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How to grow your own potatoes and harvest them twice in one year

How to grow your own potatoes and harvest them twice in one year

Freshly harvested young red potatoes from my garden

Often times when I buy a big bag of potatoes, I end up not being able to use all of them. Or, I wait too long to use them and they start growing little shoots all around the potato – even still in the bag. Here is the good news about this, you can use potatoes that have started to send out shoots to grow your own potato plants. I did this earlier this year. I had some red potatoes that sat in my kitchen for too long. Instead of throwing them out, I decided to put them in my garden. You can also buy seed potatoes from a nursery or seed store in your area. Potatoes are really easy to grow and you can actually get two harvests from each plant every year. Here is how to grow your own potatoes and harvest them twice in one year:

1. Take your sprouted potatoes or purchased seed potatoes and cut them into sprouted sections

Each sprouting potato can become 5-6 plants (sometimes more) depending on how many sprouts are developing on the potato. You can take the potato and cut it into big sections around each of these sprouts. Cut the whole potato up leaving as much of the potato flesh with each sprout as possible.

2. Prep the soil for planting the potatoes

Soil prep is really important in order to get a good harvest of potatoes. Since the potatoes themselves will form at the roots of the plant, they like soil that is loose and deep. Try to dig the soil to a depth of 1 foot before planting and make sure the soil is loose. It is also important that the soil drains well. If it doesn’t you may end up having water that sits around the potato roots and begins to rot the newly forming potatoes.

3. Plant each section of sprouted potato 4-6 inches deep

Once you have sectioned the potato, you are ready to plant. Dig a furrow that is 4-6 inches deep. Set each potato section into the furrow spacing them out by about a foot. If you are gardening in a smaller space, you can plant the potatoes closer together but you will probably get less of a yield. When the plants get to be about 1 foot tall, it is helpful to pull the soil up around the base of the plants creating a mound. This protects the deep roots and allows for more soil for new potatoes to form. The best time to plant the potatoes is when all chance of frost is passed and the soil is well warmed. You can also plant mid to late summer depending on how warm the fall is in your area.

The other option you can try is planting the potato plants in a 5 gallon bucket with drainage wholes cut into the bottom. Fill the 5 gallon bucket with soil and then plant the potato (or a couple potatoes) 4-6 inches deep. Then, be sure to water well as your potatoes begin to grow.

4. When do I harvest my potatoes?

How to grow your own potatoes and harvest them twice in one year

Potato plant flowers indicate that you can do a mid-cycle harvest

There are actually two times that you can harvest potatoes (especially with Yukon Gold and All Red Potato varieties). You know you can do the first harvest when the plants have flowered. In order to do this, lightly dig around the base of the plant being careful not to disturb the roots. As you sift through the soil, you will discover little potatoes. Pull up as many of these little potatoes as you want and be sure to eat them within a couple of days as they don’t last very long. When you have harvested the young potatoes, replace the soil and then water well. Be sure to reform the mounds around the plants.

The potatoes are ready for the second harvest when the plants have started loosing their color and dying back. At this point, you can thoroughly dig up the plants (or just dump out your 5 gallon bucket if you are container gardening). Dig deep around the roots and you will find lots of mature potatoes throughout the soil surrounding the potato plants. I have found that I often don’t find all the potatoes in the soil. This works out great because I get volunteer potatoes in my garden the next year, ready to start the double harvest process again when the plants begin to bloom.

That’s it. Next time your potatoes start to sprout, try planting them in your garden instead of tossing them out. Then, enjoy your own fresh, organic potatoes later that year.

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Uses for paper rolls around the garden

TogetherFarm Blocks™

TogetherFarm Blocks™

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There are many uses for paper rolls around the garden. Paper rolls from toilet paper, paper towels, and gift wrapping seem to add up quickly as I noticed while taking my recycling out the other day. I checked around the internet for ways to reuse these. Here are four of my favorites.

Seed starters

Seed Starter

 

A number of web sites have a great how-tos on creating simple seed starter pots for your new crops.  This is a great material as it breaks down in the soil after several waterings and composts nicely.  It is August, but there are a lot of fall crops that need that head start now.  There’s a quick article on what to plant for your specific region on About.com’s Organic Gardening page that can be found here.  For the Pacific Northwesterners, this includes:

  • Arugula
  • Beets
  • Broccoli(Transplants)
  • Brussels Sprouts (Transplants)
  • Cabbage (Transplants)
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower (Transplants)
  • Cilantro
  • Collard greens

For a step-by-step guide to create your seed starters, check out You Grow Girl’s handy article.

Protect store-bought starts

Seedling In Tube

 

This idea is a fast and easy way to protect store bought starts that are still in the early stages of development.  The tube acts helps keep the plant upright as well as protects the delicate plant from some common insects.

Simply sink the tube into the ground about two inches deep minding you do not damage sensitive root systems that are attempting to establish themselves.

Planning and spacing

spacers

I am an very visual person and I want to understand how my garden is going to work, especially when planting a few different vegetables in the same garden.  Using rolls to perform some initial layout of the garden really gives you a good idea of where things are and provides a reference when considering how much space each new plant will need before  you run to the gardening center and pick up a bunch of starts.  Best of all, should you decide to use plant starts, you can use them for protection as noted above.

Insect Hotels

Insect Hotel by Arup Associates

We all know the plight of the European Honey Bee and how colonies are collapsing.  Pesticides seem to be the big problem here though an number of other suspects have not been ruled out.  It is critical that we continue to nurture these amazing creatures to keep our crops growing.  However, did you know there were many other pollinators and beneficial insects that help keep your gardens producing?

