Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Russian Blue Potatoes-in-a-Bag Experiment

This year I decided to attempt a potato growing experiment - I read a blog post somewhere about growing potato plants in 5 gallon pails - and thought "I could do that!"

I spoke with my Mum that night and she ended up doing some research herself and found information and a really neat YouTube Video done in Scotland, about growing potatoes in bags - both cloth grow-bags and brown paper bags.  Mum had some left-over weed-suppressant cloth and sewed up a half dozen bags - a couple for me, a couple for my sister-in-law and a couple for herself. Mum's grow-bag post can be seen here.

Being the oddity that I am, I decided that I needed to plant food with colour - and so along with the purple haze carrots I planted this year (not yet ready to pick) I also ordered a small box of Russian Blue seed potatoes from West Coast Seeds... They were pretty easy to plant and grow - I have to admit.  Potatoes are pretty much a plant and ignore crop (they do need water) and I am GREAT with plant and ignore crops! I planted 5 in each bag and, aside from adding soil every time they got tall enough, I pretty much watered and ignored them until today...

The potato bags are in the middle at the back...

Happy Potato Plants

The flowers are actually a purple colour!
Tonight I decided it was time to break up a grow bag and see what I had, well, growing. I started by digging my hand into one of the bags to see if I could root around and find some new potatoes to snag and cook... No luck. I had saved an old shower curtain and went & pulled it out of the shed.  I dragged/rolled one of the bags onto the shower curtain, broke the soil apart a little and dumped the contents onto the old shower curtain.

Post Potato Hunt!

I think planting 5 per bag was too many and will, next time, plant three per container. I think that planting too many per bag meant less crop potential, but I still managed to get some potatoes out.

A Small Haul

Once I had dumped the shower curtain contents into my compost pile  - which, in retrospect, was probably not the smartest thing I could have done (I could very easily incorporated that soil into another container and planted, yes more, potatoes...  Ah well - there is still another bag to harvest) I took my haul into the kitchen, washed the dirt off of them, chopped 'em up and stuck them into a pot to steam.

Ooh - PRETTY! - I wonder how it will taste though??

All chopped up and ready to steam...

Steamed, they lose some of the vibrancy of the blue,
but still have a lovely lilac colour to them!
While I was washing them I found one that looked markedly different from the others - one of them was smaller, darker, and had eyes that were looking to start sprouting. I talked to my Mum and decided to hold that one back and see if I could chit it (that is the technical term for letting a potato sprout on purpose so you can plant it.  the ones that sprout while in the fridge are just an accident ha ha ha!) and if I can, I'm going to plant it and grow more potatoes!  These ones are absolutely delicious and worth a do-over!

The one on the left is what I think should be the seed
potato and the one on the right went into the pot!

I had some with dinner (the verdict is that they are tasty and I will absolutely grow them again!) and set some aside to make a colourful potato salad with.  So far I have steamed yams and Russian Blue potatoes. I'll get some butter potatoes and will also include some chopped garlic scapes for some zing.

That reminds me, my garlic scapes are ready to harvest - Garlic Scape Pesto, here I come!!!

With love across the waters...

Green Cone Compost Digester

I am a total fan of composting. The back-yard compost bin has been a godsend - not only for reduction of the amount of waste sent to the local landfill, but also because it makes gardening that much easier when I can augment my beds and planting with home made mulchy-goodness.  Vegetables are happier with more nutrient in the soil, I send less garbage to the landfill, so I am happier too.

A couple of years ago (maybe more) some friends living over in Comox installed a Green Cone Compost Digester in their back yard,  I didn't pay too much attention to it at the time (I wish I had!) but did note that they had placed it, smartly, in the corner between a couple of raised vegetable beds. I remembered thinking at the time that it was kind of a silly place to put a compost bin since they would eventually have to dig it out... turns out that they don't need to be moved / turned / stirred UNLESS there is a problem with them!

This spring Mum & Dad, and I, got Green Cone Compost Digesters.  The great things about these is that you can actually digest things like cheese that goes too mouldy to eat and other dairy items that may hit the best before date before consumed, meat (and bones!), cooked things like leftovers that go bad... generally you can put almost all of the kitchen waste that CANNOT go into your back yard compost bin - and major bonus - as long as it isn't within 10-15 feet of things you are planting to eventually eat, you can even put in dog bombs!! 

I was worried about the bear issue - you may remember about the bear that pulled down a section of my back fence a couple of years ago? These things are actually sunken into the ground (by almost two feet!) and as a result, there is no smell to them at all.  I am told they are not 100% bear proof, but considering where I have it installed, I should be OK.

Tucked in along a side fence near the Wigelia... 
They come with 4 parts to them (plus screws and connector plates) and the fully assembled unit stands about 4 feet high - bearing in mind that the bottom basket is almost 2 feet deep and is to be sunk into a hole that will have the entire basket and connecting seam underground when installed.  There's a bottom basket -that looks like a round laundry basket) an inner cone, an outer cone and the lid.

These work in conjunction with a regular above ground compost bin (or pile, if you like) where you can compost all of your garden and yard waste.  My regular indoor compost pail will still be emptied into my usual bin, but this one can take things that would normally go into the garbage.  I should note that where I live there is a composting program, but my contributions to it would be negligible and so I don't participate.

With love across the waters....