Previous Capers

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Potatoes in a Can: Some Harvest!

Potatoes dumped out in the shape of the can.
Now that the growing season is starting to wind down, the potatoes were ready to harvest. Excited to see the yield, I dumped the can over onto a tarp. I immediately saw several large potatoes and a lot of roots around the perimeter of the molded soil. What I ended up with was less than exciting though; only 8.5 pounds of the spuds, total. That will last us a couple of months at most.

The idea of this experiment was to grow potatoes in a way that you don't end up damaging them during the digging out process. Plus, I didn't want to use other traditional stacking methods such as old tires which contain all sorts of nasty chemicals or wood which is heavier to move and not as convenient. So, with that said, I've decided to give it a whirl next season with a few adjustments.

The yield doesn't look promising.
First, I'm going to plant a little earlier, add more compost and still fertilize with some bone meal. Second, when I add more soil to keep up with the growth, I'm going to add a few more seed potatoes to the mix, to maximize the number of plants I can squeeze into the can.

I have to admit, it was a slick system for harvest. After picking out all the potatoes, I simply discarded the greens into the compost and then scooped the soil back into the can and put the lid on. Nice and neat. We need all the help we can get in that department. I figure I can get another use out of the potting soil mix which was an investment. And I might get some more potatoes out of it, as many of the roots and perhaps some microscopic seeds remain.

Not as much as I had hoped.
In the mean time, there's an explosion of tomatoes, another nightshade family crop. I'll be freezing some sauce and drying skins for concentrated tomato seasoning. You can read about that technique here.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Weeding With A Flame Thrower

Doing in the weeds while trying not to torch the Lavenders.
Sometimes you just have to get out the big guns. The minute my back is turned, the weeds know and burst forth in abundance. Now, I'm not one to advocate nasty chemicals. One solution would be to use salt. Another, vinegar. I've tried them all. I've mulched and pulled and planted out, but there are times when you just can't win.

Not liking the idea of contributing to Ortho or Bayer, I tried one last trick in the book. Fighting Fireweed with well,  fire. Instead of supporting Bayer, I was about to run off to the garden center and get one of those propane torches designed to target weeds. You simply blast them with 1500 degrees of fire that cooks their little roots. Then Roland proclaimed out of the blue that he had a torch. After he dug through his work van for a while, he brought out what I would describe more as a flame thrower. Not the cute little tip that heats an area the size of a quarter. No, this thing could take out a large shrub!

No, I'm not burning my toes off!
So, I set up the hose in order to grab it and spray out any unnecessary fires that developed and got to work. The whole apparatus consists of a 3 inch torch end connected by a hose to a large tank; the kind that usually gets attached to gas barbeques. You squeeze a handle on the torch like you would a watering wand. Upon my first blast, a napalm size flame shot out and took out the weed, head to toe. It also took out some of the lavender, which is highly flammable due to its essential oils. So, I decided I'd better wet down the areas first where I wanted to torch these invasive opportunists. That worked better. I only took out several lower lavender branches when I got too close.

It worked really well on most everything except of course, creeping buttercup. If hell has a weed, it's creeping buttercup. A week later it was baaaaaack.

I'll have to admit, I had a distinct feeling of power and satisfaction while setting the weeds on fire. "Take that you #%!&#! weeds!"

By the way, the torch also works well starting charcoal to barbeque. A few seconds of blasting flame and the charcoal is lit.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Stubby the Squirrel Gets In On the Act

Corn feeding apparatus.
It's that time of year when the first harvest is just starting to come in and planting for a fall crop is in place. In trying to keep some semblance of control with the whole thing, I've found that there's been an interloper getting in on the act.

We've been putting out dried ears of corn on the squirrel bungee cord hanging on the front porch for our resident squirrel, Stubby (click here for the scoop on that story). We were wondering how one squirrel can go through so much corn. She's the only squirrel we've seen on the cob, and it gets replaced every couple of days with a fresh ear. Well, this spring came the answer, when corn plants started growing all over the planting beds, especially in the parking strip.We also have pumpkins growing everywhere and they look like sugar pumpkins which is fine with me. 

The three sisters, courtesy of Stubby.
The fact that the squash and pumpkin were planted among some peas I have growing wasn't lost on me. Stubby inadvertently completed the three sisters, a traditional way of crop planting by Southeast Native-Americans, although the legumes used were beans, not peas. The corn loves the nitrogen fixed by the peas and the squash shade the roots and keep the peas cool and the moisture in. The corn stalks closest to the peas are the tallest. The peas can grow up the corn. This fall it'll be succotash time. And pumpkin pie time too. Hopefully the corn is a kind that is edible by humans and hopefully the coons won't discover it first. Corn is coon candy. Of course Stubby gets a share. After all, it was her handy work.

I have to keep on top of the squirrel planted pumpkins in the blueberry beds. The leaves of the squash are prickly, difficult to work around and shade out the ripening blueberries. They also shade out the cranberry bushes as well, so I've had to make sure that any errant leaves get pruned off.

New corn coming up in the Camelia sink!
I'm surprised the corn even germinated after being dried and bagged for squirrel use. I wonder how many neighbors are growing (or not growing) corn as well.

This morning we just discovered a new batch of corn sprouting in the Camellia sink!