You can encourage insects such as solitary carpenter bees, moths, butterflies, and wasps to visit your garden by creating an insect hotel.  Most gardens are intentionally kept neat and free of debris.  Most have a lot of concrete for patios and nicely trimmed lawns with a few flowers around the perimeter.  However, the debris is needed to create living environments not only for the pollinators, but for predators of some of our most hated garden pests such as worms and aphids.

Building a insect house is easy and with the help of a few rolls, fast.  Simply stack the rolls, bind them together with coarse outdoor hemp twine and insert a handful of twigs.  If you are feeling particularly creative, you can add a roof to it to protect it from the elements.  Most houses of this construction usually last one summer season.  If you are looking for some great ideas, check out this link here to Inspiration Green’s web site.

 

 

 

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3 Reasons to let your Plants Go to Seed

Over the past number of years, I have strategically let some of the plants in my garden go to seed. It all started with me just being lazy and leaving plants in the ground longer than I was hoping. However, there were a number of benefits that came from letting these plants go to seed. Here are 3 reasons to let your plants go to seed:

1. Beautiful Flowers

3 Reasons to let your Plants Go to Seed3 Reasons to let your Plants Go to Seed

Most of the plants I have let go to seed have surprisingly beautiful flowers. These include a variety of lettuces, kale, arugula, basil, radishes, and cilantro. When these plants have flowered, they add a striking beauty to my entire garden space with white, yellow,and pink flowers. For this reason alone, it is worth letting some of the plants in your garden go to seed.

2. Seeds for Next Year

3 Reasons to let your Plants Go to Seed

The second benefit to letting your plants go to seed is that you can collect and save seeds for next year. If you haven’t let your plants go to seed and saved the seeds before, you will be surprised at how many seeds you can collect from each plant. The key is to allow the seed pods to dry out as much as possible before picking them. Then, let the seeds dry out a little more before putting them into an envelope to preserve for the next year’s planting. Last year I saved almost an entire mason jar full of scarlet runner beans. I have even just saved the entire stalks of basil that went to seed and then planted the whole stock in a little trench in the garden the next year. The basil sprouted perfectly and I enjoyed incredible basil all summer long.

3. Free Volunteer Plants each Spring

3 Reasons to let your Plants Go to Seed

Beet Start from last year’s beets going to seed

The last reason I let my plants go to seed is that I always get free volunteer plants each spring. This has been particularly true for my beets, tomatillos, tomatoes, radishes, nasturtium, and arugula. In fact, bought 3 tomatillo plants 4 years ago and have not bought another start since then. Each year I allow some of the tomatillos to remain on the plant until they drop into the garden bed. I leave them in the garden bed all winter long. Each Spring, I get dozens of tomatillo plants – so many that I have to weed many of them out and give them to friends and neighbors. This year, I also have about 7 nasturtium plants that came up from last year’s plants that went to seed and dropped into the garden bed. Nasturtiums give beautiful and edible flowers all season long.

For these 3 reasons, I highly recommending choosing to strategically let some of your plants go to seed each season. It will save you time and money buying starts each year as well as add incredible beauty to your garden beds throughout the growing season.

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Summer Produce Gardening Tips

Honey Bee on Red Echinacea

Honey Bee on Red Echinacea

It has been quiet at TogetherFarm’s blog but we’ve been busy bees on our end and in our gardens and have some great summer produce gardening tips.

So far, it’s only mid-June and all of our gardens here have exploded ahead of schedule by at least one month.  This also pertains to our animal and insect life as well as our water levels.  Will fall come early?  Will summer linger on beyond its welcome?  Will we have another snow year like we did in 2008?

Only time will tell.

One thing you can count on are great gardening tips from TogetherFarm gathered up from around the web.

Mixed Salad Greens and Peas

Mixed Salad Greens and Peas

Think it’s too late to start a produce garden?  Think again.  Portland Nursery says there are plenty of things to put in the ground in June, including salad greens, such as, “a few lettuce varieties that resist bolting include: Jericho, Lollo Rosso, Merlot, Oakleaf types, and Red Sails. Plus Arugula ‘Sylvetta’.”  Greens in our garden have (above) have done extremely well and my wife and I are eating delicious hand picked greens nearly every night and still have to give it away to friends, neighbors and just about anyone we can corner.

They also say that with  there’s still time to plant basil, green beans, corn, cucumbers, and summer squash from seeds or starts.

Being a big tomato fan, I was excited to see that others can get a head start on these delicious fruits as well as peppers and eggplants that are in one-gallon pots that are less than 65 days to maturity.  These guys will start yielding wonderful produce in September if you get a move on and plant by the end of June.   Finally, mark your calendars:  the last week of June is also your last chance to get starts of melons, pumpkins, sweet potatoes and winter squash in the ground.

Cascade, Galena and Centennial hops

Cascade, Galena and Centennial hops

I’ve also been by my local home-brew store and have noticed you can still pick up mature starts of hops in half-gallon buckets if you want to try these guys out with minimal risk.  Mine have taken off (planted back in late March) and are already scaling the twine I’ve run from the wine barrels to the rain gutters.  As mentioned in our earlier article on growing hops in your garden, it’s relatively easy to do and the plants will provide immediate shade and beautiful flower cones you can either use or pass along to that home brewer you know.

Sugar Peas

Sugar Peas

Oh, and remember that article we posted on using recycled materials in the garden?  It’s not to late to get started.  We did when we planted our peas back in early April and now they are yielding a bumper crop.  These guys certainly live up to their name and have a nice snap when shelling (if you are not eating them whole off the vine like we do) and the peas are tender and delicious.  When looking at the garden structure, the original greenhouse materials used to create the cage are no longer visible.

Peas and Salad Greens

Peas and Salad Greens

Well, enough writing for now, time for a fresh organic dinner prepared from our yard.  What have been your garden success/failure stories so far this year?  Please leave some in our comments area along with any photos you’d like to share.  Happy gardening!

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