so hard, we were bending tent pegs while fastening down the tarps. While working on the potato beds next to this area, I would sometimes shove the fork or the spade into the ground to set it aside while I did the next thing, and ended up leaning them on the bale or wagon most of the time, because the ground is just so hard. Yet here, I could sink the fork’s tines their entire length down!

I pushed aside some of the mulch and dug around a bit. There are still a LOT of quack grass roots in there. I pulled some up, and you can see the bundle of roots in the above photo. The soil is quite “sticky”. The exciting thing was uncovering a worm. A very good sign!

Which means our efforts last year are paying off. The soil is already improving. When it’s time to transplant into the area, we will still be dealing with rocks and root systems, but the ground is now workable.

It’s amazing, what a mulch can do to improve soil conditions!

The Re-Farmer