Straw Bale Gardening

If you’ve been reading my posts lately you know I’m crazy about my garden. I love being able to eat fresh vegetables I’ve grown myself. I also can, dehydrate, and freeze a lot of the produce. But gardening is hard work and, with my disabilities, it’s painful. So I’m considering doing straw bale gardening instead of my traditional garden.

Traditional gardens require tilling, and weeding. These can be very difficult, if not impossible if you can’t tolerate that sort of work. I usually do my gardening sitting on the ground and kind of scooting from bed to bed. I come in exhausted and filthy from dragging my fanny along the ground. It also puts me right down in the dirt with the various creepy-crawlies.

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Free Strawberry Plants

June around here means strawberries. There are u-pick farms everywhere but I have my own strawberry plant in the garden. Since strawberry plants become less productive over time I’m going to propagate new plants so I’ll go on having thriving plants and fresh strawberries. By doing this I’ll get lots of free strawberry plants.

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If you have a strawberry plant you have seen the long, mostly bare runners they put out. These are how I’ll get my new plants.

 

First I put a few pots filled with good potting mix near my mature strawberry plant. I could also just peg the runners down in the garden soil but I want to move my strawberries to a different location. I located the plantlets on the runners. Some even have tiny roots already.

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This is a pretty long runner and the plantlet is at my fingertips.

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You can see the little roots beginning to form.

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This plantlet doesn’t yet have visible roots but it will develop them.

I’m leaving the runner attached to the parent plant and inserting the roots into my pots. I press the plantlet into the soil gently but firmly. I’m leaving the runner attached to the parent plant for now. Then I insert a u-shaped piece of wire to hold the plantlet in place.

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After about a month the plantlets should have grown new leaves. At that point I’ll cut the runner from both the plantlet and the parent plant. My new strawberry plants will be ready to transplant. Next summer I’ll pinch off all the blossoms from these new plants to allow the plants to develop strong root systems and ensure I get a really good harvest from them every summer thereafter.

Every couple of years I’ll start new plantlets so, as the older plants begin to fade, my strawberry patch will be filled with hearty, young plants.

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UPDATE – Potatoes & Carrots in Pots

I promised an update on the potatoes and carrots I planted in pots and I’m delighted to say that the red potatoes and both kinds of carrots are coming up. The Yukon Gold potatoes haven’t shown any green yet but I’m still hopeful.

These are the red potatoes. I did plant quite a few for the size of the pot but, with luck, they’ll produce the way I want. If things get too crowded I’ll just thin them a bit.

red-potatoes

 

Here are the carrots. I made a rookie mistake in that I didn’t note which pot is the baby carrots and which I planted the full size variety. This may mean I’m going to be pulling a lot of carrots when they’re still small. Lesson learned for next year!

 carrot-close-upA close up of one of the carrots just starting to grow. I’m delighted!

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 There are several carrots here and many more in the pot. I’m going to have to thin them a bit. I can live with having more than I expected!

Growing Potatoes in Pots

My garden soil has blight so I can’t plant potatoes in it. I can protect my tomatoes and peppers from this fungal disease but not my potatoes. So I’m growing potatoes in pots. Even if your garden soil is perfect you may choose to grow potatoes in pots to save space. You may be surprised how many pounds of potatoes you can get from each pot.

Here’s how I planted mine:

  1. We waited until there was no danger of frost.
  1. While we could have used grocery store potatoes we wouldn’t have had as high a yield so we got seed potatoes from a local greenhouse.
  1. The seed potatoes we bought already had eyes but if yours don’t you need to “chit” your seed potatoes. This simply means to get them to sprout eyes. This is done by putting the seed potatoes in a cool, dark place (I use my basement). Each potato should have no more than three eyes because any more weakens the potato and you’ll get small potatoes. Most seed potatoes already have eyes.
  1. We used a couple of very large pots; one for my Yukon Gold potatoes and one for my red potatoes. Potatoes can be grown in darned near anything, including garbage cans. Just be sure you have enough room to build up the soil as the potatoes grow. This encourages the growth of even more tubers.
  1. If using a plastic or rubber pot be sure there are plenty of drain holes in the bottom. One of my pots already had drain holes so my son just drilled 6 holes using a 1/4” drill bit in the bottom of the other.
  1. We used a mix of high quality potting soil and perlite. You can grow your potatoes in almost any drained medium, including perlite. Just be sure it’s a free draining mixture. But before you fill a large pot, make sure you have it positioned where it will get six to eight hours of sunlight and temperatures of about 60° You don’t want to have to move it once it’s filled and heavy. I’m going to have to shade my potatoes part of the day as I didn’t have a spot where I could keep them cool enough.

