New potatoes

new potatoes 081816Today I decided to dig up all of my new potatoes in preparation to have my cold frame planted for fall/winter. I’ve been harvesting from the cold frame-functioning as storage for potatoes since spring-all summer long. This is what’s left and they’re just delicious. I’ve got 2 or three different kinds of potatoes-but the favorite around here is red pontiacs

My cold frame is as simple as you can get. Two by fours and a two by six placed directly on existing soil. I’ll place a $5 window that I bought from ReStore on top for protection. That’s it. The wood is leftovers that I’ve had for a long time. I did empty out several inches of the existing soil and filled it with homemade compost. Its performed perfectly. Because it’s not very big-2X6′-there’s not a lot that can be grown inside of it. I’ve planted 4 rows of late fall/early winter greens.

All star gourmet, rainbow swiss chard, spinach, and sweet repeat are all planted as of today. The timing should be perfect. The greens will be established and not too large so they’ll be able to survive the freezing temperatures without damage.

For those close by and interested, I’ll be teaching a winter low tunnel class next week. Details are listed here. It’s only 90 minutes long but you leave with the knowledge of how to build a tunnel, what plants to grow during this time, and when to plant them for a full harvest through the winter. It’s the easiest time to garden, and we talk about why in class

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Time to start plantings for fall lettuce

cherokee lettuceYes? Unless you are in the warmer climates of Arizona, Nevada, or So. Cal, this is the perfect time to prepare for fall lettuce.  And you’ll be so glad you did.  Temperatures are coming down in our state to the low 90’s.  That’s still too warm to germinate lettuce seeds but this is one of the advantage of the square foot garden.  Because your gardens are limited in size, it becomes easier to do certain things, such as protection.

By having the ability to cover a small patch of garden real estate more possibilities open up to you.  A simple structure that can hold shade cloth can be put together to do just that.  This keeps the hot rays of the sun of your plant, and it helps keep the soil cooler-a very important things to keep in mind when growing lettuce in summertime.  There’s still a few more things you can do to increase your chances of successfully doing this, which is the topic of my next ebook that I’ve been talking about for a year.  Soon!

This particular variety is mottistone, a bavarian lettuce crop.  With night temperatures starting to come down to the mid to low 60’s, it really is a good time to begin your fall garden.  I would put it all in during the next couple of weeks.  You’ll be rewarded handsomely.  And then if you decide not to have a winter garden this year, you can pull it all up and put it away until spring.

I do think you would like the experience of growing fall lettuce, along with other tasty salad greens.  And if there are any seed packets left on the shelves in the store-there usually is-you can usually buy them for .50 each.

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Still time to plant zucchini in some locations

goldmine zucchiniThey say 1 zucchini plant will feed an entire family. I’m a believer in that. My experience has been this: the original zucchini plant does well and then finally dies, but there’s still a fair amount of warm weather available. Why don’t I just plant another one? The reason why is that now its too late in the season. I like to plant another zucchini about 4 weeks after my first planting. That way I’ve got plenty enough to take me until frost. Here in zone 6, we still have time to plant one more zucchini before it’s too late.

Like you, I’ve grown many different varieties of zucchini. Black beauty is a standard and its easy to grow and a good producer. Because its so readily available, I now grow a few other varieties.

This is goldmine-a yellow zucchini with a nice white stripe down the length of the fruit. It goes great with its companion safari-a green zucchini with a white stripes. If you’re looking for a way to mix it up a little bit with zucchini, these are great additions.
For those in the area, I will be teaching the seasons first winter low tunnel garden class. I would love to have a greenhouse but it doesn’t work for me. They are expensive, and usually permanent. You can do virtually the same thing with a low tunnel, although you will be harvesting in challenging weather sometimes. If you’re interested registration is simple. We cover how to build a structure that holds up under snow load, what crops do best in our climate, and when to start them. Class is about 75 minutes long.

Growing leeks

leeks 070816I’ve already begun to think about the fall harvest season. That means starting a couple of things inside for transplants to go out in the garden soon. Lets talk leeks. If I were to wait until fall for planting them it wouldn’t allow enough time to harvest them this year.

There’s many different varieties of leeks, and I’ve tried lots of them. These are a variety that only take 75 days from seed to harvest. Many leeks take upwards of 110 days. My method of growing leeks is a little different. A chef would tell you that the most desirable part of the leek is the white stalk. The more white portion the better. I would encourage you to visit the produce section of your supermarket and check out the leeks. The white portion is usually pretty short: 3-4 inches. I try for 6-8 inches of white, and its very easy to do.

I start by placing leek seeds in a container as shown. The container itself isn’t very deep, and it’s got 4 holes on the underside for drainage. After a short time you’ll end up with skinny little transplants. I get mine to a certain size before transplanting. When I see leek roots beginning to come out of the drainage holes, its time for them to be transplanted. Hardening off is not necessary.

From here I will plant each individual leek start in a hole thats been made with a pencil. How deep do you plant them? I like to plant them so that about 2 inches of the leek remains above ground. I don’t even backfill the holes with dirt. As I water the holes fill up naturally and without even trying I can get a good 6 inches of white on my leeks-sometimes even more.

Now is the time to plan for things like leeks, green onions, kale, cabbage, and brussel sprouts

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Growing potatoes in the square foot garden

IMG_0451Alright-square foot gardeners talk about growing things in only 6″ of soil. That’s true most of the time, but for potatoes not so much.

In Mels book on SFG he talks and shows pictures of his “top-hat” as it’s referred to. This is a simple wood structure that has four side, with no top and no bottom. It can be a 2X4, 2X6, 2X8, etc. Place this top-hat on any square(or squares), fill it with more Mel’s mix, and then you can successfully grow potatoes or any other root vegetable with more soil available.

I make sure that each seed potato has at least 2 eyes, and then I place 5 of them in each square. If it works out, I can count on 6-7 pounds of potatoes per square foot. I don’t bother hilling the potatoes. I just bury them 6-8 inches in the soil, cover them up, water, and then in a matter of weeks they will break the top surface.

Let them grow until the stalks turn brown and start to fall over. Cut back the growth and then reach down to find little gold nuggets. Once you’ve grown your own new potatoes you’ll never want to buy them again.

My favorite potato to grow is Red Pontiac. I grew a purple variety last year and they were okay. Nowhere near as good as the red’s, so I’ll stick mostly to that. Growing different potatoes does give you a contrast in taste and color.

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