Planting Potatoes

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We’ve planted our potatoes…and right on schedule too! Potatoes are one of our favorite and most satisfying crops to grow–it doesn’t really take a bunch of space to grow lots of them, and it is yet another opportunity to grow varieties that don’t appear in the local markets. They aren’t terribly fussy and it is so fun to reach into the ground and pull out handfuls of tender, delicious potatoes!

This year, we decided to go a step further and get heirloom seed potatoes that we couldn’t ordinarily find locally–in hopes of saving some to grow in future years and building up our own little collection. We chose three varieties offered by the Potato Garden, out of Austin Colorado. They had so many varieties, we were like kids in a candy store and it was hard to narrow it down to just a few. To be honest, we didn’t really have a system as we looked over all the offerings–we knew we wanted a red skin variety, a white-fleshed one, and that was about all the parameters we had.

We chose: Irish Cobbler (1876), French Fingerlings (1800’s) and Colorado Rose . This year, we’re planting potatoes back in traditional raised beds–have tried a wire “potato tower” last year and finding our yields diminished substantially. When the seed potatoes arrived, we cut them into smaller pieces–making sure there were a few “eyes” on each piece. Even though we are planting them in beds, we group them in “threes” for little hills or mounds as they grow. Since we are not a huge farming operations, we also plant them rather close together.  Each grouping is about an 8-inch triangle and the groupings are about 12-18 inches apart. They are planted in fertile, well composted beds with lots of humus added in for extra drainage–leaves, partially composted straw, etc. Then we put about 4 inches more humus over the top. As the potatoes grow and send up their stems and leaves, we’ll mound more leaves, straw and compost around and over to add more area for the potatoes to grow in.

Those of you who grow potatoes, may notice our method is really a combination of several–traditional, hilling, and mulching. It tends to work well in a climate with very wet spring and then dry, warm summers–good drainage in the spring  when we need it and then tubers planted close together so that as they grow, the combination of their canopy of leaves and the mulching will keep the soil cool and moist during the hot, dry season.

Of course, every year seems to be different, so we’re excited to see how the potatoes grow this year!

Breakfast Buffet

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The girls get pretty excited when we clean out the refrigerator and it all goes into the compst! Poor Mavis is trying to figure out how she can squeeze into the already-full buffet line; all those fluffy chicken butts can take up a lot of room. If you’re wondering about the breeds of the girls: clockwise starting at 11 o’clock: Marilla (Barred Plymouth Rock; Dottie (Silver-Laced Wyandotte); Mitzy (Dominique); Mavis (on ground and Dominique); Hilda (Buff Orpington): and Trudy (White Jersey Giant).

Garden Helpers

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Pruning the raspberry canes meant there were dried and unharvested unripe raspberries left on the canes. The chickens wasted no time in gobbling up the berry bits.

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Mmmmm…these raspberry snippets are tasty!

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These tall kale plants have plenty for humans and chickens. The chickens have eaten the bottom and it is fun watching them try to leap up for bites. We harvest ours from the very top!

Taking advantage of a sunny October day to take care of some garden chores, we found we had plenty of helpers!  Since the hens can now free range again for the better part of the day (since most of the garden is done for the year and we’ve fenced off the beds we use for Winter vegetables), they know that sticking close to us means getting all sorts of treats and treasures! While having the chickens under foot and tearing things up in the busy growing season makes us cranky, they are actually great garden helpers in the Fall.  They till up the ground and keep the weeds down, eat the slugs and bugs, and add lots of fertilizer to the beds!