Monday, June 30, 2008

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

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 (below):

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.
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Growing Potatoes in Garbage Can (or other similar 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 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!
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Epsom Salts - Nutrient for flowers and plants

entry from the Tacoma News Tribune 'Get Growing' blog


Alert! This just in from the Epsom Salt Council. Could it possibly be true?

Just as “Milk does a body good,” Epsom Salt may be one of the most perfect nutrients for flowers and plants. And mid-to-late spring is the ideal time to nourish the soils and roots of your favorite foliage and flowers with this inexpensive and easy-to-use compound. According to the Epsom Salt Council, research indicates Epsom Salt can help seeds germinate; make plants grow bushier; produce more flowers; increase chlorophyll production; improve phosphorus and nitrogen uptake; and deter pests, including slugs and voles.

Anyone used Epsom salt? What did you think? If you haven't tried it, but want to, the Epsom Salt Council recommends these amounts:

Shrubs (evergreens, azaleas, rhododendron): 1 tablespoon per 9 square feet. Apply over root zone every 2-4 weeks.

Lawns: Apply 3 pounds for every 1,250 square feet with a spreader, or dilute in water and apply with a sprayer.

Trees: Apply 2 tablespoons per 9 square feet. Apply over the root zone 3 times annually.

Garden Startup: Sprinkle 1 cup per 100 square feet. Mix into soil before planting.

Roses & Tomatoes: Use 1 tablespoon per foot of plant height per plant; apply every two weeks.

For more details, click here.

UPDATE: WSU professor Linda Chalker-Scott has written an interesting article that takes a skeptical look at using Epsom salt in the garden. Click here to read.
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Sunday, June 29, 2008

Slideshow - photos over the years

Here is a slideshow that in photos chronicles some elements of our lives since we moved to Pacific County eight years ago.


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What we did, what we do now

Sweetie made this blog some time back, and it has been sitting idle as long. We intended to partner blog and were using this particular blog as a vehicle to chronicle some elements of living our life in this wonderful treasure of a hamlet called Bay Center (named so because it is a peninsula that juts out into the center of Willapa Bay). We didn't do what we intended with this blog. Some years have passed and elements of our life and activities together are reflected in bits and pieces spread out amongst our other blogs.

It would be a bit time consuming to capture the last five years of our life living here in this village on the bay into one blog entry, so I won't try. As we move on with posting to this blog about our lives now, likely some of our past activities will show themselves in our future posts together.

He is five years to retirement, and I 'retired' a little earlier - May 2003 - but since I only put in sixteen of the required twenty years, I'm not going to be receiving any kind of a retirement pension. Thus, I am not officially 'retired'. We are trying to figure out how (if)our income in retirement will meet our daily needs. We used the rules we grew up with as the basis for our retirement, but we can see those rules have become antiquated and outdated for these tumultuous economic times.

So in between our intense efforts and activities to speak out as military family with loved ones deployed in Iraq (see more on our activism at one of my blgs, Dying to Preserve the Lies), there have been some other things we do in our daily lives besides activism. Although it has taken me about the last year to clear my head a bit from the intensity of the previous five years of activism, enough to see that it became so all consuming for me, therefore for us, maybe we are finding some balance in our lives now. Looking out at the horizon, there are new challenges for all of us ahead in these difficult times with the looming oil/food/economic crisis. As we post to this blog, we will be addressing our efforts at how we are trying to be somewhat prepared for an uncertain future.

Recognizing that we don't have the survival skills of our ancestors, we are trying to learn a thing or two about a thing or two. Learning about food management is one of several of our current shared focus - growing our own food, harvesting, preserving what we grow - and that is a large enough chunk to bite off as the peripheral topics that accompany it become their own kind of challenges, ie, making a root cellar.

I think because it is something we CAN do, it helps us to feel like we are attempting to do something concrete in the face of knowing that the wolf is at the door. We have spent a goodly amount of the last five years being messengers, and it feels good and right to turn attention now to spending less time messengering, and more time doing. Amen.
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Independence Day Challenge 2008 - A Food Management Challenge

I'm pleased to have found this great challenge and it is a challenge - Independence Day Challenge 2008 - at Casaubon's Book blog. The blog is full of useful information and worth a look. We (husband and I, oh and our dog and cat) are already into our efforts of trying to learn how to take care of ourselves (primarily feed ourselves) as the oil/food/economic crisis continues. And we recognize we will fall seriously short in our efforts unless we learn the skills and make them part of our daily habits.

