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Potatoes!

By Lauren

So this year I turned the entirety of my mound garden from last year to the potato patch this year.  This created a bit better than double the space than we had from last year and I hoped that it would provide enough potatoes for at least 3 families.

Last year I planted intensively and operated on the false notion that the more potatoes that I planted the more potatoes I would yield.  Well folks, when you crowd plants they tend to produce less! A lesson that I learned, yet we still had a fantastic yield, supplying both my family and Trista’s.  This year however, because we keep our produce in the root cellar that my dad built, that is located at my sisters house, I wanted to make sure there was enough spuds for her family as well. So we expanded the patch, AND planted differently. I am a fan of companion planting and biointensive planting which in my opinion is the most effective in raised beds and optimizes space.  It also helps with soil health. But after the back breaking task of digging the potatoes last year I decided to plant in rows so that we could us an old horse drawn potato digger.  I lack the horse in this equation but my trusty four wheeled red beast was up to the task.

SO, I planted potatoes at least a 12-18 inches apart and also gave atleast 18 inches between rows! Well, it worked! Last year as potatoes were ready we ate 1/3 of the patch through the summer, this year we did not even finish one row! I think I planted about 7 rows. I planted a  Cheiften, a Purple Russian and a Russet.

I had plans of putting a deep straw mulch down to help with weeds, and I did get that done with my beans to great success. But the poor potato patch was neglected in my rush to get ready for a trip to Denmark to visit family. I settled with the fact they were planted.

My most enthusiastic helper sorting spuds by colour to be planted from our leftover potatoes.

My most enthusiastic helper sorting spuds by colour to be planted from our leftover potatoes.

My mantra remains “Next Year”.

I had also planed to get those potatoes out of the root cellar before May so that they could hit the soil growing but alas, it came time to plant and I remembered that I should have had them out three weeks ago.  Next year…

Potatoes planted.

Potatoes planted.

Same goes for hilling the potatoes.  Trista and I swear like sailors every time we harvest at all the sunburnt potatoes we toss. I was thinking we could save them for seed potatoes but they were already starting to go bad before we even got them to the root cellar.  I am not a perfect gardener, not even a really good gardener.  The amount of weeds in my garden is staggering and sends many in to a tizzy when they walk through it with me, but I don’t worry about it.  If I did, I would probably quit growing things because of the massive amount of things I don’t get done.  I choose to focus on what I do get done and do my best to do better next year. I know that I could lighten my load exponentially by spraying round-up on the quack grass and weeds, but I can’t do it.  I would rather look on a forest of weeds than give in.  I choose to keep my garden and the food it produces free of chemicals. I have even stopped using commercial fertilizer, focusing instead on learning about soil health and growing really healthy soil. Something that is not easily done if you use a spray like round-up as it kills the micro organisms that are the foundation of healthy soil. So that is is my soap box for today.  Despite the lack of perfection in my garden it still produces a wonderful bounty for my family and friends. I feel such great satisfaction and gratitude that I am able to feed my family by my own hands.

In my absence from the garden between June and July (only the worst time to leave) I have to extend a HUGE THANK YOU to my dad, who stayed at my house and watered every day and kept things growing. Thank you, Dad. The garden would have been a shrivelled barren patch had you not kept an eye on things.

We had great heat this year most of the time we were gone, end of June and beginning of July, and the potatoes were flourishing. When I got home from our vacation, the garden was at the hight of the season.

My first big harvest from the garden. Purple beans, potatoes (red and purple) parsley, basil and a few onions.

My first big harvest from the garden. Purple beans, potatoes (red and purple) parsley, basil and a few onions.

One Hill.

One Hill.

This wondrous machine made short work of the digging.

This wondrous machine made short work of the digging.

When done properly the potatoes just spill out of the ground and await us to come pick them up.

When done properly the potatoes just spill out of the ground and await us to come pick them up.

This goofy mutt dug a fair few potatoes out for us.

This goofy mutt dug a fair few potatoes out for us.

I am excited for next year, I am planning a lot more flowers and a new approach in regards to controlling the quack grass. I am hoping to smother it with black plastic.  Burn it first then mulch heavily with wood chips.  The chips can then after a few years be put onto the garden.  I am not expecting miracles but a little bit more manageable would be nice.

