We’re trying raised bed gardening – the slugs you know ….

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He digs in, my husband, who has been diligent in helping me create our kitchen vegetable garden bed these past several years. He digs it and turns the soil by shovel each spring, and then I add seeds, water and watch it grow. Oh were it that simple! Not!

The first couple of years, vegetable garden grew well. When he first laid out the garden bed, I came in behind him, laid down newspaper to cover the soil, then added bags and bags of topsoil. Planted seeds and good garden that year, lots of varieties of produce. . The next year, he turned the soil for me. Fairly good garden that year. The following year, he turned the soil for me, and increased the size of the garden bed somewhat. I repeated the working formula of coming in behind him, laying down newspaper and bags and bags of topsoil. Ooops – garden wasn’t so good that year. And then last year, he turned the soil, and I planted and tended and the garden, and very little happened. No squash, no cucumbers, no tomatoes, squeaky little peppers, and pretty much everything planted didn’t produce.

Well there are the slugs – voracious and muchly increased since the first year we began the vegetable garden. My husband supplies the heavy labor, and I pretty much tend to the rest. My gardening knowledge is limited and I am in a continual learning cycle. I don’t think I’ve even reached my learning curve yet. So this year, I asked him if we could try something different. He agreed to build me some raised beds. He has built 4 so far, and I will want several more to contain all the little baby potted seedlings that I have been growing from seed.

Using combination of 1/2 compost, 1/2 topsoil in the raised beds, I am hoping we can get a clean start this year while I work aggressively to fight off the slug population that has grown in our yard since I first began the vegetable and flower gardens. Looks like I may have planted the kinds of things that attract the slugs and they have ungraciously repopulated themselves many times over.

Think I might add photos of the works in progress. Mostly though, wanted to add a post sharing that I am so pleased to have my husband working in our vegetable garden side by side with me when he is home on the weekends. This last weekend, he completed another raised bed for me, and I attempted The Three Sisters model of planting that bed. Corn, beans and squash. I’ve been doing my research over the winter months, and was determined to try the Native American way of using The Three Sisters principle in planting out this combination crop.

But — the weather in our region has been quite uncooperative, remaining unseasonably cold and chilly throughout most of the spring months, with even some hints of frost and snow way past the usual frost days. A trip to the local store in a nearby town helped me feel a bit better about the serious delay I’m experiencing in planting this year – their entire inventory was dead. Wow!
Rows and rows of dead and dying vegetables and flowers. Guess it was unseasonably cold. Good thing for greenhouses and nurseries, eh?

We paid a visit to the only greenhouse nursery close by, and she was having her end of the season, getting ready to close up for the season, so we got there just about in time. Were able to pick up a few vegetable starter plants – collards and swiss chard. Then a stop at our local public market (which is often short on plants and vegetables), I was able to pick up some more starter vegetables – primarily the squash varieties. Supplied to the public market by a nursery, I inquired where the nursery was, cause I didn’t know about it, and was advised it is wholesale only nursery. Ah, too bad.

So armed now with my newly purchased squash starters, the corn seed which I had planted earlier was just about the right height to be transplanted, and ditto on the bean seeds I had planted earlier, our purchased compost and topsoil and the newly built raised bed my husband made this weekend, I was ready to plant that bed in the manner of The Three Sisters. While this is not quite at all the instructions I copied in how to plant in the fashion of The Three Sisters method of planting, I’m hoping my hybrided version will still net me results — I mean produce.

The bed is in, and it remains to be seen now what kind of success I will have. The technique to The Three Sisters is planting the seeds in alignment with the growing season, so that the squash leaves don’t shade out the beans and corn, the bean vines don’t overtake and strangle the corn. Since I couldn’t plant the seeds in accordance to the plan, I fear the squash starter vegetables may already be too large for the smaller beans and corns seedlings. Hmm, we’ll see how it goes. Oh, and there was only room in the bed left for one sunflower – so that is more a symbolic gesture. Also, I’m thinking the container bed may be too shallow – not enough soil depth, but again, we’ll see what we get. And hopefully the slugs won’t have a feast before we do.

Deersong

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Growing Sweet Potatoes – underneath those vines, there really are sweet potatoes

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I have a sweet potato vine growing in a container in my kitchen window, and I keep wondering if it would actually grown a sweet potato underneath the soil. Perhaps so. From a poster at one of the listservs I am subscribed to, she cites her experience with sweet potatoe vines…and it sounds like it was an unexpected surprise to her to find actual sweet potatoes growing.

