Updated: Mar 28
The song was written by George and Ira Gershwin for Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in the movie Shall We Dance. I loved that movie. Never saw a Fred Astaire movie I didn't love. He danced like liquid magic.
In the garden however, I'll stick with the all American potato. Years ago I challenged a friend as to why she would bother planting potatoes when it is the cheapest fresh food item you can purchase. Then I did some variety trials of about 6 different varieties of spud. And I ate one out of the garden. This experience was almost shocking. The taste of a freshly dug potato barely resembles the flavor of a stored and bagged (in suffocating plastic these days) supermarket special. People gravitate towards red potatoes because of the flavor. Here is a secret. Red potatoes turn brown in storage. A really red potato means it is fresher than most and so tastes better. I have grown many kinds of potatoes over the years. There is a variety called Desiree that is red on the outside and yellow on the inside. It is probably my favorite, but not always so easy to find. For the last few years I have been growing Yukon Gold and very happy with the results. Mine got planted today.
Because potatoes are a root crop we decided to really dig deep and loosen the soil far below the layer of rich loamy soil we have been amending for the past several years. There is a definite hardpan about a foot down and it is compacted sand with a surprising number of rocks. Tannish brown round rocks. The big ones look just like petrified potatoes.
We extracted a large bucket of rocks, broke up the compacted soil at least 18 inches down and filled the bed with compost. It is now raised up about 3 inches.
Don't use potatoes from the market that are not sprouting. They may have been treated with something to keep them dormant. The exception is organic potatoes which are not treated. You can purchase seed potatoes from a lot of mail order companies, and Tractor Supply carries them locally. The advantage of ordering your seed potatoes is the different varieties available. There are over 100 different kinds. Locally your selection will be limited.
You need to dig a trench about 8 inches down for your potatoes. Small potatoes the size of an egg or smaller can be planted whole but cut larger potatoes making sure each piece has an eye, or growing tip. Place the cut side down.
Ideally space the pieces 12-15 inches apart in the row. Recommendations vary for space between the rows from 16 inches to 3 feet. We planted a three foot by 8 foot bed, that had been double dug, with two rows of potatoes. Last year we did the same thing and they did very well. As the potatoes grow you will want to hill the soil up around the plants. This protects the developing tubers from exposure to the sun which turns them green and bitter. The green is Solanine, which is toxic in (very) large quantities. Keep them well watered. A raw potato is 79% water. When you water, water deeply. 1-2 inches of water per week but put it down all at once or one inch twice weekly. The whole root zone needs to be watered. Daily light sprinklings will burn off and never reach the developing tubers.
Harvest your potatoes when the tops die back. You can store them in the ground until you are ready to eat them, but be sure to dig them all out before the ground freezes. I find Thanksgiving weekend the perfect time to finish the harvest. Work off some of that pumpkin pie!
NOTE **** When Mr. Potato Head came out you used real potatoes. I never understood why they switched to plastic. The real potatoes were much more fun!!
My Purple Christmas Tree
I have had a request for pictures of my purple Christmas tree. My tree was natural green for the holiday, but afterwards Jordan helped me spray paint it purple. This is not as crazy as it sounds. Maybe just a little crazy. First, there is a grower in north Jersey that will custom spray paint a natural tree any color to match your decor. That sounds like fun, even if my heart belongs to a green tree. Second, you can use spray paint, clear or colors, on dried flowers. The clear keeps them natural looking or the colors can add drama. Either way the paint holds the plant parts together like glue. So as an experiment, we decided to see how well a painted, cut tree will hold up. If it is really successful, it presents an opportunity for growers to salvage trees that die in the field. That can be a loss of 7 or 8 years of investment. And purple is my favorite color. We painted it right after Christmas and it has been on my front porch ever since. I will put it in the back yard for the Plant Exchange and ask people to bring things to hang on it. So far so good. Take a look for yourselves:
A FEW THINGS AT TINY FARM
There are a couple of things blooming in the woods that are worth noticing. Witch hazel is a shade loving small tree. There is a fall blooming species, Hamamelis virginiana, and an early spring blooming Hamamelis vernalis. There are also hybrids which bloom in between. They are native to the east coast but there is also a Chinese witch hazel, H. mollis which is supposed to be the most fragrant. This beauty is blooming now. Not sure of the variety but I think it is one of the hybrids.
Also blooming is one of the earliest members of the Dogwood genus. Cornus officinalis is the Chinese cornelian dogwood. It is similar to Cornus mas but it flowers earlier, fruits later and has more attractive exfoliating bark. Ours is very young so hasn't filled out yet, but it is blooming in significant shade.
The Garden of Ancient Ruins is starting to wake up. It is at its most beautiful when the blue flowers of the myrtle contrast with the yellow daffodils and the exploding forsythia. The forsythia are not quite at their glory yet, but it is still a lovely site.
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