Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Finding My Roots

The warm spring weather appears to have deserted us for a little while, much to the sadness of my blooming plum tree and spontaneously reproducing rhubarb bush.  Not much else appears to be affected, which is good, but my dreams of sowing tender seeds and setting out the veggie seedlings taking over my guest room are on hold for another few weeks.

All is not lost, however.  This is the time to plant potatoes and onions and other root crops.  I had started onions from seed, and they were doing wonderfully.  Then I forgot to water them, which did in the batch of red onions.  All was well for the remaining yellow onions, until I forgot those outside the other night, and found them in the morning withered under a half-inch of crusty sleet and snow.  I don't believe that they can be resuscitated, but perhaps if I leave them alone for a little while, they will somehow be fine.  (Probably not.)  I had heard that starting onions from seed helps to prevent them going to seed during the summer, and while it was a worthy experiment, I believe I have reached Gardener's Failure for this season, for this particular project.

It's back to onion sets for me, then!  I stopped off after work at a local greenhouse, and loaded up on two pounds each of seed onions.  I love the vintage-esque look when they are packed in paperbags from the hardware store.  It helps to take some of the sting of failure out of my onion planting to have pleasing packaging.  Of course, they'll be much more pleasing once they are planted in the ground.

I've been researching on how to grow the perfect onion (and there is plenty of conflicting advice out there, let me tell you).  So far, I think I am going to go with scattering them around the various gardens, watering them more than I think they need, and keeping the soil "loose" around them.  I am a little worried that the last one will lead to infiltrations by weeds, which love disturbed soil, but as I have a lovely weeding fork that should work for going around growing bulbs, it may not be too bad.

As for my potatoes, I have two kinds:  German Butterball (my favorite) and a variety called Elba.  I had ordered Green Mountain (another favorite), but apparently it is SO popular, they ran out and I got a substitution.  This happened to me last year, which is how I discovered the joys of Green Mountain potatoes, so perhaps it will work out for the best to try Elba.  I am planning on planting them in steel garbage cans, perforated with home-made drainage holes, in layers of straw mulch and rabbit poo.  I've grown potatoes in containers before, and hopefully I can get my usual prolific yield using that method again during this growing season.  It is the easiest thing in the world:  you just keep adding layers of growing material as the potato plant sends up more leaves until you reach the top of the container, and then you water and let it do "it's thing" until the plant dies back and dries out naturally in the fall. The potato plant, meanwhile, has sent all sorts of root clusters into those layers, which become oodles of delicious pomme de terre.  I am planning to pop a lid on the cans come cold weather, and store the whole shebang in the root cellar.  When I need a potato, I'll rootle around in the bins and pull out what I need.  Genius!

I'll let you know how that plan works out.

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