Sunday, September 24, 2017

The Garlic Bed Awaits

This is our garden near the back woods.  We looked here for new ground that had not been contaminated by several years of trying to grow diseased garlic.  Slow to learn, our first crop here was garlic from our old stock.  That poisoned the far bed that now supports strawberry plants.  We will never plant garlic in that area again and the soil borne disease seems to have stayed put.  This year our seed garlic will be planted in the near bed.  It was newly opened this spring.  Potatoes were the first crop planted here and they provided us with a substantial harvest.

Twelve five gallon pails of soil amendment and a sprinkling of lime were added to this ground.  Our mix contains our own compost that never contained garlic, Black Kow dehydrated manure and peat moss.  This soil is vastly different from what we have near the house.  Here stones are relatively few in number and this ground contains a great deal of clay.  The clay retains moisture helping the plants survive rainless periods but it bakes nearly as solid as bricks.  We will try to add soil building  amendments that will loosen this ground.   The relative lack of stones has prevented the completion of stone paths between the planting beds.  Reground tree bark mulch covers the path separating the two halves of this garden.  Anything organic fills the path between two beds.

Our major hurdle remains clearing the ground of quack grass and preventing its reentry.  Repeated applications of dried grass clippings encourages the quack grass root system to move out of the ground and into the rotting grass clippings.  Rolling large clumps free of the soil requires persistence but the weed is nearly completely removed.  Followup removal of missed roots eventually clears the ground of this pest.

These four planting beds have been cleared of weeds and three of them covered with leaves collected last year.  Some of the leaves have experienced a trip through the lawn mower while others await their turn.  The chopped leaves decay much faster than the whole leaves and are far less likely to be wind blown about.  Despite this effort, some of our treasure of millions of weed seeds will find an opportunity to grow alongside of the desired crops that we plant.  We would prefer that our garden remain weed free but all that we manage is to give our desired plants a head start.  Some hand weeding is timely completed thereby feeding the compost pile.  We are certain that this is a never ending task.

This bark mulch moat is intended to keep the quack grass from reentering the planting beds.  Both the cardboard base and the bark chips will rot but removing the weeds is rather easily done.  We previously tried landscape fabric but the weed roots firmly anchored themselves in the fabric.  The tops of the weeds could be pulled free with great difficulty but the remaining roots quickly sent up new growth and completed their steady march into the planting beds.  This modified system will likely work better.  We need to take this system around the corner and to the far edge of the new garlic bed.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Potato Planting Time

This is not the generally accepted time of the year to plant potatoes.  Here, mid May is generally accepted as appropriate potato planting time.  Anyone that has grown potatoes has experienced last year's missed spuds growing as weeds in the following year's crop.  It just seemed obvious to me that fall planting was possible.  Others have tried this without success.  My reasoning was that those selected for seed should remain in the soil.  I usually have the dishpan filled with soil ready for the seed as soon as it is found.  That is not being done here as I was confused when these were dug.  They have been out of the ground little more than two hours but there is nothing that can be done about that now.  So, I plant, record and hope.

Summer squash grew in this bed earlier this year.  Leaf mulch was used to control weed growth and the ground remained mostly free of unwanted plants.  Two rows containing twelve seed potatoes each were planted in the 12 ft. X 5 ft. planting area.  Red Pontiac's finished off this planting.  As a mid season red potato, they are impressive.  A search was required to find the size preferred for planting.  Most were too large to plant without cutting.

The coarse leaf mulch that spent the summer under the squash was forced through a wire screen sieve with a 1 in. X 1 in. hole size.  This smaller size will help keep the mulch in place over the winter with no plant growth above it.  Also, the leaves will largely rot away by spring.

We have planted six each of the four varieties Red Pontiac, Rio Grande, Genessee and Purple Viking. That will give us a red skinned white flesh potato, a russet of impressive size, a tan skinned white potato and a psychedelic patterned red and purple skinned white potato.  Only the Purple Viking is in its third year here.  It tends to throw lunkers so finding suitably sized seed is difficult.  This variety may well be in its last year with us.  We are reluctant to keep planting our own seed thereby risking blight that caused the Irish Potato Famine.