I am put off a bit by learning the sweet potato is a cousin to the morning glory vines, and yes, the leaves of the vine do look much like the morning glory vines in my yard. Since I already ‘fight’ with the spreading morning glory vines that never really are eradicated, but I try to keep them from overtaking our intentional plantings, I’m not sure I would want to generate another aggressive vine spreader with sweet potatoes. So, I will think some about this, how I can grow and keep contained, because I do want sweet potatoes – Yes!

A shout out of thanks to Brenda for sharing her experience:

I just took pieces that were sprouting & put them against a chain link fence. The vines grew all over the fencing. Then they branched out all over my garden.. like weeds. When the leaves started to die a little, you could see the potatoes peeking up from the mound at the base of the plant. As I started pulling up the runners, I kept finding more.

They are a member of the morning glory family & the vines act like it… I had one potato that was the size of a coconut!! No special care. Didn’t water them any more than the normal grey water from the laundry & whatever water God gave me. No pesticides. A little mulch from the horse stable but nothing special. I harvested more today. Very hardy. Willing to take over the world if you let it.

Deersong

Growing Potatoes in Garbage Can or similar other container

Okay, I wanted to try this last year, and so another growing season, and I am doing it this year (2008).
From a poster on one of my listservs – the simple explanation and then the detailed explanation with link to site;

We have been growing potatoes in containers for years and it is really easy. You need to put drainage holes in the bottom and broken clay pot pieces to help drain water off the roots to prevent root rot. Add some rich soil (we compost all left over veggies from the kitchen) then plant your potato eyes. As the vines grow cover them with more loose compost and they will keep growing. Web site that explains the process in more detail.

Link (no longer works)  to detailed instructions;

How to Grow Potatoes in a Container (Ciscoe’s Secrets)

Get a clean garbage can or similar container. Plastic works great because it won’t rust out. Drainage is absolutely necessary. Drill several 1/2 inch holes in the bottom. It also helps to drill some holes in the side about half-inch up from the bottom of the container.

Fill the container with about 6 inches of good potting soil. Mix in about a handful of osmocote 14-14-14 fertilizer. Osmocote is a slow release fertilizer that will stay active for approximately 2 1/2 months. Organic fertilizers formulated for acid loving plants such as rhododendrons also works well. (Note: After 2 1/2 months with osmocote, or about 1 1/2 months with organic, fertilize with a good water soluble fertilizer such as Miracle Grow about every two weeks according to directions on the label). Place whole seed potatoes in the soil. There should be about 5 inches between potatoes. Cover with an additional inch or so of soil. All potatoes should be completely covered with soil. Water the spuds in.

The potatoes will begin to grow. When the vines reach 4 inches, cover all but 1 inch with compost or straw. I like to use compost, because it is easy to reach in to pick potatoes. Every time the vines grow another 4 inches, keep covering all but the top inch. Eventually, the vines will grow out of the top of the container. It is a good idea to stake up the vines so they don’t fall over and brake. Place 4 bamboo or wood stakes (one in each corner) and tie the vines to the stakes with twine. By now the whole container will be filled with compost. Soon the vines will flower. Not long after that, the vines will begin to produce potatoes all along the vines that are covered with compost in the container. Once they have become big enough, you can reach in and pick a few for dinner any time you want. These spuds are called “new potatoes.” They won’t keep long in the fridge, so pick-em and eat em. After the vines die back at the end of summer, the potatoes remaining are storing potatoes. You can harvest and store them as you normally would. These will keep well as long as they are stored in a dark, cool, and relatively dry location.

One last note: take care to provide adequate water. You don’t want to drown the plants but it’s also important the soil at the bottom never dries out. In late summer spuds may need to be watered on a daily basis. Use a watering can to water to avoid wetting the foliage. I found that keeping the containers in an area with morning sun exposure prevents the soil from drying out too rapidly and still allows enough sun for a bumper crop.

This method of growing spuds is really fun. You get lots of them without using much space, and it amazes visitors to your yard. Last year I harvested 35 large Yukon Gold and 55 good sized Peruvian Blue potatoes. Great served with brussels sprouts!

Deersong