Greenhouse Winter Potato Growing Experiment Jan.1, '09 - May 4, '09
Four months may seem about the right timing for a successful potato harvest, the number of days for harvest ranging from 70 to 135 (according to The Wood Praire Farm in Maine, which is in no way responsible for this potato comedy. They are lovely growers of seed potatoes already planted outside. We'll see how those turn out in approximately 90 days.)
First mentioned on Feb.11 in the post Greenhouse Potatoes, this experiment was to see if seed potato would be able to last out the warmish winter until planting time by growing in a deep greenhouse bed. Was the experiment successful? That would depend if success was based solely on harvest or by the relative health of the plants and the carefree nature in which I'd wished they had grown.
Summer of '08 was my first potato planting, so I am unfamiliar with their ways. Now I realize that what I'd thought of as dread disease in the greenhouse plants may be just the natural dying off of mature plants. Are you experienced? Please let me know your thoughts.
They looked at first (well after the frost die off in their first weeks of life), to be marvelously healthy, albeit planted too closely together. It was an urgent "save the seed" movement, rather than careful planning of optimal growth conditions. This photo is from March 13th.
Then came the little disfigurements of disease
Then total disaster as the aphids increased, thanks to the ants.
Then it seemed that the plants were truly dying. Of course I never thought to count the days to see if perhaps all was on divine schedule after all. I used nitrogen therapy to try to bolster the leaves. That worked nicely for a couple of days, but alas, just more and more wilt.
Also, I was hoping to see some flowers. I'd read that the potatoes are reaching maturity when the plant flowers. I suppose all its flower-making energy was going into the aphids and I didn't receive the sign to start digging for potato treasures.
Finally today I decided I couldn't stand to see the dead foliage any more, cut the dead branches of one plant off and gingerly dug. First I pushed away the aphid ridden soil so it wouldn't get on the potatoes, then dug up ...
These beautiful, if small, clean and healthy looking blue skin potatoes. There's even enough left of the seed and stems to plant again, if there's room in the garden.
Although the original idea of these was to serve as seed potato, I've ordered many others from Maine. The brothers of the seed planted in the Greenhouse spent the rest of the winter in a friend's crawl space, cooler than mine. It turns out that those seed did wonderfully well and are now ready to plant. I hope that its dry enough tomorrow to do just that. They have wonderfully grown up eyes.
What to do with the new potatoes shown above? If they are not to be used as seed, what then? Hmmm, yummmm, with butter.
We'll know when we eat them, if the winter greenhouse potato experiment was indeed, a success.
May all your experiments bring out the beauty, joy and resiliency of life.
A First Harvest of Bok Choy and Chinese Cabbage was caused by the unexpected bloom of the Bok Choy. At least, I believe that it is Bok Choy. Perhaps it is one of the smaller versions of Oriental Greens which one might expect to reach maturity so early in the season.
Soon to be sauteed greens, (with millet, garlic and tofu). Yum.
Also in the basket are parsley, oregano, onion leaves, chinese cabbage and chard. All these plants are waiting to get into the garden. These lucky volunteers are going straight into the kitchen.
In the greenhouse, the bok choy (AKA ?) was living in good soil in a two and half inch pot, along with its fellows, awaiting a seemingly good time to enter the outside garden. I thought they'd wait until after the freeze and at a time when I'd have the energy and tools to put up row covers as the first fabric bug screen of my life in the buggy Ozarks.
Here's a good reason (from last year) why I know that protection is necessary:
June 10. 2008 in the upper garden. Catepillars also are rampant, but invisible in this photo.
Do you have an idea what that Oriental Green might be? I have been unfair to those developing plants. Couldn't find a single closeup photo to show, whereas the lettuce has many. Thanks for sharing your ideas.