Monday, June 23, 2014

What's Wrong With My Potatoes?

Last week was crazy busy, family coming and going, hence the silence. I'll guarantee you it wasn't because I didn't have something to say. The grand daughters are still here but as most of you know that slows me down but they have been with us so often it doesn't halt things. I'll admit I didn't get much done last week but we did get most of the garden planted finally. After all it is going on the end of June. Most of the things I've planted so far haven't done well. It has been so..... cold. My NOrland potatoes I planted in May came up three weeks later, yet the ones I planted in mid June came up a week later. Warmth of the ground is the critical factor. Wish I had gotten Kirk to dig out the thermometer he uses in his forge. I like to stick it in the ground to check to see if it is warm enough to plant and in the confusion of our belongings still not put away I decided to forgo the usual. As for my peas, well, very few came up so I replanted. It has been such a wet cold winter and spring. I think we have reached 80 degrees once is all so far. That doesn't mean it won't turn horribly hot come July for it has done that many times before. I'm not hoping for hot, just warm. Upper 70's and low 80's would be nice. I am in bad need of food since my garden was hailed out last year. My seeds are also getting old and that determined what I planted more than putting in what I wanted to eat. I've got to save seed this year or I will be paying a fortune the next for seeds.

I'm so excited though because my sister made a phone call and low and behold it is as I thought.  Indeed you save potato seeds and from them you get your start for a larger crop. The third year after saving potatoes for the next year's planting they will produce smaller potatoes and fewer. It is the potato seeds that save the day. I wouldn't think it would take more than four to six hills grown from potato seeds to do the trick of supplying enough potatoes to save for seed potatoes the following couple of years. My sister found someone who had done just this but only once. I'm not thinking just once but on and on. I may not be able to grow all the seeds I need but if I can cut my seed buying bill in half and then down to a quarter, that is a huge savings.

My sister's experiment with potatoes this year is to grow them up. You've probably all heard that you are suppose to be able to grow 100 lbs. of potatoes out of one plant. I tried using tires once and the potatoes rotted. I should have tried it again with spacers between the tires but I never did. If she is successful I'll get it a go again. Growing fewer potato plants and getting a higher yield from each is always a win, win situation. It leaves more room in the garden area for something else to grow.

 Even doing all I can will equate to buy some seeds. There is just no way of getting around it. We are spoilt and use a large variety of foods. But buying fewer seeds means more funds to buy the remaining needed seeds. You can bet seed prices will rise for those who raise seeds have ever increasing bills also. I don't know about you but I think with the increase in grocery bills a few more people will be looking to garden next year, even if it is just a small garden to eat from in the summer months. That will put a strain on the seed markets. Like the chickens, you will have to get your order in early before they are sold out. With it already costing hundreds of dollars for seed for our garden, it is one area I'm for sure looking to save on. I took a peek at a greenhouse in town and my have prices gone up since I last bought plants. I don't know how people plant more than a small garden if they are buying seeds and plants every year.

With such a steep learning curve to grow a garden; grow your own plants from seeds inside; and breeding and saving your own seeds, not many are going to be able to do it in a short amount of time. I'm so.... glad I started years ago. The brain can only process so much information at once and new things happen each year that you have never dealt with before, like this. I think I had it once before. Oh I wish I would keep a garden journal. I just can't remember how it turned out. These were the first potatoes planted when the ground was cold. Note the curled up leaves. Some Internet sites say the plant will right itself hen the weather warms but the other plants are fine. King Harry of course being the potatoes that shot up out of the ground while the Norlands shivered beneath. Another site said mites but it is rather cold for them and I haven't seen any.
This is the second batch of King potatoes I put in, in another area of the garden. Note the kind of yellowing appearance. When I planted these I noticed thistle growing in the garden and added sulfur. Thistle means alkaline. I'm going to add a bit more sulfur and another fertilizer today in the way of manure that I sprinkle around them.. I'm not sure if iron isn't a problem also since my evergreens were yellow. Then again it has been cold and that will keep things yellow too.
  I'm ever so glad I planted my potatoes in four areas of the garden and at different time. This is the Norlands coming up three weeks after I planted them. I just checked them and they look like the King Harry's that are curled. Hmmm.... the two sets are both on a north end of the garden. One on the east side of the garden shed and one on the west side. The potatoes that look good are on the south end of the garden. There is another batch of potatoes in the new garden. I put Norkotahs and then King Harry's  running north and south. The King Harry's on the south side are coming up first. The potatoes in the other garden are running east to west. I'll have to check out if that is what makes the difference. Some things like grapes need to run north to south. Then again maybe they just need to be on the south side because it has been so.... cool. See, I really need to keep a journal so I can test things out from year to year with differing weather. 
I went to a lecture years ago by a gentleman who advices ranchers around the world helping them work with nature and change their land to a more holistic approach. The results were amazing.  He said when planting a garden don't put all your eggs in one basket. He admitted that he had the tendency to plant things in rows and all in one area but his wife would put things here and there all over the place. The result was that the same crop had a tendency to do better in some areas than others and if they had had them only in the bad area their crop yield would be in danger. He also said that the inter planting confused the bugs. The smell of the plants was diffused by other plant smells making it harder for them to find their favorites. That is why I plant the strong smelling tomato with broccoli in between. The flea beetle smells tomato and not the broccoli.
I really hope this winter I can take some serious time to formulate a garden plan but alas, it has been a haphazard thing just trying to keep up. For now I'm just happy to get things in the ground and pray they will come up, the critters won't eat them, and I can fill many a jar and freezer bag this fall. As I weed and work further on my garden I also need to get the deer fence up. I'm sure when the country begins to dry out they will be back to check out why I have a lush patch of ground. I hope lush patch. 
 The other reason for spreading things out is disease needs contact and plants here and there are less likely to all be effected. .When the times comes that our lives depend on what we grow, this little trick might mean the different between belly full or a grumbling empty stomach. It has been a long time since people in the USA have had to live off of what they produce. Those who don't believe it is coming haven't studied history nor the weather patterns lately.

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