Wednesday, April 14, 2010


This guy greeted me one night last week when I went to put the chickens up. He went home hungry. I shoved my camera in his face which provoked this furious picture but really he wasn't hard to dispatch.

For some reason planting potatoes always makes me more anxious than directly sowing seeds or transplanting seedlings. Sometimes when I directly sow seeds they don't sprout. Maybe it was too early and the soil wasn't warm enough or maybe I planted them too deeply or maybe birds ate them- there are lots of reasons for failure but then I just sow more seeds. They are, relatively speaking, rather cheap.

When I transplant seedlings I can see the plant, already growing, the moment after I place it out into the field. Again failure is still a possibility. The young transplants might not get water soon enough. The weather might toss me a curve ball but if the transplants die I can see that happen and I can put something else in that place in the field. Potatoes though, for me potatoes are different. There are very few sources of seed potatoes grown in NC. The seed potatoes are coming from far away places like Maine or Wyoming. They are heavy and so this transportation isn't cheap. Seed potatoes aren't terrible expensive, even certified organic stock, but seed potatoes- especially those of uncommon varieties- aren't something you pick up at The Home Depot.

Then there is the work of cutting them. Each eye on the potatoes, given a chance, will turn into it's own plant and produce more potatoes so smart growers cut potatoes into pieces with one or two eyes each. Cutting up a 50 lbs bag of potatoes takes quite a long time. Then there is the preparation of the bed where they will be planted. You can toss a seed potatoes almost anywhere and it will produce something but if you really want a good return on your investment then you need to properly fertilize your bed. All this work and then the seed potatoes go into the ground and then the waiting begins. Will they come up? And, in the last few days it is apparent that yes, the potatoes I planted several weeks ago are in fact coming up. It looks like I will in fact have scalloped potatoes again this year.

A basic scalloped potatoes recipe baked in the oven.
Cook Time: 45 minutes

4 cups thinly sliced potatoes, about 6 to 8 medium potatoes

2 tablespoons flour

1 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

3 tablespoons butter

2 cups scalded milk

1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

In a buttered 2-quart baking dish, place a layer of about 1/3 of the potatoes. In a cup or small bowl, combine flour with salt and pepper. Sprinkle about half of the flour mixture over the potatoes; repeat with another layer of potatoes and the flour mixture and top with remaining potato slices. Dot with butter then pour hot milk over potatoes. Cover and bake at 375° for 45 minutes. Uncover; sprinkle cheese over the top. Return to the oven and bake, uncovered, for an additional 15 minutes, or until scalloped potatoes are tender and cheese has melted. Scalloped potatoes serves 6 to 8.

Bees have arrived, or rather I now have two hive bodies with super cells set up and ready for bees. One is at the Incubator Farm and one is at my house. I'll be filing them with bees this spring. Look for honey in future CSA programs. not to mention the pollination...

This past week saw me weeding half of what has been planted with the rest of it to be done on Friday. You're welcome to come out if you'd like. We'll also be thinning the lettuce and the mizuna and the spinach so you won't go home empty handed. I applied compost tea and fish emulsion. I mulched the snap peas and watered them with a soaker hose. I've never been good at peas. Here's to hoping this year is different.

I've already had to water with overhead irrigation twice because of the heat. Despite the fact that the high temperatures have mercifully receded I know I will have to irrigated again before the season is over. When considering my options, drip irrigation seemed kind of expensive until I really thought about the alternative of spraying overhead with sprinkler heads. Here are the problems with doing it that way.

1. It takes a lot of time. I can only water a certain amount of area at a time because of water pressure so I have to water one area and then turn that part off and move on to the next. It means constant management of the operation.

2. It takes a lot of hose. I find myself dragging hose from one part of the field to another. I have to disconnect hose from one sprinkler head and hook it p to another; that or buy more hose and splitter connections.

3. It is wasteful. Depending on a few factors like ambient air temperature, a significant portion of the water that comes out of the sprinkler never makes it into the soil to hydrate the plants. A lot of it evaporates. This wastes water.

4. It can encourage disease. Overhead watering, in certain conditions, can promote the growth of disease.

5. It can wash off pesticides. I only use certified organic pesticides like soap but those too are washed off by overhead irrigation, which means reapplying them which means more time and money.

So this is my long winded way of saying that I have made the decision to drip irrigate everything this year. I've already purchased the bulk of the materials and after a few more items arrive in the mail I'll be installing the system. I think in the long run it will be worth it.

Don't forget about the 5th annual Spring Herb and Plant Festival this weekend in Concord/Kannapolis. See you there.


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