Our new and improved site (with the same content as this one, AND MORE! is www.The SharingGardens.blogspot.com/

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Signs of the Times

Chris finished painting both garden signs and we look forward to another break in the weather to hang them at the garden sites. Here's the one for Alpine:

And here's the one for Monroe:

Someone sent us a link to this article in the San Francisco Chronicle featuring a garden similar to our "Sharing Gardens". Its called a "Free Farm". "Free Farm article"

Llyn and Chris

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

More on "chitting" Potatoes

 (To read a compilation of all our potato blogs, go to:
Can I plant potatoes from the grocery store? and

 If the potatoes you are "chitting" (exposing to sunlight before planting) already have extensive sprouts, and the sturdy central sprout has many small root-hairs coming off the sides, it's important that you remove those, otherwise you'll get many tiny potatoes instead of large ones. These smaller side-sprouts also hasten the dehydration of the potato and weaken its ability to thrive.

You can rub off the rootlets with your bare hands, they snap off easily. Ideally you will end up with a potato at least the size of a hen's egg with one or more strong sprouts growing out of it.

Potatoes on left have too many "sproutlets." On right they have been properly stripped of all but the central sprout.

If you missed the previous post on chitting potatoes, or would like to refer back to it, it was posted on our site on Tuesday March 9. To access our site, click here.

Dried Tomato Pesto - Recipe

Transplanting tomato starts
Here in the Pacific NW, it's time to start tomatoes from seed. Most varieties need 6-8 weeks to grow large enough and sturdy enough to be transplanted into garden beds. Since our last risk of frost is around Memorial Day, mid to late March is the time to start the seeds. Tomatoes are warmth-loving plants needing to germinate at around 70-75 degrees so they need to be started indoors to thrive. If you don't have a greenhouse, a grow-light will work, or a south-facing window.

Last year we had a fantastic abundance of a type of tomato called "Principe". It's a rather small fruit that's acorn-shaped. It's the perfect variety for making dried tomatoes. Here's a delicious recipe if you have that "high-quality problem" of too many dried tomatoes!

Dried Tomato Pesto
2 cups dried tomatoes
1 cup coursely chopped walnuts
3/4 cup olive oil
1/3 cup grated parmesan
1/4 cup dried basil (or a few tablespoons basil pesto)
4 cloves garlic -chopped
2 Tablespoons balsamic or other good vinegar

Puree all ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Add a little water if it seems too sticky, but it should remain thick enough to spread on a slice of bread.

This and other delicious recipes are available here: click here

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Sprouting potatoes? What to do.

 (To read a compilation of all our potato blogs, go to:
Can I plant potatoes from the grocery store? and
Why grow your own potatoes when they're still relatively cheap at the grocery store? Well for one thing, potatoes are one of those vegies that are good to eat organic and buying them organic can be expensive. Also, they're fun to grow. This article will tell you how you can turn that scary tangle of sprouting potatoes under your sink, into a meal (or ten!) next fall.

Buying seed potatoes from a nursery catalog can be pretty pricey and its not really necessary. The only real advantage is that they sort them for uniformity of size (not a big deal) and you can find some exotic varieties. We just use ones we saved from last year's harvest or buy them straight out of the produce section at the grocery store. Any potato, with sprouting eyes, that's at least the size of a chicken egg has the means to yield up to five pounds of fresh potatoes. This is a good time of year to buy seed potatoes from the grocery store. Many of the potatoes that have been in storage for the winter are starting to sprout in the warehouses and you can get them for great prices. Look for a bag that already has a lot of "buds" on the eyes since non-organic potatoes are sprayed with a "sprout-deterrent" and they just might not ever sprout. Choose the variety you like best. Potatoes do not "cross pollinate". This means that, if you plant a russet, by golly you'll get a russet. (Note: one of our favorites is the Yukon Gold. They last a long time in winter storage and we like the flavor/texture too.)

If the potatoes you have are only just starting to sprout and the buds aren't very long, keep them in the dark to encourage more sprouting. Once the buds are at least 3/4 of an inch long, it's time to "chit" them.

Chitting is a way to help the potatoes store up the sun's energy. This gives them a head start which makes them more likely to produce a big crop. Take the potatoes and put them in indirect sunlight. They will start to turn a little green. Also, the sprouts will 'harden off' making them less likely to get damaged when you plant them. 

These are a good size for planting. Note the greenish hue from "chitting".
If you have potatoes larger than a hen's egg, with multiple "eyes", cut them so that each eye has at least an egg-size piece of potato attached to it.  Don't let the freshly-cut sides of potatoes touch each other as this may cause them to rot. (Some browning or blackening is normal for potatoes as they "skin over".)

 This large potato was cut and allowed to dry on the exposed side before planting.
You can chit potatoes in your house near a window, or on a covered porch, or in a greenhouse. Don't put them in direct sunlight and, if there's danger of frost, cover them with a towel or cloth at night or bring them inside. 

Here are potatoes on a covered porch where they get indirect light.
After they have "greened up' a bit, and any cut parts have sealed over, they are ready to plant. Green potatoes are poisonous so don't eat them after chitting. 

If you have chitted your potatoes and its still too early to plant (the ground is too soggy or there's still snow on the ground) you can store them in a cardboard box or plastic tub, layered between leaves from last fall. You can also use straw.

Chitted potatoes, too early to plant, stored in layers in a tub with leaves.
How many potatoes should you plant? Depending on the variety, you can get five or more pounds of potatoes for each one you plant. You'll need about a foot between each plant in your garden and potatoes like lots of sun and loose, sandy soil. Here in the Sharing Gardens we plant hundreds of feet of potatoes as they're a good storage crop and keep feeding people well into the winter.

Some of our 2009 harvest, with seed potatoes stored in a paper sack (on the right).
If you live locally and all this is more than you want to take on right now, and you have sprouting potatoes you want to contribute, just let us know and we'll arrange to get them from you. We'll chit them and plant them in the sharing garden and you can share in the harvest.

Llyn and Chris
(541) 847-8797