It’s been quite wet and chilly this week, and we know this won’t last long! Hope everyone got outside this weekend.
Charlene Toloso is putting together a Plant of the Month Recipe Book which will feature a vegetable/fruit from the Cook’s Gardens. This month is the potato, Solanum tuberosum, first cultivated by the Inca Indians somewhere between 8,000 and 5,000 BC. The potato first arrived in Europe by the Conquistadors returning from Peru and the crop spread quickly because it was easily cultivated and did well in the European climate. Today, there are 5,000 varieties grown worldwide and it is the fourth largest food crop grown behind rice, wheat and maize. The failure of potato crops in Ireland in the 1840’s from Phytophthoora infestans, or Late Blight of Potatoes, resulted in the immigration of 1.5 million citizens to North America.
According to the book, “Vegetable Gardening in the Southeast” by Ira Wallace, gardeners in the Southeastern US can grow 2 crops of potatoes per year. In early spring they can be started outdoors up to two weeks before the last frost (March 15-April 20). In the fall, early varieties can be planted at least 90 days before the average first frost. It is recommended to “chit” the seed potatoes before planting by spreading them out in a single layer in a cool and well lit room. The potatoes will turn green and the eyes will sprout.
Plant seed potatoes using pieces the size of an egg with at least one eye, in furrows, cut side down. Spacing should be 10-12″ x 24-36″ in well-drained soil. Pull a ridge of soil over the top, and continue to mound as the plants get bigger. It is important to make sure all growing potatoes are always covered to keep them from turning green and toxic.
(VCE Publication 426-413, Potatoes, Peppers, and Eggplant)
At the Teaching Garden, Amye, Jean, Harriet and Thomas are growing this spring’s potatoes using sustainable techniques. These include growing cereal rye over the winter as a “green manure”, turning it in 2 weeks before planting, and later, heavy mulching with straw to provide good habitat for toads and spiders, natural predators of Potato Beetle larvae. The larvae emerge from from the soil in the spring. Instead of spraying insecticides when adult larvae begin to feed, Master Gardeners at the Teaching Garden pick off the adults and drown them in the “bad bud swimming pool”. Home gardeners will probably have to do this daily! (These are Japaneses Beetles, and this is a simple mixture of water and dish detergent)
Charlene is looking for recipes for the Recipe Book, so if you have any favorites, please email her. She has also made wire baskets to discourage deer from eating the succulents in the Drought Resistant Bed.
Other pictures from the week of April 17. The beds are looking great and they are almost ready for the tour!