Saturday, June 13, 2009

Apples of the Earth

I was a little behind schedule, last week, but I made up for it with a six-hour gardening session. As mentioned several times in this blog, the neighbourhood squirrels have forced me to plant only root vegetables. So, my garden will soon be sprouting carrots, onions, beets, parsnips and a few different varieties of potatoes.

About a month ago, I dug all my compost into the garden and created my ‘beds’ for the vegetables. I mentioned that I had a few small fires, on top of the beds, to get rid of all the broken branches and pruned bushes (from spring clean up). The ash that was left behind added nitrogen to the soil and something else… I hadn’t realized at that time.

You will notice, in this photo, that the bed where I had one of my fires, has almost no weeds. It makes sense to me now, to realize that the heat of the fire burned all the roots of the weeds that would have grown in this area. The second bed is covered in weeds. This was my first job… getting the beds ready for planting.

My neighbour’s son, who often drops by for a visit, was very interested in helping me get my garden ready. After I had shown him how to use the dutch hoe, I put him to work – LOL!!! About two minutes later, he had decided that my other neighbour needed his help pruning a bush in his front yard, so I continued on my own.

I keep a small container, under my sink in the kitchen, to collect all the eggshells from our breakfasts. After a while, all the remnants of yolk have dried up and the shells are put to use in my garden. I use a potato masher to break them into really small bits.

Then, I sprinkle the eggshell bits onto the beds and I turn the soil one more time, also digging in the ash from my spring fires.

Then, I use my flat rake to reshape the beds before I plant my seeds. I mentioned before that a raised bed has more surface area, than a level garden, and this allows more sunlight to heat the soil. I also build a small ledge around the outside of the bed, to keep the rainwater confined and focussed in the area where the roots will be growing. During the times when I have to water the garden, I only have to water in these smaller areas and not the entire garden, thus saving a lot of this precious resource.

Near the end of February, Joanne and I filled this small box with a number of different varieties of potatoes – that we had bought at the market – and stored it in the bottom of our pantry cupboard. Then the potatoes began to sprout roots.

I learned, while working for a farmer in 2003 during our stay in Nova Scotia, that each root sprout (referred to as ‘eyes’) would be able to produce a potato plant. You can see that this potato has three eyes.

So, I chopped the potato in three sections and each section could produce four or five potatoes. This means that just this one potato could produce about a dozen or so other potatoes of the same size. Please, tell me again… why do we have world hunger?! It’s amazing to think that each plant that we see, be it a flower or a vegetable, has the ability to reproduce itself ten to many hundreds of times… each year!

After the seeds and potato chunks have been planted, it is time to soak the skin… of the Earth, that is!

My neighbour told me a story about how to get up to three times as many potatoes, per plant, as conventional growing methods. It sounded like a neat idea, so I gave it a try. I figured that I would also grow some, using methods that I have learned in the past, so that I can compare my results during the harvest season. I’ll share this ‘new’ (probably old) idea in a later blog, once I’m ready to take the next step in that process.

The way that I’ve been growing them is the ‘hump’ method. I’ll dig down into the bed and create a crater. I put three potato chunks into each crater – eyes facing down. Then I pile the soil nice and high, creating a hump. I’m not exactly sure how or why this is done – LOL – but this was the advice given to me be several gardeners and so far it has worked well. Most people stop here… but I came up with this final idea: I use my fist and I create a crater in the top of the hump. Now, when I water my potato patch I fill the craters with lots of water (that goes straight down to the vegetables), as well as around the outside of each hump – that I’ve excavated like a trough.

I tell ya – after this afternoon gardening session I had a little R & R and enjoyed a super yummy BBQ’d meal that Jo’ prepared for us this evening! I had earned it.


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