The beer cans from St. Patrick’s Day are long gone in the recycle bin. The weather is trying its hardest to remain in the 50s and 60s here in the Midwest. It’s early spring- perfect planting season!
Now, don’t go doing something silly, like trying to plant seeds outside. You will just piss Mother Nature off with such brazenness. There are, though, some wonderful gifts that await you that you can (and should!) start right now.
Cold Weather Veggies. Yes. Yes, indeed.
At some point in my life, I will want to make a cold frame. Harvest broccoli in January. Hard core gardening for dipshits like me. Alas, I am not at that stage in my life. I still don’t have quite the layout for the garden of my dreams, nor the time at this point in my career. What I do have, though, is the smarts to learn what works in my zone for the space and time that I have.
I also needed to focus on planting things that my family would actually consume. Like, I could totally dig (pun absolutely intended) parsnips. Heavens yes. Throw a beet in a smoothie. Jicama all day. But it would just be me. I live with three adult men. My sons really just started to explore eating vegetables within the past couple of years (which was great, because I was tired of thinking of ways to make them eat anything other than tomatoes in a sauce). These guys want beef all day every day- tenderloin with a side of ribeye. It took a lot to have my husband try my butternut squash soup this past fall. He loved it, but we have to move slowly here.
The one thing that three out of four of us will eat is broccoli. All of us love potatoes. Guess what cold weather veggies win?
Start with seed potatoes, like these. Or, if you have an organic potato available, you can use that. Most non-organic potatoes sold at the store contain a spray that is used to prevent sprouting, thus elongating shelf life.
You want to slice the potatoes up. Not slicing like you are making a gratin, silly pants. More like chunking the seed potatoes up to create more potatoes. The important aspect is to have the “eyes” in each piece of potato available. That is where the plant will sprout. Some seed potatoes are quite small- you will probably be just able to slice them in half.
Now the planting. The cool thing about potatoes is that you can plant them almost anywhere and get results. Of course, you can plant these in rows in your garden. Or, if you are like me, living in the Upper Midwest does not yield easily workable soil this early in the year. So, you can use a container. Two important elements- room and drainage. A laundry hamper with holes punched in the bottom works just fine. This year, I am trying something new- I am growing one variety of potatoes in a Tyvek grocery bag. The handle broke on that particular bag, rendering it useless for its original purpose. As I am on a kick to reuse and recycle, I thought this may be a great repurposing for it. We will watch it together and see how it goes. 🙂
I use organic soil for may gardening. I am eating these veggies.
Fill up a third of the container with soil. Place your see potato chucks, eye to the sky (up), about two inches apart. Cover with another few inches of soil. Water gently.
In a few weeks, add more soil as the plants grow. If you planted these directly into the ground, you want to “hill” the soil around each plant. I also add some acidic soil additive (like those made for veggies, organic of course) to help the plant thrive. Just a little does wonders.
You will see the plant shoot up, and in several weeks, blossom. Blossoms indicate a definite harvest awaits you later.
The best part of growing potatoes in a container? Harvest. No digging. When the leaves of the plant die back in late summer, it’s time. Take your heavy (because of all the dirt and potatoes!) container and simply empty it. Literally, just push it over and watch the soil and potatoes spill out. Fetch the potatoes out of the spilled soil. Let them “harden” outside for a day or two or even longer. When the skins resemble what you find in the store, you are good to store them for the winter. If you want to try one immediately after harvest, go for it! Potatoes from your garden taste lightyears better than the store.
This is the first year I am growing broccoli. We love that veggie- well, most of us do anyway. I have started my seeds in organic soil indoors and will move the seedlings outside in a few weeks to harden them up, bringing them inside every night. I am really excited to share this growing experience with you!
No need to wait for 70 degree days to get out there, fam.