Much of the blogging that I've done to date has felt more like 'heed the warnings' sort of messengering. But I think the 'warnings' now are coming from many messengers, and I want to change the direction of my blogging efforts.

With that in mind, I'm liking what I'm seeing in taking the Independence Day Challenge 2008. It seems like good practice to get in better shape for food management challenges headed our way.Read the details at Casabon's blog - Independence Days; My First Challenge. Simply stated --

That means in each day or week, try to:

1. Plant something.
The idea that you should plant all week and all year is a good reminder to those of us who sometimes don’t get our fall gardens or our succession plantings done regularly. Remember, that beet you harvested left a space - maybe for the next one to get bigger, but maybe for a bit of arugula or a fall crop of peas, or a cover crop to enrich the soil. Independence is the bounty of a single seed that creates an abundance of zucchini, and enough seeds to plant your own garden and your neighbor’s.

2. Harvest something.
From the very first nettles and dandelions to the last leeks and parsnips dragged out of the frozen ground, harvest something from the garden or the wild every day you can. Be aware of the bounty around you realizing that there’s something - even if it is dandelions for tea or wild garlic for a salad - to be had every single day. Independence is really appreciating and using the bounty that we have.

3. Preserve something.
Sometimes this will be a big project, but it doesn’t have to be. It doesn’t take long to slice a couple of tomatoes and set them on a screen in the sun, or to hang up a bunch of sage for winter. And it adds up fast. The time you spend now is time you don’t have to spend hauling to the store and cooking later.

4. Prep something.
Hit a yard sale and pick up an extra blanket. Purchase some extra legumes and oatmeal. Sort out and inventory your pantry. Make a list of tools you need. Find a way to give what you don’t need to someone who does. Fix your bike. Fill that old soda bottle with water with a couple of drops of bleach in it. Plan for next year’s edible landscaping. Make back-road directions to your place and send it to family in case they ever need to come to you - or make ‘em for yourself for where you might have to go. Clean, mend, declutter, learn a new skill. Independence is being ready for whatever comes.


5. Cook something.
Try a new recipe, or an old one with a new ingredient. Sometimes it is hard to know what to do with all that stuff you are growing or making. So experiment now. Can you make a whole meal in your solar oven? How are your stir-fried pea shoots? Stuffed squash blossoms? Wild morels in pasta? Independence is being able to eat and enjoy what is given to us.

6. Manage your reserves.
Check those apples and take out the ones starting to go bad and make sauce with it. Label those cans. Clean out the freezer. Ration the pickles, so you’ll have enough to last to next season. Use up those lentils before you take the next ones out of the bag. Find some use for that can of whatever it is that’s been in the pantry forever. Sort out what you can donate, and give it to the food pantry. Make sure the squash are holding out. Independence means not wasting the bounty we have.


7. Work on local food systems.
This could be as simple as buying something you don’t grow or make from a local grower, or finding a new local source. It could be as complex as starting a coop or a farmer’s market, creating a CSA or a bulk store. You might give seeds or plants or divisions to a neighbor, or solicit donations for your food pantry. Maybe you’ll start a guerilla garden or help a homeschool coop incubate some chicks. Maybe you’ll invite people over to your garden, or your neighbors in for a homegrown meal, or sing the praises of your local CSA. Maybe you can get your town to plant fruit or nut producing street trees or get a manual water pump or a garden put in at your local school. Whatever it is, our Independence days come when our neighbors and the people we love are food secure too.


Sharon does have one of those challenge buttons at her blog and provides the html code. I couldn't seem to get the html code to work so don't have the button on this blog -- yet. But I will make weekly reports, I think, about how I'm handling my Independence Day Challenges.
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Thursday, June 26, 2008

Slideshow of family photos

Dropping in a slideshow of some family photos I had saved online over the years. Weddings, newborns, get togethers, and our life together in Bay Center.


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