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  1. We filled the container with about 4 inches of previously moistened soil. Cut large seed potatoes into about 2 inch pieces, each with a couple of eyes. If you’re using small potatoes they can be planted just as they are. If you cut the potatoes let them callus over for a couple of days before planting.
  1. We planted the potatoes fairly closely. We’re going to see if they thrive being close together and, if they do, we should get enough potatoes for both our households to last well into winter. It’s recommended to plant about 4 tubers for a fourteen inch pot. Be sure to plant them with the eyes facing up.

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  1. After placing the potatoes we covered them with a couple of inches of soil.

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  1. We then watered the potatoes lightly. Soil should be kept continuously moist but not wet. They must never be allowed to dry out! Watering twice a week during summer should do it but keep an eye on the moisture levels.

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  1. I’ll use a good organic fertilizer about every two weeks
  1. When the plants have reached about 7 inches tall, we’ll cover them with more soil, leaving about an inch or so of the plant showing. We’ll continue covering all but the tops of the small plants with soil until we’ve reached a depth of about 1.5 – 2 feet of soil.
  1. Potatoes can be harvested once they’ve reached a size you like (just stick your hands in and feel them) or when the plants begin to turn yellow. But please remember that potatoes are a member of the nightshade family and green potatoes are very poisonous!

As my potato plants grow I’ll keep you updated on how they’re doing.

If you live in an area without freezing winters you can grow several potato crops a year, starting with a January planting. I can’t imagine anything better than having newly grown potatoes every day!

We also tried a couple of experimental pots of Baby Finger Carrots.

experimental-baby-carrotsWe planted these in a perlite, coconut fiber mixture. The fiber will dry out fairly quickly so I have to be sure to keep the pots watered consistently.

If you try growing potatoes in pots please tell me about it. I’d love to hear how you did it!
 

 

 

Microgreens

Microgreens are the first true leaves produced from a seedling, often in fewer than 14 days. These greens are young and only reach about 1-3 inches in height. Left to grow, they’ll turn into the full size, mature leafy greens you already know. But you may be eating microgreens without knowing it already. Many restaurants are using them and even commercially packaged salad mixes often have microgreens tucked in. And they’re healthy!

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Researchers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the University of Maryland found that leaves from microgreens had more nutrients than the mature leaves of the same plants. So why not grow your own microgreens?

Most microgreens include large amounts of vitamins C and E and beta carotene. Of course this varies by plant but an example is that red cabbage microgreens contain the highest amount of vitamin C. In fact, they have 40 times more than mature red cabbage!  Cilantro microgreens contain three times more beta-carotene than mature cilantro. With microgreens, the more colorful the crop the more nutrients it contains.

The difference between microgreens and sprouts is that sprouts are seeds germinated in water until they form roots, a stem, and some underdeveloped leaves. Sunlight and soil are requirements for microgreens. And sprouts take only about 48 hours to form while microgreens will take one to two weeks.

Some of the most popular microgreens are:

  • Arugula
  • Cilantro
  • Basil
  • Kale
  • Endive
  • Radish greens
  • Watercress
  • Cabbage
  • Peas
  • Spinach
  • Beet greens
  • Lettuce

Growing microgreens is easy. You can even grow them indoors in just about any container. Use a Styrofoam cup or the plastic containers you buy fruit like blueberries in or even in the cardboard rolls from paper towels or toilet paper!

Make sure whatever container you use has drainage at the bottom. Fill the container with a seed starting mixture (and I just do them in regular, high-quality potting soil), leaving a bit of room at the top. Sprinkle your seeds in and cover with about 1/4 inch of the soil. Don’t overcrowd the seeds but if they end up close don’t worry. You’ll harvest the microgreens before space becomes an issue. After covering the seeds mist them lightly with water from a spray bottle. Keep the containers in the sun and don’t let the seeds dry out.

Growing microgreens in your garden is even easier. Ensure that the soil is loose and free of weeds. Plant the seeds about 1/4 inch deep. They can be spaced close together since they’ll be harvested while still very small. When you water use a gentle stream so you don’t wash the seeds too deep or wash them away.

Harvest the microgreens when they’re about 1 – 3 inches tall and a second set of leaves has formed. You can just cut the plant off above the soil level leaving the roots in the ground. Then plant more seeds. Microgreens cannot be harvested more than once so you want to keep re-seeding when you harvest for a continuous supply.

Follow these simple steps and you can have fresh, nutritious microgreens all year long!