Sunday, August 14, 2011

potatoes and worms

I dug up those potatoes I planted, filled half a canning pot with them. Some were big as my fist and others were small as marbles. I probably only scored about 15 pounds, and for 85 seed potatoes, that isn't much. The reason for the slim pickings: their spot was too shady and they were planted to close together. (The deer and chickens getting in and eating most of the plants didn't help either.) In a lot of ways, this was a failure. But you know what? I have learned exactly what I need to do to easily double my spuds the same place next year. And a lesson like that is pretty useful. Right now I am not gardening to feed myself, I am learning how to garden here to feed myself in the future. This isn't the only place I get subsistence, but since my goal is to eventually pay the mortgage with words and work for all my own groceries, it was a hard lesson for future french fries.

Anyway, I won't be using that patch for anything but Garlic or onions from now on, I think. I have a new potato plot all picked out in the lowest pasture near the front of the house. That spot where hay and manure have been piling up for a year near the front gate. Instead of shoveling out that mulchy hay an straw to get the fence line higher, I am leaving it as is—fenced in with the electric and everything and simply putting the new fence 8 feet behind it— creating a fenced in garden! Another winter will make that a perfect pile of compost to plant potatoes in. It'll be fenced off from the sheep and the deer outside and involves pounding fences instead of breaking my back to dig out muck. Genius solution, and I can say that since it wasn't even my idea, it was Cathy Daughton's. That woman has vowed to never hoe up another garden bed again long as there's chickens or livestock around to make them for you. Smarter than I, her.

So, to figure out how to plant hundreds of pounds of potatoes in the future it took several people, a year of crap, and a bum crop in another location to ensure* results. But hey, 15 pounds of potatoes as a consolation prize....Not bad.

Another note altogether, I'm really excited about my worms. A few weeks ago I showed you guys the video of the worm farm in my kitchen, and they have kept at it. I'm kind of shocked at how efficient it is. It sits under the red table under the windows, quiet and odorless. The red wigglers inside have already started on their second level of food scraps, the bottom is so dark and fine I am worried it'll be too good to use, too strong on the garden! So I rewatched that video that came with the 360 Worm Factory and in it it pretty much said the same thing. Vermicompost is strong stuff. They only dug little holes in their garden boxes and filed them in with the worm's casting dirt kind of like filling up a tank with fuel. If you want to try one, and start making soil in your kitchen too, you can get one at UncommonGoods. They were the folks who sent me this box to test out. They have them in their Home and Garden section. If you grab one, tell them I said Hi.

Oh, and one last thing. Folks said they could not reach me at my aol email address? That makes sense, since I don't have an aol email address. But I realized on my profile my old AIM screename from 2004 was still listed, and perhaps it linked up to that old account. I'm sorry if you tried to contact me that way, but from now on just email me at - that is my current address.


Blogger Tina - Our Rustic Roots said...

I think that's a great idea that Cathy (and you) came up with. Bet you'll be covered in potatoes next year!

August 14, 2011 at 9:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Potatoes are definitely a good learning expereince! The first year, we got hit with a combination of blight and grubs. The year after that, just the blight. This year? So far so good! Here's hoping next year goes easier for you, Jenna!


August 14, 2011 at 9:32 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I like the way you are planning for the future and not getting discouraged by things like the limited potato harvest. Year by year CAF will develop into a magical and wonderful experience for you Jenna and for all of us who tag along.

August 14, 2011 at 10:33 AM  
Blogger Christine said...

Jenna- is your worm composter big enough/fast enough to handle all your kitchen scraps, or do you still have to compost some outside?

August 14, 2011 at 11:42 AM  
Blogger Diane said...

I had some of the same experiences. Two of my raised beds of beans and squash didn't do well, I think because they didn't get enough sun. I planted the potatoes in large containers, but not large enough, because I am mostly digging up marble-sized spuds. I have very few sunny spots, so I am really limited in my crop rotation options. I love Cathy's idea of just letting the mulch hay and compost pile up into a work-free raised bed!

August 14, 2011 at 12:01 PM  
Blogger mmgreenough said...

"Right now I am not gardening to feed myself, I am learning how to garden here to feed myself in the future."

Thank you for that statement! My garden has not done nearly as well this year as it has in the past... to cold & wet this spring, then too dry this summer. After two successful past seasons, my potato crop is nearly nonexistant. At times I feel pretty down about my yeilds (with all of my veggies) but I will try to remind myself that I am still learning & I am certainly not going to starve without a good crop. The weather caused me to get everything in late & then the precipitation just shut off! Better luck to us all next year!!!

August 14, 2011 at 12:47 PM  
Blogger E said...

If it's too shady for potatoes likely onions or garlic won't do well either/.

August 14, 2011 at 12:53 PM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

Christine, I'm a single person here, so I split it up. Most of my food scraps go to the compost outside, all the big stuff like corn cobs or melon rinds anyway. The wormer is for coffee grounds, tea bags, pieces of diced veggies and fruit, the occasional banana peel. It works better with cooking scraps. That is what I use it for, smaller foods

August 14, 2011 at 12:54 PM  
Blogger Jimmie said...

I read from an experienced farmer somewhere that the first year of gardening you learn how to kill things...translate: learn what not to do the next time. Kinda puts it into perspective for me when the first year I try something new and it doesn't go the way I planned.

I'm thinking I going to get a worm composter soon. I have plenty of worms in my garden, but I'd love to have some "manure tea" for my plants. Tasha Tudor always used manure tea on her plants and had great success.

Diane in North Carolina

August 14, 2011 at 1:37 PM  
Blogger mferre11 said...

Thanks Jenna for this post, I also had a very very bad potato crop this year (only got about 5 quarts of potatos) but your optimism has helped me to think of the errors I made in a positive way. And yep my potatoes will be planted in a much sunnier location and farther apart as well.

August 14, 2011 at 6:58 PM  
Blogger CJ said...

If you're not already, you should move your chickens into this compost/mulch area. They will church it and de-bug it for next spring.

August 14, 2011 at 9:09 PM  
Blogger Jamie said...

I love this post! I'm gearing up to start my vegetable garden next spring and have been slightly overwhelmed trying to learn everything. One idea I'm contemplating with potatoes is to plant them in a large trashcan (I'm still researching this method though). It's heartening to read about your smaller than expected crop, and what you learned from the experience. Thanks Jenna!

August 14, 2011 at 11:02 PM  
Blogger jules said...

I think that you are figuring it out Jenna. I think that is mostly what having a producing garden is all about: figuring out what works where. I'm still doing that.

Keep up the good work!

August 15, 2011 at 3:09 PM  

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