Tag Archives: Michigan Gardening

Potato Update 2012

(Pictures coming soon.)

I was watering today (like everyday…where is the rain?), and I n0ticed some roque potatoes in my garden. Now this is a new garden spot, which was lawn for years before it was turned over.

The deal is that they ran out of seed potatoes at Downtown Home and Garden, so I figured I try buying organic potatoes and let them spout and plant them.

Well a few weeks go by and nothing, so being eager to use the real estate, I planted green beans in half of that space and ended up finding some seed potatoes at Colemans.

Well it turns out that I might have jumped the gun because I am seeing potatoes come up in my green bean patch, which creates an issue of how to mound up the potatoes without affect my now nicely growing beans?

And I also now have 2X the amount the potatoes growing in the other half of the potato bed.

Maybe it will work.

Planting Time: Reflections on Last Year

OK. I have high hopes for my garden last year and I even experimented with some “Time saving” strategies for growing potatoes, my main crop. The idea was to grow potatoes and sell them at my booth at the farmers market.

There were a few issues with the idea. The first was that I used only straw to cover my potatoes, which resulted in a disaster.

(see my enthusiastic before the fact post on horizontal potato growing method.)

The second was that I was planning to sell potatoes, a commodity crop, and most other farmers at the market were selling them and many customers at the market told me that they had a sack of potatoes in their kitchen already

What happened is that along with potato beetles, that ate the leaves , I discovered a centipede bug that ate the tubers.

Potato Beetle not full grown, without distinctive yellow strips

I was really good at picking off the potato beetles and they did not actually kill too many plants, so I figured that I would still get a nice harvest of potatoes.

Centipede bug that ate my potatoes especially my yukon golds

But the real damage were these guys above, a centipede like bug that ate the potatoes.

I was told that my straw mounding method, instead of mounding with soil, is what did me in.

Apparently, what happened is that these centipedes have a hard time getting around under soil, but my nice and moist and loose straw created a perfect home for them and they ate 75% of my potatoes especially my Yukon Golds.

I harvested over 10o pounds, but I should have had 300-500 pounds or more.

Potato harvest

Also my second experiment, potato bags where a total wash.

The plants look great, but yielded no potatoes.

 I literally had less tubers than the seed potatoes I planted. Potato bags are really hit or miss and for me, this being the second time I have tried, it was a complete MISS. Both times, I had no potatoes.
The lesson here is to grow potatoes the traditional way.
That means digging a trench, planting and covering them and mounding them up with soil as they grow.
Then forking them up. 
This takes some effort, but I have found all of the experiments to not be worth it.
As a side note, I used to work for a garden catalog company that sold a potato bin that boosted 50 pounds of potato yields. The company had to issue refunds and was doing a test of 200 of the bins to see if the product worked.
I opted to use good old soil and planted my potatoes in a 3 x 3 foot space giving them a square foot per plant for a total of nine plants. I am pretty sure I out grew any potato bins.

Ann Arbor Blueberries

Here they are. This is our first harvest of blueberries this year. They came off of two blueberry plants that are yet to be planted.

I live on a street in Ann Arbor called Blueberry Lane. Everyone asks me if there are blueberries lining the streets when I tell them where I live.

Until this year the answer was always no.

My thoughts were toward the black berries bushes that have taken over Oregon. Just about every non-majorly landscape area/streets will have a huge blackberry bush in Portland.

I figured someone should plant some blueberries to make the street name official, so after a really, really late start in the garden because of all of that Spring rain this year (remember that), we decided to get a few blueberry bushes to make up for the lost early Spring harvest.

So far we have enough for about one bowl of cereal.




Garden Seed Catalog Season

There is snow on the ground, and the weather has been in the 30-20’s all week, so why am I writing about gardening? February is the time when seed catalogs start coming in. In the comforts of my warm winter house, I start planning what I am going to grow next year.

This is when I factor how much space I have to grow. Will I increase the size of my garden, or even rent a community garden plot? Will I try for a early start with row covers, or try starting seeds inside under lights? And will I try to grow some new veggies or play around with european or asian plant varieties to experiment with new cuisines? Such are the questions of the February arm chair gardner.

Usually my eyes that are glued to the seed catalogs are bigger than my available garden space. That usually does not stop me from growing way more than my family can eat. But right now is the time to decide what I am going to grow next year. This means that I’m planning what I am going to be eating some 4-6 months in advance. Usually I sit down and make a menu for the week on Sunday. Before then I am not sure what I will being eating. So thinking about food six months in advance is a rather interesting concept.

In fact this process started in the fall. This year I have done something different. Based on the Elliot Coleman’s winter gardening books, I decided to plant my garden in the fall to get a jump on early spring. The picture above shows my garden with plastic hoop row covers. The idea is to plant early spring crops like beets, broccoli, carrots, scallions, arugula, and more in the late fall. The row covers provide some extra warmth, and protect from winter wind. When spring comes around, hopefully the plants will take off and start growing earlier. With most of early spring planted, there is late spring and summer seeds to think about.

So what seeds are on the list? I am still looking, but I am thinking about growing some southern food varieties like turnip greens. If I rent a garden plot, I might grow some flowers for the honey bees, and I have been looking into growing potatoes in bins (See future garden post).

Seed Companies resources