 

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Oven Drying Herbs

Oven Drying Herbs

Recently, my family and I went to Denmark.  My husband is Danish and his family still lives there.  We have been twice now, and always enjoy it so much.  Really, it is the place of my gardening and wild foraging dreams, with wild elderberry growing nearly every where you look.  Did you know they grow witch hazel? It’s a tree! Who knew? But I digress..

My sister-in-law Trine has a lovely little herb garden as well as some raised boxes for veggies.  When we were there the oregano was trying to flower so we pinched it way back and then had all of these wonderful smelling leaves. Neither Trine nor I wanted to waste them so I suggested oven drying.  She said she had tried it once and it didn’t work for her. Well, never shy of a challenge and not one to take no for an answer, I hit you tube for some more info.

The directions were pretty simple, oven on lowest setting, leave for 15-30min (depending on what you are drying) and then check every 10 min after that.  Ok so away I went. WELL, that didn’t work at all.  The oregano turned dark brown and looked very unappetizing. Back to the internet I went.  The temperature recommendation was unspecific other than to say not ABOVE 200F. I am in Europe and there is not a fahrenheit gauge in sight, but I discovered a possible problem.  Her oven started at 50C which is much to low.  After getting some help from google on conversion we settled closer to 75C which is about 167F.  All of a sudden the oregano started to dry without loosing its colour.  We tried to not over dry it, taking it out before it was very brittle and voila! Dried oregano. It was very quick and space saving, and I do believe I will be trying this out at home!  Here are some pictures of the exercise.

We striped all of the leaves off of the stems.  Not a necessary step, and it's time consuming but makes keeping the leaves whole for long term storage much easier.

We striped all of the leaves off of the stems. Not a necessary step, and it’s time consuming but makes keeping the leaves whole for long term storage much easier.

Leave the door cracked to allow for lots of air flow and humidity to escape.

Leave the door cracked to allow for lots of air flow and humidity to escape.

Oven up to temperature.

Oven up to temperature.

You want to put it down in a single layer.  I did one tray with much less on it and after these two I would cover all available space.

You want to put it down in a single layer. I did one tray with much less on it and after these two I would cover all available space.

Drying in the oven. Not sure if the paper towel is necessary but used it anyway.

Drying in the oven. Not sure if the paper towel is necessary but used it anyway.

All done!

All done!

After this success, I attacked her Lavender patch.  Oh to have a Lavender patch! Alas, living in Zone 3, Lavender is only a thing of dreams.

Top rack drying with a bit of paper towel to hold the stalks up.

Top rack drying with a bit of paper towel to hold the stalks up.

Like I said, using ALL the space.

Like I said, using ALL the space.

Happy plant drying everyone!

 
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Posted by on July 24, 2015 in Gardening, Preserving Food

 

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This is for you Lauren

By Lauren 

Okay in the spirit of this blog, this post is a little reminder to myself for next spring. 

Last year was the first year I ever started my own plants. I spotted some indoor greenhouses is at Peavy Mart and thought my two south facing windows would be perfect. (Which, by the way they are.) Anyway I purchased the greenhouses, set them up, commenced planting seeds and ended up with ridiculous amounts of tomatoes. But that is a story for another time. Last summer when all of the starts were out of the little green houses I packed them up and put them away. Actually I do believe my mother-in-law had a great deal to do with this. Thanks Edel, you are the best. 

Well spring has come and it was time to dig out the greenhouses and set them up. I had been rummaging around in my garden shed and knew approximately where everything was. So I carted it all up to the house on the deck and commence trying to put it together. And I sat there… For how long I sat there trying to figure out how these prices could possibly fit together, I will not say. But I will tell you it was a significant amount of time from my life that I will never get back. It took a Google search to realize that I did not have all the pieces.  So back to the garden shed I went, and collected all the necessary parts. 

So future Lauren, this is for you. Don’t forget the long pieces go across and the short pieces go up and down.



The next trick of course is making sure I put them somewhere I can find them next spring!!!! 😳😳😳

Lauren

 
 

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